Sectarian Killings Raise Fear of Growing Strife in Iraq

Renewed Violence Could Stall US Drawdown

The killing of a Sunni man in mostly Shi’ite northwest Baghdad has sparked renewed fears of sectarian strife, something which officials had publicly hoped was a thing of the not-so-distant past.

It is hardly the only killing with a sectarian tinge in Iraq. A large number of attacks against Shi’ite targets, including religious pilgrims, have been reported over the past several weeks. A number of Christians have also been killed in the past few days.

The real danger, however, is that the Shi’ite majority is beginning to launch revenge attacks against the Sunni minority, already at odds with them over the recent election bannings of high profile Sunni MPs. If this happens, tit-for-tat violence could quickly spiral out of control.

US officials are already expressing concern that their drawdown, such as it is, could fuel sectarian tensions. This means that an upsurge in violence could very easily be used as an excuse to stop the drawdown in its tracks, particularly as tensions grow for March’s election.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.