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Maliki’s sectarian legacy

Jun 23,2014 - Last updated at Jun 23,2014

There is near consensus among observers and pundits that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has been the key impediment to building an inclusive Iraq.

His narrow sectarian prism has triggered a series of revolts in a post-Saddam Iraq.

US President Barack Obama said on Thursday that any Iraqi leader must be a unifier. Implicit in his statement is that Maliki does not fit the bill of an Iraqi premier anymore.

Having followed a sectarian approach against the Arab Sunnis and Kurds, Maliki has become a polarising figure. 

He mistakenly interprets the downfall of Saddam’s regime in 2003 as a victory of his Shiite sect.

His brand of politics is the winner takes it all.

Both Sunnis and Kurds have long complained of being discriminated against.

It seems that Maliki’s argument that the problem is only with radical groups does not hold water.

While the American administration considers the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) a looming threat to the American security, it also views Maliki’s systematic sectarian politics as the reason for the rise of ISIL in the Sunni provinces.

Moreover, Maliki’s call on Iraqi Shiites to carry weapons is a clear invitation to a civil war based on sectarian fault lines.

In other words, Maliki’s approach to the current crisis only enabled the ISIL to exploit the grievances of the Sunnis.

Top Iraqi politicians — especially in the Shiite community — began to realise that Maliki would not be a recipe for stability in Iraq. Hence, they started jockeying to find a replacement for him.

To be sure, politicians and observers across the globe believe that Maliki will not be able to reach reconciliation with the Sunnis.

Except for Iran, Hizbollah and Assad, no single government in the region believes that Maliki can hold the country together.

A new government that can help unify the country and avert its slide into a civil war should include the Sunnis and the Kurds.

It should be a government that can help prevent ISIL and like-minded groups from exploiting the popular grievances.

The public debate in the US has stepped up pressure on the American administration to help change Maliki. Hence, the White House is weighing whether to throw its weight behind the effort to press Maliki to step down.

In Washington, there is a growing understanding that getting rid of Maliki is a last-ditch effort to avert a destructive civil war.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday: “There’s no question that not enough has been done by the government, including the prime minister, to govern inclusively, and that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq… Whether it’s the current prime minister or another leader, we will aggressively attempt to impress upon that leader the absolute necessity of rejecting sectarian governance.”

Evidently, it is good for Iraq to form a new, inclusive, government to avoid a catastrophic scenario.

After Maliki’s almost seven years of exclusive sectarian politics, Iraq is now even weaker and more divided than before.

A growing number of Iraqis understands that the stability and prosperity of their country lies in inclusive government.

Short of having such a government, Iraq runs the risk of disintegration.

The international community is doing Iraq a favour by continuing to step up pressure to change Maliki and rid Iraq of his sectarian legacy.

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