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‘This Iraqi government is a major part of the problem’

Jun 16,2014 - Last updated at Jun 16,2014

There is no doubt that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will always seek to reignite the conflict between the disgruntled Sunni minority and the Shiite-dominated government of Nouri Al Maliki in Iraq.

Therefore, the problem is not the sudden collapse of the Iraqi army in the latest confrontation with ISIL, which stunned observers. Rather, it is about the root causes of the recurring sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Were it not for Maliki’s sectarian and authoritarian style of ruling, ISIL would not have flourished in Sunni provinces in the first place.

Following the US withdrawal from Iraq, Maliki came under Tehran’s control. This led many Sunni figures in Iraq to conclude that Maliki’s exclusive and sectarian policies are in line with Iran’s regional policy.

Not only has Maliki discriminated against Sunnis, he has also persecuted many Sunni leaders who took part in the political process.

In this charged political and security atmosphere, it is logical for many Sunnis to turn to any organisation that could stop Maliki from further maltreating them.

The collapse of the army in the latest battles with the ISIL made Maliki turn to Tehran and Washington for help.

He employed the terrorist card to secure the aid of the United States.

Of course, the US has always seen the ISIL as a threat to its interests. But President Barack Obama has a different understanding. He argues that Maliki’s failure to rule Iraq effectively and to bring about political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites turned Iraq into a fertile ground for ISIL and like-minded groups.

In his latest statement, Obama said that his country would hold any possible military action in Iraq in abeyance until Iraq reforms its politics and government.

Despite the gravity of the situation, the Obama administration does not think that Baghdad is about to fall to ISIL. For this reason, Obama is looking for long-term gains.

Obama believes that any American intervention on behalf of Maliki government without political concessions from him could trigger an all-out sectarian war. This possibility is most dangerous for the region.

But by the same token, the American inaction could pave the way for Iran’s intervention, thus triggering a sectarian conflagration anyway.

Implicit in Obama’s message is that Maliki’s days are numbered.

If anything, Maliki has become an obstacle to achieving stability in Iraq.

The American administration knows very well that Maliki has for long time abused the Sunni minority. His unwillingness to accommodate the interests of Sunnis, Kurds and other groups in Iraq is obvious. Therefore, all power-sharing initiatives fell on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, Maliki and his supporters are in a state of denial.

To make matters worse, he turned to his Shiite allies to mobilise Iraqis behind him. On Friday, the stage was set for a major sectarian conflict when the most influential Shiite cleric pleaded with Iraqis to take up arms against Sunnis.

In other words, Maliki is turning to those figures that can only make the case for a sectarian conflict.

Maliki is using all his cards to survive politically. His tactics and the cleric’s pleas are at odds with Obama’s approach and understanding of how to make Iraq stable.

This Iraqi government is a major part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution.


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