Iraq is currently the scene of a sharp regional conflict between Iran and its opponents. This is nothing new, however. Regional events have come to show that any country witnessing political or social instability, amid weak state control, can be exposed to a similar power struggle on the part of rich and stable regional powers that have a geopolitical agenda.
This is the case in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. One can say that the current regional rivalry is hampering the process of rebuilding the state and national identity. It is due to this rivalry that internal conflicts have become complicated, as they turn into an extension of a wider regional conflict waged by powerful countries on the soft lands of unstable countries.
Moreover, the political, ideological and financial alliances that are forged between the regional powers and their local collaborators fuel internal division. In a country like Iraq, where this division takes on a sectarian character, the regional conflict leaves a major destructive effect.
Therefore, the most violent aspects of this conflict take place in countries where a power struggle is more intense, either because of their strategic importance or due to the lack of an ultimate hegemonic power.
This is particularly the case in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which together form the main part of the Fertile Crescent. Step by step, the regional rivalries plaguing these three countries fell within the framework of a wider foreign conflict whose two major poles are Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Thus, it currently seems impossible to deem that the instability plaguing these countries is the result of a mere lack of compatibility between the subnational communities. These communities have increasingly become transnational communities.
By rampant “sectarianization,” we mean that there is in the region a continuous process that aims to establish sectarian, rather than national, identities.
It is noteworthy that this process affects the internal conflict, for the political community is divided over the identification of friends and enemies. Ernst Renan once defined the nation as a group of people united by a common hatred of their neighbors. If this is true, then the current problem in a country like Iraq is the absence of this “common hatred” for a given enemy.