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Is Iraq unraveling?

May 21st, 2013
07:28 PM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

Iraq is seeing some of the worst violence since the civil war of 2006.

Hundreds of people have been killed over the past few weeks –dozens died on Monday alone in a wave of tit-for-tat bombings targeting the Sunni and Shiite communities.

However, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari insists the country is not unraveling.

"We are worried indeed because of this increase in the number of terrorist attacks and also the rise of sectarian tension," Zebari told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. "But really, the country is not sliding into civil war or sectarian war."

However, in the unusually frank conversation, Zebari acknowledged the many failures of his government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and its inability to rise above sectarian differences. 

EXPLAINER: Why are Iraq's Sunnis so upset? 

"The government has its own failing. I'm not here to give you a rosy picture or to portray unrealistic picture. But the country is not crashing," Zebari said - insisting Iraq has seen worse times than these.

He said the violence was a direct result of the lack of political progress among the politicians.

"What is lacking is the lack of confidence of trust among the politicians," Zebari said. "And we have lost the service of an honest broker. Before, it used to be the United States."

Zebari's government is accused of centralizing too much power, of being almost as autocratic in its own way as the Sunni Saddam Hussein regime that was overthrown.

Critics of Prime Minister Maliki say he bears a huge share of responsibility and some are even saying it's time for him to go because of the overreliance on Shiite cronies and political brokers.

"The new Iraq cannot be ruled by one set of or one nationality or one man or one party. Those days are gone," Zebari said, candidly. "It would be up to the Iraqi electorate in the future to change its government through the ballot boxes."

Zebari even acknowledged that at recent a cabinet meeting there was a very frank discussion about the need to lower the rhetoric.

"There is a need for the government to rise above any sectarian leaning," Zebari said. "The prime minister acts as the prime minister of all the communities, not of one community against the other. There have to be measures of accountability for all these breaches of security and this killing of innocent people."

RELATED: Bombings in Iraq kill 19 people as worries over sectarian violence grow

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode
soundoff (38 Responses)

    Is truly puzzling why there is not peace in the tribe of Mohammedans. From Nigeria to Afghanistan to Uzebkistan, it's stories of violence and destruction. They hardly can build any interesting and enduring legacy worthy of celebration.

    May 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      In Iraq, the situation we see today is a direct result of the illegal war of aggression started by western "liberators" – not by Muslims.

      May 22, 2013 at 4:47 am | Reply
    • monkeydo

      western meddling has a lot to do with that. artificially pushing borders, creating states. these peoples were not really given a chance to coalesce. the west perhaps being too frightened of that ever happening. then they would not have access to oil. ask yourself – who does all this turmoil benefit?

      May 24, 2013 at 2:02 am | Reply
      • H. B.

        Sorry, chum, that puppy don't hunt. Muslims have been conquering since their religion first began, nonstop, for 1400 years and counting. And ever since their prophet died, they divided into two "sects" to fight one another over who the prophet's successor ought to have been, and they've been slaughtering one another for the same 1400 years. The western powers you see fit to blame, didn't even EXIST back then. So who are you going to blame now?

        True, the Iraq war was an abysmally stupid thing. It opened the Pandora's Box of sectarian blood feuding that Saddam had kept a tight lid on for many years. Despite the brutality of his methods, at least it left the country able to FUNCTION. I'm not defending the creep, but I DO understand why he did what he did. What WE did to Iraq was far worse. We opened the Pandora's Box, and the sectarian slaughtering began immediately, and will never end till everyone in one of the sects is dead. That'll take a long time, but it is the goal of each sect.

        We only TRIED to impose democracy on both Iraq and Afghanistan. Right under Bush's nose, while he was beating his chest about "giving" democracy to those countries, both were becoming the Islamic States they are today. Bush didn't do his homework on the sectarian bloodfeud. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered to him. But I knew, before we ever went into Iraq, that the result would be bloody sectarianism. And so it was, and remains so. Nobody in the West – nobody at ALL – is making them slaughter one another right now. The only people you have available to lay that blame on is the Muslims themselves.

