You are here

Political reconciliation first

Aug 11,2014 - Last updated at Aug 11,2014

After two months of unchecked expansion of the Islamic State in the north of Iraq, American combat planes and drones struck its militants.

While the American step is supposed to be narrow in scope, it has boosted the morale of the minorities and Kurds whose fighters have lost ground to the militants in a recent round of fighting.

It is not clear whether the American move will change the balance of power among the fighting groups, but it seems that the American administration is setting a sort of red line for the militants not to cross.

For the American administration, Erbil, a city full of American diplomats and a safe haven for religious minorities, should not be attacked.

The US has an interest in cutting the Islamic State to size. In his Thursday’s White House address, President Barack Obama made it perfectly clear that his country has a “strategic interest in pushing back” the Islamic State militants.

He also stressed the need to protect American personnel and to prevent mass killings of Iraqis, especially religious minorities.

Obama defends not acting before by saying that he had learned his lesson from the events in Libya in the wake of the fall of the Qadhafi regime. He said he had underestimated the chaos that would follow the American forces’ withdrawal.

Now Obama is certain that the situation in Iraq will be different from that in Libya. The reason for this confidence is that a new, inclusive government in Baghdad is in the making.

Obama would not have intervened if there had been no strong signals that a new government was being worked out. As he said: “We can only do that if we know that we have got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void.”

The American inaction over the past few months has convinced the Iraqis that their government is dysfunctional.

Iraqis began to see that their prime minister’s sectarian scheme is a recipe for destruction.

Now, it seems Iraqis understand that in order to hold the country together, they have to make accommodations.

But, far from being united, Iraqis are still struggling to form a new government.

After elections produced an inconclusive outcome, Premier Nouri Al Maliki — a protégé of Iran — is having a hard time letting go of power.

His previous requests that the US step in to fight the Islamic State on his behalf fell on deaf ears. The working assumption in Washington is that Maliki is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Explicit in all American official statements is that establishing an inclusive government capable of addressing Sunni grievances is a prerequisite for American engagement in the battle against the Islamic militants.

By and large, the American administration views the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq as a result of Maliki’s narrow sectarian policies.

Whether by design or default, Maliki followed the winner-takes-all politics, a move that enraged an increasing number of Iraqis.

For this reason, it seems logical that Maliki should step down to pave the way for the formation of an inclusive government to get the Iraqi house in order.

[email protected]

14 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.