Map of Anbar ProvinceTwo years after the U.S. pulled out of military operations in Iraq, we once again find ourselves providing military assistance in the region, this time in the form of money and arms. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Anbar crisis, but here’s a breakdown of the problem for those of you who, like me, are having a hard time wrapping your head around the whole complicated mess.

The Main Players

Sunni Muslims- Members of Parliament, local leaders, tribal civilians, and extremists who feel they are underrepresented in, and oppressed by, the Shiite controlled government.

Shiite Muslims - Maintain the majority control of Parliament in Iraq at this time under the Shiite Prime Minister.

Kurds - A group that is neither Sunni or Shiite. They have a large influence in Parliament. Kurds are nationalistic rather than sectarian, and have managed to form more cohesiveness amongst themselves than other groups have.

Iraqiya List - The Iraqi Nationalist Movement. They claim to be secular, but are made up of Sunni Muslims.

Nouri al-Maliki - Iraqi Prime Minister, and a Shiite Muslim.

Rafi al- Issawi - Minister of Finance in Iraq. He is a Sunni Muslim from Anbar.  

al-Qaeda -  Extremist terrorist group taking advantage of the weakened political state in Iraq by moving into civilly disrupted areas and usurping control. They are supporting the Sunni uprising.

Timeline of the Anbar Crisis

Beginning of 2013: al-Issawi’s security guards were arrested under orders from the Iraqi government. Protests began in the Sunni dominant provinces of Anbar, Mosul, DIyala, and Baghdad.

March 2013- Parliament passed a budget with a majority vote, but many Sunni Muslim, Kurdish and Iraqiya List parliment members had boycotted Parliament, so they didn’t participate in the voting.

April- A Sunni Muslim protest camp was stormed by Iraqi security forces, and civilians were killed, which led to more protests. Armed groups of all kinds began organizing against the government. al-Maliki apologized publicly for the raid, and attempted to make restitution, but then...

December- Another protest camp was raided, and more civilians were killed.

Currently- The Iraqiya List have abandoned parliament. They say they won't come back unless it’s to cast a vote of no confidence in al-Maliki

Currently- Fighting in Anbar is reaching a fever pitch between Iraqi military forces, extremist protestors, local tribal groups, Al-Qaeda, and struggling civilians. There have been double the amount of deaths in Iraq this year compared to last year due to civil uprising. The death tolls in the past year have been higher at times than they were during the sectarian civil war from 2006-2008.

U.S. Involvement

The U.S. has been sending all kinds of military arms, including high powered missiles, to the Iraqi government, which they are funneling down to militant groups, MPs, local police, and anyone who is fighting against al-Qaeda ( and Sunni Muslims) in Anbar. We’re funding the Iraqi government's fight against insurgents, basically as a means of trying to regain control over al-Qaeda in the region.

The al-Qaeda has taken over the Anbar city of Fallujah, and it’s no longer safe for Americans or anyone else. If al-Qaeda is successful in establishing a foothold in Iraq, they could cause unrest in that entire region of the world, and use their new stronghold as a jumping off point for remote attacks.