News / Middle East

Gulf Leaders Blame Iraq's Maliki for ISIL Crisis

Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah (L) attends  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh June 2, 2014.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah (L) attends Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh June 2, 2014.
Cecily Hilleary
As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continued along a bloody path toward Baghdad, President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the U.S. has stepped up “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets” in Iraq to get a clearer picture of what’s going on there.

With better information about what ISIL is doing and where, the U.S. can better support the Iraqi military in countering the threat of Sunni Islamist forces. That may be good news for the Iranian-backed Maliki government in Iraq, but is not expected to sit well with Sunnis outside of Iraq – in particular, Sunni monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf countries.

Assigning blame
Salman ShaikhSalman Shaikh
Salman Shaikh
Salman Shaikh

“This is very much a situation of competing narratives,” said Salman Sheikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center and fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

“The Maliki government, the Assad government, as well as Iran, are seeing this very much as a fight between elected governments and Sunni extremists, al-Qaida extremists," he said.

“On the other side, you’ve got a narrative which is very much about the grievances that are being done to the Sunnis' heartland, particularly in Iraq by Maliki, and of course by a minority in Syria to the majority Sunni population,” Sheikh said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has blamed Saudi Arabia for supporting the Sunni extremists with weapons and cash. But Saudi and the other Gulf countries throw the blame right back at the Iraqi leader, a Shi'ite, saying his own “sectarian and exclusionary policies” led to the current crisis.

They also criticize the United States for its ongoing support of Maliki, warning that if the U.S. continues to back him, it could ignite a regional sectarian war. 

The situation is therefore enormously complex, Sheikh said, and one that places the United States in a political quandary. 

Crisis was predictable

Former Qatar Ambassador to the U.N., Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa in New York (1996 file photo)Former Qatar Ambassador to the U.N., Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa in New York (1996 file photo)
Former Qatar Ambassador to the U.N., Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa in New York (1996 file photo)
Former Qatar Ambassador to the U.N., Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa in New York (1996 file photo)

“Iraq is a mosaic of cultures, histories, ethnicities, religions and sects,” said Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, former Qatari Ambassador to the U.N. and to the U.S.

“And it used to be very inclusive, very open, respectful of all its political elements – Kurdish, Arab Sunni, Arab Shia, Arab Christian and others." 

But not anymore, he told VOA, stressing that his remarks are his own and not representative of any government.

“Everybody was expecting something big to happen in Iraq when Maliki came back as Iraqi prime minister four years ago,” Al-Khalifa said. “Instead of really opening up Iraq and making it a model for the religions, Maliki became beholden to the Iranians’ strategic goals in the region, i.e., to dominate the whole Middle East and the Gulf, and he created a sectarian state – as a matter of fact, an Iranian state within Iraq – because even Shi'ite Arabs suffered under him a lot.” 
Al-Khalifa also said Maliki squandered hundreds of billions of dollars that should have been spent on improving Iraq’s faulty infrastructure. Meanwhile, sectarian violence was building, especially in the northeast tribal areas of the country.  When Iraqi security forces cracked down on Sunni protesters in Anbar province in April, tensions spiraled out of control. 

While it may have seemed as if ISIL came out of nowhere, observers in the region saw it coming months ago, Al-Khalifa said.

The Qatari diplomat also warned that U.S. intervention in Iraq on behalf of Maliki’s
David OttawayDavid Ottaway
David Ottaway
David Ottaway
government could be seen by those tired of Western intervention as “a new crusade” aimed at destroying Arabs and Islam. And Maliki, with help from Iran, could read it as green light to stay put and continue his sectarian politics.

Sectarian Showdown?

President Obama also said Thursday the U.S. will head up a diplomatic effort with Iraqi and regional leaders to support stability in Iraq.

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East and Europe this weekend for consultations with U.S. allies.

David Ottaway, senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former Washington Post Middle East correspondent said he is doubtful that Maliki himself can achieve political unity.  Tensions between the Iran-backed government and Iraq’s Sunnis have been simmering for far too long.

“The Sunnis have smarted ever since they lost power in Baghdad in 2003, and over time it’s just gotten worse and worse,” Ottaway said. “I don’t see how Maliki will get any Kurds or Sunnis at this point to join in a coalition government. 

"I think it’s rather headed in the opposite direction –  towards a Sunni-Shia shootout.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Sasan.Heidari
June 22, 2014 12:19 AM
I love America and its power , really USA is super power and deserve it.

