The US is sending advanced weapons to the Iraqi government to help crush a growing rebellion in Anbar province in the west of the country. Anbar was a centre of the resistance against the 2003-2011 US occupation.
The rebellion began when the Iraqi state used violence to break up peaceful protest camps in Fallujah and Ramadi—originally inspired by the Arab Spring. Protesters were demanding the end of marginalisation and discrimination of Sunni Muslims by the Shia dominated sectarian government of Nouri al-Maliki.
Maliki is also a key supporter of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The attack on the camps triggered armed confrontations with locals and the tribes, many of whom are connected to the Awakening movement.
The Awakening movement was originally part of the resistance to the US. But it switched sides during the occupation to drive out Islamist fighters loyal to Al Qaida.
Following last week’s armed confrontations between the army and the tribes, a resurgent Al Qaida marched into the Anbar cities. This triggered a three-way battle with the state and the Awakening movement.
The Al Qaida group is known both as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The battle has spilled over into Syria, with confrontations between the Al Qaida dominated groups and the mainstream Islamist and revolutionary forces. Over the past year fighters linked to ISIS have tried to hijack the Syrian revolution.
They have abolished the popular councils that grew out of the uprising, launched sectarian attacks against minorities, and murdered secular opposition leaders.
The retreat of the revolutionary wave underpins the growing complexity and fracturing of the rebellion in Iraq and the uprising in Syria. It now pits competing regional interests and powers against each other, against the regime and against surviving revolutionary forces.