Middle East

Middle East Twitter Q&A: John Simpson answers your questions

Image copyright BBC/Henry Iddon
Image caption The BBC's World Affairs Editor, John Simpson

The Middle East is never far from the news agenda. In recent months the on-going civil war in Syria, the presidential elections in Egypt and now the ISIS militant attacks on Iraq have meant that it has continued to dominate the headlines.

BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson answered questions in a live Twitter Q&A on Friday 13th June.

This is an edited version of the session.

Mark Donnelly emails: Is fragmentation of Iraq into separate states inevitable?

John answers: Not inevitable, but more likely. Shiite E & S can exist alone Kurdish NE will be independent. Sunni areas turbulent.

Can Ali Gurguc emails: Do you think the situation in Iraq will become a conflict between ISIS and the Kurds?

John answers: Yes. Kurdish forces to battle ISIS round Kirkuk. If Baghdad govt asks them for help, price will be Kurdish independence.

John Rossetti emails: If events in the Middle East didn't receive so much attention from the press they would be as effective?

John answers: After 9/11 Americans blamed media for not warning about Al Qaeda. Ignorance no protection.

Miguel Octaviano emails: What do you think is the likelihood of the Middle East sparking a third world war?

John answers: There won't be WWIII between Great Powers. But some think war with extreme Islam has started already.

@Robozmob Do you think, like the banks, it's time to let the Middle East fail and rebuild organically without the west?

John answers: What, like we let Afghanistan fail, then became black hole where 9/11 planned? Iraq not a bank.

@shafaghiha Who benefits from Jihadists' activity in Iraq and who might support them in fighting on three fronts at the same time?

John answers: Only the most extreme Islamists believe they would benefit. No government would support them, but many volunteers.

@ColinKamioner Could you foresee a similar thing happening to the ANA in Afghanistan? How is actual morale among units?

John answers: Possible, but circumstances v. different. Part of Taliban more likely to negotiate. Much of it far less extreme than ISIS.

@mehrdadislamkha How powerful is the ISIS group and how much is their success is exaggerated?

John answers: Not very powerful at all, but Iraqi army so far seems in meltdown. So success not really exaggerated.

@MahmoudRezaAbdi Where does the ISIS group come from and what are they looking for?

John answers: ISIS comes from Sunni anger in Iraq, plus war in Syria. Most extreme ME group so far - wants full Islamic caliphate.

@PointofnoRetur1 Christians are now being driven out, like the Jews of Iraq, should the religious nature of ME conflict be acknowledged?

John answers: I think it always has been. At present this is a Sunni - Shiite war in Iraq. Christians are a secondary target.

@frannybello Do you think this insurgence has anything to do with the recent trade for Bergdahl? Directly or indirectly?

John answers: No, nothing. US not the target in Iraq now. Instead it's Shiite govt of Al Maliki.

@totoromd Do we have any idea of Iran's official or unofficial position regarding this development?

John answers: Iran is very worried. But if Sunni area breaks away, Iran will intervene to protect Shiite region.

@kamalkothari56 Didn't the UK Gov see the ISIS problem coming? Couldn't have been a surprise surely?

John answers: UK and US both saw it coming. But impossible now for them to do much, given public opinion.

@WAMartin11 Why is the USA considering sending more military equipment if Iraq Special Forces are leaving it in droves?

John answers: US can't do much - can't send troops. Bombing may not succeed. Sending arms just a gesture.

@helebje Is SykesPicot now going to be thrown away and new borders be considered seriously?

John answers: Same process happened in ex-Yugoslavia, ex-USSR. But if it does happen, it's not peaceful.

@anastrace How long before the siege on the government becomes untenable to maintain without substantial outside assistance?

John answers: If ISIS cause Sunni break away, could actually strengthen Al Maliki in Shiite state.

@johnfaynec Given the situation in Iraq, should the US be selling 35 F16's to Iraq now?

John answers: Danger would be Iran takeover of Shiite state in Iraq. But US badly needs Iraqi govt to beat ISIS

@AlexHamiltonUK1 Who else is likely to get involved either militarily or with humanitarian help? NATO? Russia? Iran? UN?

John answers: Only likely one is Iran, which will want to protect its ally, Al Maliki. The rest will just stand by.

@vaishalir US funded Mujahideen gave way to Al Qaeda which gave way to ISIS. Is terrorism expanding beyond our reach?

Jon answered: Every case is different and needs its own sophisticated response. Al Maliki's failure was not including Sunnis.

John closed by saying: Must go now because I'm leaving for Baghdad. But delighted to answer Qs from there. Will be in touch #AskBBCSimpson

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Twitter Q&A produced by Kerry Alexandra