        With the blame so squarely on Muslim shoulders right now, why do you insist on not blaming them for it? Is it that they are merely exercising their "religious rights" to slaughter infidels and the "false Muslims" of the "other sect"? Should we look at it that way when they slaughter people in our own countries? How DARE we try to curtail their practice of their religious rights? Allah tells them to kill, and kill, so when they do so, who are we to say they can't? Right?

        May 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • H. B.

      I'm glad you noticed. Muslims are not interested in building their societies, unless they can use slave labor to do the work. The sparkling edifices in the Emirate states were all built on the labor of trafficked workers. It might be nice if our tourists recognized that ugly truth.

      Muslims don't build. They only know how to break things. In Gaza, where no slave labor is involved, they live in sloth, squalor, filth and decay. All their resources are spent on rockets to fire into Israel. When Israel gave them that land, they had a golden opportunity to build themselves a country of their own. Many foreign countries and businesses were eager to help them be successful.

      They chose to be terrorists. Even building a better life for their families mattered LESS than jihading against Israel. And so it still is today. Their schools focus on teaching their children how to be good little "Shahadis," (suicide bombers). It isn't hard to find places in the Islamic world where the people COULD be building a better life for themselves, but who live in squalor instead. Even bin Laden, with all his money, lived in filth.

      Remember reading about the days when "Islam flowered"? And people wonder how the flowering stopped dead when Muslims were kicked out of Europe. They hadn't flowered at all. They made use of the intellects of the conquered nations (Spain mostly), and took the credit for THEIR discoveries of things like algebra and astronomy. Muslims conquer, then live parasitically on the things the conquered people had built. All religious edifices get turned into mosques. All intellect is channeled for the benefit of Islam and Muslims.

      Islam never flowered. It conquered and plagiarized the intellectual property of the conquered people. Muslims don't know how to do anything else. Islam is an absolutist faith in the most literal possible sense. To a Muslim, his faith – and serving that faith – is EVERYTHING. Every minute of every day must be spent to further the goals of Islam. Even their own families often take a low second place to that imperative.

      And that imperative is simple: total global conquest. They're quite successful at it, too. Millions of them in the free world, all of them hating it and regarding democracy as evil, obscene and blasphemous – and yet they keep coming to these places which they find supremely hateful. WHY?

      Figure it out for yourself.

      May 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  2. MBW

    An interview that actually informs and educates the viewer. Too bad Americans decided they didn't want that on their Sunday talk shows..

    May 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  3. Matt

    Iraq would be in civil war but the Iraq Sunni's they are fighting in Syria as are the Sunni Syrians and all the foreign fighters are going there not to Iraq. Who cares it is not our problem. Maybe Assad can send back Saddam's chemical Ali to help al-Maliki out when it gets out of hand. That is the rules of the game now just gas them.

    I was never sentimental about Iraq if it could be used against Iran then I though it was a viable option. Iran wanted their man, the US wanted Allawi I supported al-Maliki because he was a divisive dude. As far as legacy goes it was fix when it was handed over, after that it is their problem.

    May 21, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      >> As far as legacy goes it was fix when it was handed over, after that it is their problem.

      Sorry, that complete nonsense. The US destroyed that country and left it in a state of civil war. Countless reports by the UN prove that the life of the Iraqi population has been better under Hussein than under US occupation. If you call that "fix", I don't want to see your version of "broken".

      May 22, 2013 at 4:49 am | Reply
  4. Matt

    The other thing you have to remember al-Qaida in Iraq is very small and always were, they gained support from Sunni communities mainly ex Saddam military and in relation to Ba'ath members, same thing. As al-Maliki is claiming they are responsible and they were during the US time until Saddam was caught and executed. Once Saddam was dead they stopped working with al-Qaida and stopped the insurgency. You drive them into the arms of al-Qaida label them terrorists and insurgents then you can crackdown and ethnically cleanse them. So he kept on marginalizing them and then use terrorist labels as a pretext as Assad does.

