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Potential for chaos

Heiner Kiesel /dbJune 13, 2014

German politicians fear sectarian violence could lead to chaos in Iraq that could spread across the region and even to Europe. While experts place blame, Germany's foreign minister says there are no easy answers.

ISIS fighters in Mosul, Iraq Photo: REUTERS/Stringer
Image: Reuters

Many politicians and government officials can hardly believe what is currently happening in Iraq.

A group of jihadist fighters took control of several cities in northern Iraq this week, including the country's second-largest city, and is presently just 60 kilometers away from the capital Baghdad. The group has made its name into its goal: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier painted a bleak picture of the region's future. ISIS, he said, has become a powerful factor both in and beyond Iraq's borders.

"We're worried that the escalating situation will result in the emergence of an ungovernable region between Syria and Baghdad," Steinmeier said, adding that ISIS has acquired potential that goes far beyond individual terrorist attacks. "It's more of a military operation with comprehensive attacks."

Steinmeier: Stop ISIS' advance

Quick solutions to the conflict are not in sight, Steinmeier said after meeting his Moroccan colleague, Salaheddine Mezouar. "Anyone who gives a quick answer is over-reaching," he said. The most urgent task now is to stop the jihadists' advance and create a government in Iraq that includes all of society.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier Photo: Jörg Carstensen/dpa
Steinmeier said Iraq needs a more inclusive governmentImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Steinmeier rejected accusations that the German government is partly to blame for developments in Iraq.

Jan van Aken, foreign policy spokesman for the opposition Left party, accused Berlin and NATO of playing both sides when it comes to Iraq. "They supplied the Gulf states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia - states that aggressively backed Islamist terrorists - with weapons from Germany."

Steinmeier closing lines of communication with Qatar or arguing which sides should be supported will not end the conflict. Omid Nouripour, a member of parliament for the opposition Green Party, also accused the West of contributing to ISIS' steady advance. The EU's embargo policies deflect funds from the oil business to the insurgents' pockets, he said.

Al-Maliki's fault

Even if there are no quick solutions, the international community is urgently called on to act, according to Nils Annen, a foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democratic Party's parliamentary group. "We can't simply watch an al Qaeda state in the making," Annen told DW, calling the notion a "nightmare scenario."

Nils Annen Photo: Tim Brakemeier
Annen said the Iraqi prime minister bears the blame for the current violenceImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

While Annen said there was no military solution to the conflict in Iraq, he placed the main blame for the situation firmly at the doorstep of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government, "It marginalized the Sunni minority to an extent that made this advance possible in the first place."

Political observers in Berlin have said it is unlikely that Maliki will play a role in any long-term solution to the problem of sectarian violence in Iraq.