News / Middle East

Column: Maliki’s Last Chance to Save Iraq

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2011, file photo, Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2011, file photo, Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq
Saddam Hussein must be laughing in his grave.
 
President George W. Bush celebrated Saddam’s overthrow in 2003 as the liberation of Iraqis from decades of dictatorial rule and costly warfare against Iraq’s neighbors.

But the democratically elected government that followed has failed to stabilize the country and opened the door to the expansion of a safe haven for Islamist militants so extreme that even al-Qaeda has rejected them.

This week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), captured Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, unfurling the black flag of jihad over the corpses of Iraqi security forces and sending half a million residents fleeing in terror.

For months now, ISIS has withstood Baghdad’s efforts to recapture Fallujah, scene of so much American bloodletting a decade ago.

Reinforced with newly captured American Humvees and weapons from Mosul, ISIS has also taken Baiji, site of a major oil refinery, and is advancing toward the outskirts of Baghdad.
 
The success of ISIS has much to do with the collapse of government authority in Syria as the civil war there continues into its fourth year.

The long border between Syria and Iraq is essentially open to the movement of fighters between the two countries. With Bashar al-Assad consolidating control over part of Syria, ISIS may have decided that Iraq is an easier target.
 
But the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also bears responsibility for alienating so much of Iraq’s Sunni population, which dominated the country for centuries.

No inclusive government

Despite “winning” parliamentary elections in April to give him a potential third term in office, Maliki has yet to form an inclusive government with Sunni buy-in or resolve differences over oil exports with the Kurds.

With his country falling apart around him, this is more than a wakeup call; this is probably Maliki’s last chance to overcome his sectarian Shiite roots and work with other ethnic and religious factions to preserve an even nominally united Iraq.
 
Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has written that “the potential silver lining to the crisis is that it could spur Iraqi factions to refocus on national stability.”

Knights also notes that the United States “is still uniquely positioned to be an honest broker in Iraq” using its leverage as a trainer and arms provider to push Maliki toward compromise.
 
But the fact remains that while the US can rush ammunition to defend Baghdad, U.S. troops are not going to return to fight Maliki’s battles for him. Unfortunately, rather than reach out to Sunni moderates,

Maliki has increasingly relied on Iran-backed Shiite militias that have committed atrocities against Sunnis.

Knights told VOA that he fears these militias will start “cleansing” remaining Sunnis from Baghdad in a reprise of 2005-2006 sectarian blood-letting.

“We’re back to 2005 when we just had elections but we had no security,” he said.
 
Knights described the panicked withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Mosul and Baiji as “a morale collapse of epic proportions” that reflects the exhaustion of troops who have been fighting a counterinsurgency for over a decade and the inexperience of others who had been doing checkpoint duty in southern Iraq and now have been rushed to the northern front.
 
“You’ve got the guys who burned out who were used constantly in the worst places and the units that never did anything and now must do everything,” Knights said.
 
Knights predicts that Baghdad and the south will hold but that Iraq will be increasingly divided into Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurdish regions.

Options proposed

Rather than try to recapture lost territory, Maliki may have to try to negotiate with tribal and old Baathist powerbrokers and accept a looser federal structure that permits substantial Sunni autonomy.
 
However it turns out, there will be likely be new threats emanating from ISIS-held Iraq that menace Jordan, an important US ally, and potentially Europe and the United States.

An Iraqi haven for this group will also make it much harder to bring about a cease-fire in Syria’s horrible war.
 
George W. Bush and his enablers – Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Don Rumsfeld and Richard Perle among them – sold the Iraq war to the American people as part of the “war on terrorism,” conveniently blurring the fact that Saddam was not colluding with al-Qaeda but actually fighting it.

It would be beyond a tragic irony if Iraq now becomes a refuge for a group even more hateful bent on establishing a “caliphate” in the heart of the Middle East.

Barbara Slavin

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website specializing in the Middle East. She is the author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, and is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and the Voice of America.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ray J from: Asia
June 12, 2014 3:23 AM
The author is either ignorant or assumes ignorance on the part of her readers - or both. There is no irony in the fact that chaos has followed upon the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. It is precisely what was to be expected.


by: Pamela curr from: Melbourne
June 11, 2014 7:05 PM
What about the Iraqi people? We made their country into a wartime playground, destroyed their infrastructure and now as those we installed have failed- we stand back. When the people flee for their survival- will we open our arms? Not bloody likely. Australia will lock them up in hell camps in PNG and Nauru until they go mad. And what will the rest of the west do?


by: Max D from: Latin America
June 11, 2014 3:33 PM
I'm pleasantly surprised...not by the ISIS, but by the even-handed tone of this article by VOA. Hopefully, a more competent leader will be found for Iraq soon, as Al-Maliki has not only antagonised the U.S., but is now obviously failing in the essential-to-his-occupation task of ensuring security and governmental control in Iraq.


by: peter42y from: portugal
June 11, 2014 3:20 PM
Maybe Iraq is an artificial state that should be divided in 3 diferent countries . more stable . A Kurdistan.., a Sunite Iraq and a Shiite Iraq.
American incursion in the region was a complete cathastrofe. It was suposed to bring democracy and peace but democracy only brought war.
A democratic Iraq is an Iraq divided in 3 smaller countries.


by: Safari from: Tanzania
June 11, 2014 3:16 PM
I think it is the right moment that America and it allies has to rethink about their foreign policies.look at Iraq,Libya,Syria and other countries.plsease stop supporting terrorist by the idea of overthrowing dictators.This has to be a lessons to the american and weatern countries.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid