UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Iraq’s foreign minister said Saturday he doubts the escalating violence in the country will lead to “an all-out sectarian or civil war.”
Hoshyar Zebari gave several reasons in an interview with The Associated Press: the Shiite, Sunni and other communities “know their limits;” the violence is limited mainly to Baghdad and its suburbs; and Sunni and Shiite religious leaders have edicts against killing each other’s followers. More than 4,500 people have been killed since April in a surge of violence by insurgents aimed at undermining confidence in the Shiite-led government. The violence began to surge after government security forces staged a deadly crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the north.
The Sunni minority has grown increasingly angry over what it sees as unfair treatment at the hands of the government and tensions have risen markedly since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011.
The growing unrest is marked by frequent coordinated car bombings and other attacks blamed mostly on al-Qaida’s local branch targeting police, the military and often Shiite Muslim areas. The carnage is intensifying fears that Iraq is heading back toward the widespread Sunni-Shiite sectarian killing that peaked in 2006 and 2007.
Zebari said the recent increase in terrorist or sectarian violence is partly a consequence of the spillover from the conflict in neighboring Syria.
He blamed extreme Shiite militias and al-Qaida’s local branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, which is believed to be trying to build on the Sunni minority’s discontent toward what they consider to be second-class treatment by Iraq’s Shiite-led government.
“It is limited with these two groups, not nationwide as a community rising up,” Zebari said.