Yesterday, I wrote that the “Arab Spring” is coming to Iraq. Perhaps I should have said that it has already arrived. As Reuters reports:
Over the past two weeks, tens of thousands of Sunnis have staged demonstrations, and in Anbar province they have blocked a highway to Syria in a show of anger against Maliki, whom they accuse of marginalizing their community and monopolizing power.
The discontent is real, but the protests are driven by Sunni Islamist parties bent on carving out an autonomous region akin to the Kurdish one in the north, Kurdish and Sunni sources say.
Who are these “Sunni Islamist parties”?
Senior Sunni sources say the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), part of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the prime mover in a campaign to create an autonomous Sunni fiefdom, by force if need be.
So it’s largely one party — the same one that has taken control in Egypt and is likely to do so in Syria. But al Qaeda is also in the picture:
Militants linked to al Qaeda appear to be regrouping in the caves and valleys of Anbar.
Is any of this a matter of concern to President Obama? I doubt it. He has supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, pressuring the military not to oppose the Brotherhood and enhancing its prestige by making President Morsi appear to be a hero in ending the Gaza conflict on favorable terms for Hamas. There is no reason to believe that he views the Brotherhood incarnations in Syria and Iraq any differently.
At best, Obama appears indifferent to the success of the Muslim Brotherhood. More likely, he sees it as a favorable development, deeming the Brotherhood a liberation movement with which the U.S. can deal.
In the short-term, the U.S. may be able deal, at least to a limited extent, with the Brotherhood-led government in Egypt due to its dependency on American assistance. But Syria and Anbar province are different matters. And Israel will have to cope with revved up existential enemies on two of its borders.
The good news, though, is that Iran must also cope with the rise of the Brotherhood. It also faces the demise of its ally in Syria and the possible partition of its would-be client state next store. Sunni-Shia tension isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the U.S., now that we are no longer standing in the middle of it.