    There solution is to nullify the security forces and attack Shiites and start a sectarian war which the security forces can't control. So whatever public support al-Maliki wants to get from the Shiite public is lost because he can't keep them safe. So the Shia militia like the Mahdi Army become operational again and a proxy security force and government. These groups become too powerful and a threat to al-Maliki rule. Iraq is Iran's problem, let them sort it out.

    May 21, 2013 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  5. BB

    Unraveling from what? Isn't this pretty normal for Iraq these days?

    May 22, 2013 at 2:40 am | Reply
    • Matt

      That's the kind of "normal" the coalition created and left behind as legacy for the Iraqi population to suffer through.

      May 22, 2013 at 5:00 am | Reply
      • Jew Producer

        They're lucky we left anything at all. Not that there was much there to begin with.

        The men are really dumb, terminal stupidity & the wi'men just cower in fear from the stupid men.

        Maybe the wi'men ought to revolt.

        May 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
      • Matt

        @Jew Producer: your comment shows exactly the type of fascist nazi sentiment which is the reason why so many people hate America.

        Read reports of the United Nations, Amnesty International or the International Red Cross – they all show that life under Hussein was tough, but since the US entered the country, things got far worse.

        Since that war in Iraq was an illegal war of aggression, the US had no business to be there to begin with. America created this mess and is responsible for it. It is not the Iraqi people that are the "bad guys" in this story, it is America.

        May 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Barbar

    Iraq is made of two groups that have been fighting for a long time. They need a central figure of authority to keep them in check. A strongman, like Saddam. Even if they split the country into two states, they would still keep fighting. I just hope Iran stays out of it.

    May 22, 2013 at 6:55 am | Reply
  7. Lauren Cleaver

    The Three State Solution proposed years ago made it clear that Iraq as a nation is unlikely to ever find peace. Three disparate groups, hatred of one group against the other. Too bad we didn't take the proposal seriously. We might actually be moving forward at his point, instead of in the opposite direction.

    May 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  8. Rufus Reeta

    Have poor internet connection. Posted a lengthy comment, seems like it did not go through. Will try to summarise what i said and re-post.
    The Leaders of Iraq do you realise that you are not enjoying life because your country is strife torn. And one of the main root cause/s is religion. The other is the legacy of Don Rumsfeldt and company(~If he and them sleep tight at night, they are probably heartless!).
    At the moment Islam is the most violent religion in the World. I remember a hindu friend of mine (A Phd mechatronic engineering student) once told me that even if everyone in the world was to become muslim, fighting won't stop. And it seems the more fundamental your faith(Taliban, al-quaida,...etc) the more misery it holds, as epitomised by oppression of Women and the Girl Child.
    Some of you Iraqi Leaders are complicit in that you romanced secterian feelings for political gain that have now gone out of control. Iraqis it is time you try People who are neither sunni or shiite, but just ordinary educated Iraqis. By the way is there no ordinary muslim without a sect?
    Finally the rate at which People become deranged and kill innocents in the name of Islam and Allah is very worrying. Islamic/Muslim Leaders/Imams/Sheikhs are failing dismally and there is no loud and clear authoritative voice to rebuke whats going on in the muslim religion.

    May 23, 2013 at 4:59 am | Reply
    • Scrut

      Not to justify any violence, but Muslims have not killed nearly as many people as Americans have.
      So Islam might be the most violent religion today, but America is clearly the most violent nation today.

      For the world to find peace, both must be conquered.

      May 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  9. Iraqi

    this is all because of the US, they 'allied' with Iran under the table to destroy Iraq.

    May 23, 2013 at 6:48 am | Reply
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