Mid-East’s New ‘Cold War’: Why The Russians Won’t Win Against Extremists in Iraq
Since the announcement of a new military alliance including Russia, locals have been trading arguments. Could Iraq become the stage for a new “Cold War”? And how effective can this coalition really be?
For many Iraqis, the news that came last week of an alliance between Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq was shocking. And it is not just in Syria that this Russian intervention is threatening to carve even deeper fault lines in the Middle East. In Iraq, locals are equally divided about the alliance, in line with existing allegiances.
That is, Iraq’s Shiite Muslims who tend toward support for Shiite Muslim-dominated Iran, and thereby Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Russia like the idea. Whereas Iraq’s Sunni Muslims tend toward support for the US and the Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and do not like the idea. The Russian intervention presents the country with a real dilemma.
It is true that in Iraq, political discourse is often limited to extreme views, and those views are usually right on the opposite side of the fence from one another with no real middle ground for negotiation. But as many analysts have said before, the Russian intervention seems even more dangerous than usual because it threatens to topple an already very delicate balance of foreign power in Iraq.
All Shiite Muslim political parties and military forces in Iraq have said they welcome the new Russian intervention in the Middle East. They say that US intervention hasn’t been able to end the security crisis caused by the extremist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq, despite just over a year of effort.
On an individual level, many local Shiites started calling the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, their hero and were posting footage of him with the Russian army onto social media. Others replaced their Facebook profile pictures with shots of Putin. There were also a lot of false rumours spreading about how Russians had entered Anbar and killed hundreds of Islamic State fighters.