Iraq has been buying up a whole lot of air power lately. There were speculations as to where they wanted to put it to use. It looks like the answer is Syria.
Iraqi army helicopters hit a jihadist convoy in eastern Syria on Sunday, killing at least eight, in a show of strength just days before the country’s first general election since 2010.
It was the first strike inside Syria claimed by Iraq since the three-year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011.
“The army struck eight tanker trucks in Wadi Suwab inside Syrian territory as they were trying to enter Iraqi territory to provide the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with fuel,” interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan said.
Technically Maan is claiming that this was a cross border strike to deprive Al Qaeda in Iraq of fuel, but that could likely have been done inside Iraqi airspace. Iraq is creating a precedent while tightening ties with Syria.
ISIL’s cross-border nature makes this innately a cross-border war. The group has designs and territory in both countries. And common Shiite religion and their place in Iran’s axis is bringing Syria and Iran’s governments together.
Meanwhile Maliki ran on a strongman platform, even though his Shiite bias helped Al Qaeda make a comeback.
Mr. Maliki’s prospects have brightened from six months ago, when he had few genuine accomplishments to point to. Heavy fighting against Sunni Islamist extremists in Anbar Province and other areas of the country has allowed him to campaign as a wartime leader and present himself to the Shiite majority as the leader of an existential fight that he has defined in starkly sectarian terms.
Iran, perhaps Mr. Maliki’s most important supporter as he consolidated power in recent years, has supported his re-election campaign with millions of dollars, according to American intelligence reports. But Iran has also funneled money to some Shiite rivals of Mr. Maliki, demonstrating that Iran’s chief aim is to maintain Shiite dominance, not necessarily Mr. Maliki’s rule.
In exile, in Iran and Syria, Mr. Maliki was in charge of military operations inside Iraq for the Shiite Islamic Dawa Party, a life experience that has instilled a lasting sense of paranoia that is deepened by the constant threat of assassination he lives under now.
He has given his son, Ahmed, broad, vaguely defined powers over security within the prime minister’s office and inside the Green Zone. And both of his sons-in-law, who work for his office, are running in the election.
Meet the new Saddam. If he survives.
Maliki escalated a Sunni-Shiite conflict for political power. But this typical of the region where holy wars are politically rewarding for both sides.