Map of BaghdadSince 2008, it looked like things might be calming down in Iraq. U.S. troops were able to withdraw, leaving the Iraqi government to manage itself, and everyone hoped that things were on their way. 2013 saw some major setbacks in Iraq, though, with violence reaching and exceeding levels not seen in over 5 years. There are a lot of factors feeding into the unrest in Iraq all at once, creating the perfect storm and bringing the country back to the brink of civil war.

A Divided Government

While the Parliament leaders in Iraq’s fledgling democracy claim to be supporters of equality, their ations of the past year have shown them to be anything but. Parliament in Iraq is led by a Shiite, Nouri al-Maliki, who has a reputation for stonewalling members of parliament who are Sunni, Kurdish, or any other minority. He has been known to have Sunni government officials arrested, imprisoned, and killed. These acts are partly what led up to the Anbar crisis of 2013. Government conflict in all its varieties is greatly contributing to the civil unrest in Iraq.

Resurgence of al-Qaeda

The weakened state of affairs in Iraq has left the region vulnerable to a resurgence of al-Qaeda activity. Much of their activity has been reduced in a few major cities like Baghdad, but they remain a strong presence in the tribal regions of the country. They offer support to warring tribes, and circumvent government aid to regions in need to keep everyone dependent on them. 2013 saw them focusing their violent efforts not only on government activity and militant groups, but on civilian events like funerals and football games.

Foreign Neighbors Reinforcing Violence

The centuries-old fight between Sunnis and Shiites heated up in the past year, with both sides receiving additional reinforcements from the outside. Shiites from Iran, and Sunnis from Saudi Arabia and Syria have been flocking to Iraq to engage in militant activities and lend support to their tribesmen. Iraqi officials are doing what they can to secure the borders, but in the battle-torn country, it’s difficult to keep the warring tribesmen from pouring in.

Impending Civil War

All of the pressures in Iraq are combining to create an atmosphere that is ripe for civil war, but what does this mean for the rest of the world? the civilians caught in the middle of all of the unrest in Iraq are having trouble getting basic supplies like food and water, and medical care is completely wiped out in some cities. WHO and other foreign aid organizations are having trouble getting anywhere near these people to help them because of the levels of violence in the country.

Leaving the country in such a weakened state has opened it up as a breeding ground for al-Qaeda violence as well. As al-Qaeda establishes more of a foothold in Iraq, they can use this leverage to spread their brand of violence throughout the world. If all-out civil war does break out in Iraq, it will have an effect on the people who try to live peacefully there and on the rest of the world.