Tensions in Iraq not likely to fade soon

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 20, 2007

Scholars on the social, political and religious scene in Iraq feel the turbulent situation that has lead to the current environment conducive to insurgent and sectarian violence in the country is not likely to abate in the near future.

Both Director of the Demopolis campus for Alabama Southern College Angelia Mance, who authored Iraq, a middle school text about the country, and sociology professor at Auburn University Paul Starr, who is an authority on cultural, religious and political differences in the Middle East, feel the catalysts leading to the current climate of violence are long-term problems that will not soon disappear from the country.

Both agree there are a number of factors leading to the current situation, but said the underlying rifts all began due to religious differences in the area. Starr said the disagreeing factions of the Muslim religion are nothing new in the area and have been around for hundreds of years.

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Starr said instances of intermarriage were often seen between the two factions in the past, but noted the tensions have since taken on a more pathological air. Mance said the religious population breakdown in distinctly defined topographical regions

of Iraq have also fueled the fire between factions.

Mance said the majority of Shiites, who make up approximately 60 percent of the country&8217;s population, reside in eastern and southern Iraq. She said the Sunnis, who make up approximately 20 percent of the population, live in the west, while the minority Kurds, who make up approximately 10 percent of the population, reside in the north.

And the Sunni do have the most to lose, said Mance, should the country deteriorate into three autonomous states along the religiously held regions. She said the majority of oil revenue in Iraq, which Sunnis have controlled much of in the past, comes from areas held by the Kurds and Shiites.

Mance agrees, saying Iran and Syria are trying to influence the balance of power between the factions in a way favorable to their countries. Starr said the situation has deteriorated into each faction trying to protect themselves with armed militias, which in turn are fighting amongst themselves for power as well.