Islamists have gained control of wide areas of western Iraq. Religious extremists have exploited the country’s political vacuum, caused by the US army withdrawal, to spread their influence. Their goal is the creation of a religious state. The Islamists have profited not only from Iraq’s weak central government but also the conflict in neighboring Syria.
The capture of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi by the Al-Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has resulted in an upsurge in violence in Anbar province not seen in years.
The Sunni extremists are receiving the support of some parts of the minority Sunni population who feel discriminated against by the Shia-dominated government of Nuri Al-Maliki.
The US has said it is prepared to help the government in Baghdad to regain control by supplying weapons but not boots on the ground. Fallujah was the scene of a massive battle between US marines and insurgents in 2003. It was the most intense fighting the US had been involved in since the Vietnam War.
The civil war in Syria is also helping to provide a haven where the extremists can withdraw to, re-group, re-arm and amass weapons.
The religious tensions in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are the background for a struggle for regional dominance between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. How close is the Iraqi state to collapsing and what other Arab country will be next?
Tell us your opinion: Iraq Turmoil - Islamists Gaining Ground
Robert Chatterjee after taking a degree in Islamic Studies at the Free University of Berlin, Chatterjee became senior editor at Zenith, a magazine which focusses on the oriental world, Middle East, North Africa and Islamic societies. He is responsible for the economics desk and for the online edition of the magazine. His main interests are Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. Chatterjee is also the publisher of a book and film project put together on behalf of the Institute for Foreign Relations (IFA), looking at how Egypt and Tunisia are dealing with the legacy of dictatorship.
Robert Reid he is Associated Press chief of bureau for Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has been a journalist for nearly 45 years, including about 15 years in the Middle East. During the US-led invasion of Iraq, he was a supervisory editor for the AP based in Doha and then spent the next six years as chief editor for the AP in Iraq. Later, he served as AP News Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan based in Kabul and was AP's chief editor for the Middle East based in Cairo before transferring to Berlin in 2012. He was born in April 1947 and educated at Davidson College in North Carolina. He spent three years in Augsburg as a US Army officer from 1970 until 1973.
Barik Schuber worked on a variety of research projects during and after his studies in economics in his home country of Iraq. He has also worked as an economic advisor to the government of Saudi Arabia on behalf of the German Organization for Development Cooperation. He was an instructor at the Abu Dhabi Center for Strategic Studies in 2004, and went on to become managing director of the Iraqi Business Council. He is the author of many publications on Arab society. He lives and works in Berlin.