There are two conflicting trends at the core of the sectarian dispute that is intensifying in Iraq.
The first trend is influenced by domestic political considerations pertaining to the failure of the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish forces to develop a governance and state administration formula that would reduce the sense of marginalization or exclusion by some parties that could lead to the division of the country.
The second trend is influenced by regional dynamics, and is represented by the more sectarian Sunni and Shiite groups. These groups see the current conflict in Iraq as an integral part of the wider conflict taking place in the Levant region divided between a Sunni camp led or supported by Sunni regional powers such as Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, and a Shiite camp led by Iran.
As a result, the greater the disagreement and difficulty to reach an internal Iraqi solution, the greater the power of radical groups, and thus the impact of their narrative, which tends to portray the situation as a Sunni-Shiite cosmic struggle that does not recognize existing borders or internal environments.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria are the two main manifestations of the presence of such cross-border ideologies and organizational relations among groups that espouse them. The war being fought by the two groups is not one aimed at “spreading democracy,” achieving “social justice” or reaching a political system based on broad participation. This war aims to achieve victory for the sake of the Salafist jihadist version of Islam against its enemies, which in this case are the Shiite-led government in Iraq and the Syrian regime dominated by Alawites (dubbed by Jabhat al-Nusra as “Nusayri” as a kind of insult and disrespect).