Iraqi Prime Minister Says War Will Spread If Syrian Rebels Win

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said armed conflicts will break out in Iraq and Lebanon if Syrian rebels topple Bashar al-Assad, according to an interview he gave to Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra of the Associated Press.”The most dangerous thing in this process is that if the opposition is victorious, there will be a civil war in Lebanon, divisions in Jordan and a sectarian war in Iraq,” Maliki said, adding that peace should be achieved through dialogue.

Maliki’s stark words may be an attempt to protect the Shiite Crescent — the geographical link between Shiites in power from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

“The removal of Assad by a Sunni government will weaken the Iraqi Shiites” by emboldening Iraq’s Sunnis, Baghdad-based political analyst Hadi Jalo told AP. “Any reasonable person would be surprised if the Iraqi government … refrains from supporting Assad.”

Maliki’s comments come at a time when his Shiite-led Iraqi government faces increasing threats.

The major outside threat to Iraq is radical Sunni rebels from Jabhat al-Nusra — the highly effective frontline force that controls controls large swaths of eastern Syria — which is led by veterans of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

“The Sunnis in [Iraq’s Anbar province] are helping with weapons and ammunition,” the leader of a powerful rebel group in eastern Syria powerful told Reuters. “Their days (of fighting) will come soon and Inshallah (God willing) we will go to jihad with them. Those Sunnis are our brothers.”

Inside Iraq another AQI offshoot, Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), is making a comback and recently called on Sunnis to rise up against the Shiite-led Iraqi government.

Lebanon has seen a rise in attacks on both sides of its border with Syria and the government — led by Iranian proxy Hezbollah — would be largely cut off from its benefactor were Damascus to fall. Sectarian tensions are rising as Syrian refugees pour into the country.

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