But as an Iranian American Citizen I am not Happy when the president of USA call Gulf countries instead Real name PERSIAN GULF ,

I think he is able to read and write and passes the geographic and history Courses in school and for sure he graduated from college and suppose to google it and find the right name.

if he is not able to do that it is your reporter to correct the mistake of president dictation and let him know what it his problem

by: Ali from: Chicago, IL
June 21, 2014 2:56 PM
Everyone knows where did the 911 terrorrists came from and who funded the Talibans and Jihadi Madarsas in Pakistan. Funny, the answer is only--Saudi Arabia. This fool from Qatar or any other terrorist lover Arab ruling family will only critcise Maliki but will not utter one single word against ISIS and we all know why. It's their own creature and they're taking care of it very well. Their aim is make sure Shias disappear from Middle East..this is what they've been doing for the last 1400 years. They're the followers of those terrorists who highjacked the Islam after the death of Prophet and runied the Religion of Peace and turned it into Arrogant Arab Terrorist Religion. This is what happens when you follow the Khalifas like Abu Bakar, Umar, and Mawiya...The first three Terrorists of Islam.

by: James ONeal
June 20, 2014 5:49 PM
Excellent comments so far. Gulf leaders don't like Maliki? Of course not, duh, they are Sunni. Like this is news to anyone.

At least this article is not about Cheney and the Neocons blaming this mess on Obama, talk about a credibility issue or credulity issue for anyone buying that for even a Dollar.

Einstein said to things were likely infinite: the universe and human stupidity, but he was not sure about the universe.

June 20, 2014 1:38 PM
These gulf states cannot fight with Israel, because they are coward. They can create Terrorist Group, give them money and training to create as much as possible problems in Muslim Countries. Pakistan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Yemen are few examples. They fell pleasure to see poor and helpless peoples in everlasting pain and endless tears.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 20, 2014 10:54 AM
MY OPINION? -- Maliki would have to have the "wisdom of Solomon" to solve this insurmountable religious conflict between Sunni and Shia in Iraq? -- (AND?) -- And Maliki has to have the "wisdom of Solomon" not to listen to the foolish advice he gets from the US and NATO, and the Sunni monarchies, and the news media, repeating their advice as being logical?

YOU ASK? -- Why does Maliki need the "wisdom of Solomon?" -- (Solomon himself, with all his wisdom, couldn't win or end this Iraq religious war?) --- Maliki must somehow find the courage to win and end this Sunni (ISIL) terrorist led insurrection against the Shia led Iraq government -- (with an Iraq army that's about 50% Sunni troops), that refuse to fight against the Sunni (ISIL) terrorists, and other Sunni terrorists, and even joined the Sunni terrorists in fighting the Shia led Iraq government, and will even shoot the Shia troops in the back when fighting. --- MALIKI has two choices to win and end this Sunni led insurrection, and both are drastic. -- Either disarm the Sunni troops, or segregate them from the Shia troops, to "win" this Sunni insurrection, (and then), find away to bring both sides together afterwards? --- (It is doubtful that Solomon with all his wisdom, couldn't accomplish this task?)

ADVICE GIVEN by the US and NATO who started the Iraq war, and left without defeating the Iraq insurgents, because they couldn't do it, -- (NOW?) -- give advice to Maliki on how he can win and end this Iraq Sunni terrorist insurrection, by some simple negotiations, and more inclusion of the Sunnis in the Iraq government? --- (ADVICE TO MALIKI?) --- If those giving you advice aren't Solomon himself, don't listen to them)..

by: Sensi
June 20, 2014 5:25 AM
The US allies in the Gulf are all dictatorships funding Sunni terrorism worldwide and a sectarian proxy war in Syria and Iraq, yet our hardly objective Western "free press" continue to feign that those Sunni dictatorships aren't the problem that has to be dealt with, giving them a tribune to tell us that the problem would be with those democratically elected people fighting the terrorists they fund and support, sure...

The US either have to break their alliances with those nauseous dictatorships funding Sunni terrorism worldwide (Al Qaeda, Talibans, ISIS, Chechens, your pick) or stop pretending to have a foreign policy and alliances supporting "stability" if not democracy and human rights, that long-standing Western hypocrisy...

by: My Take from: US
June 20, 2014 4:42 AM
Such Utter Nonsense!

Is this guy a joke? As if life was "inclusive" in Iraq under Saddam Hussein!

Saddam was a brutal and murdering dictator of Shias and Kurds.

Hence, his comments sound like pure Sunni propaganda.

Iraq was hardly inclusive and neither are the Sunni Gulf Arabs run by 12th Century oriented dictators!

Were the Saudis inclusive to the Shais when they sent tanks to run them over in Bahrain? All they were asking for was inclusive right and as a majority population. Where was this guy's voice then?

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