By Tom Walker, Director, Assaye Risk
In line with developments last week violence has intensified in Iraq this week with the resumption of multiple high impact attacks across the country, especially in the southern predominantly Shia provinces around Basra who bore the brunt of the violence toward the latter part of the reporting period.
On the international stage the Syrian conflict also continues to have serious transnational implications as actions by the ISI this week have resulted in them becoming more heavily engaged on numerous operational fronts.
Militants linked to al Qaeda in Syria killed a senior figure in the Western- and Arab-backed Free Syrian army on Thursday, an FSA source said, signaling a widening rift between Islamists and more moderate elements in the armed Syrian opposition. Kamal Hamami, a member of the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, known by his nom de guerre Abu Bassel al-Ladkani, was meeting with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the port city of Latakia when they killed him, Qassem Saadeddine, a Free Syrian Army spokesman, told the international press.
Syrian rebels said on Friday the assassination of one of their top commanders by al Qaeda-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters struggling against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Rivalries have been growing between the FSA and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria. The opening up of another military front on which rebel factions must now combat represents a serious challenge for the rebels in what is an already intense and oft confusing, not to mention draining, battle space.
At this point in time it is difficult to assess quite what the ramifications of these actions will be on Iraq but it is perhaps clear to many that the Shia militias, the Shia dominated government and Sunni moderates could welcome a situation where groups such as the ISI are focused away from domestic insurgency in Iraq and concentrated in an area where their overall influence in the Levant can be eroded at distance.