Commentary

Maliki in U.S. as Iraq's Deadly Year Continues

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

Iraqi President Nouri Al Maliki is in the United States to ask for additional military aid amid increased violence and carnage across Iraq. According to news reports, the month of September has seen sectarian violence claim the lives of over 1,000 people, helping make this the deadliest year for Iraqis since 2008. The chaos has many regional commentators worried whether Mr. Maliki is the right man to lead Iraq out of the current morass — or, worse, whether he might ultimately be responsible for it. Either way, many agree that time is running out for Mr. Maliki to address the upswing in sectarian violence.

 The ongoing violence has already driven internationals out of the country, with Iraqi news site Aswat Aliraq reporting that journalists have abandoned Mosul after a spate of targeted killings: “Press Freedom Observatory severely criticized [the] attacks committed against journalists in Mosul, calling security officials to ‘put a clear-cut strategy to protect the journalists there’…. The source added that the threats were exposed by a list that threatened to liquidate them after one month of killing four journalists. This state obliged about 40 journalists leave the city for another safe haven.”

Such is the level of insecurity in the country that Azzaman’s Fatih Abdulsalam believes a whole new ‘lexicon of violence’ is developing in the country: “With almost 1,000 people killed and more than 2,000 wounded in September alone as a result of car and suicide bombings, any benign discourse will become obsolete. Democracy has developed a special meaning for itself in Iraq that is different from how other countries interpret it. Democracy in Iraq means hegemony and domination of the executive branch of government over the other two branches, namely the legislative and judicial systems. If you win through the ballot in Iraq, it means you have the right to rule through the gun and the bullet. It means you have the right to undermine all laws, legislations and regulations including the constitution.”

Even though it is clear that many of the attacks are orchestrated and executed by al-Qaeda affiliated groups, there is little sympathy for what many, including the Khaleej Times editorial, consider the government’s incompetence and inability to stem the violence: “Sectarian conflict is now the order of the day and it seems Al Qaeda and its likes are bent on sowing the seeds of discord by especially targeting the majority community. But the tale of horror doesn’t end at that as so-called retaliation attacks take place to further the impression that it is a civil strife between the two communities. This is so because the government has not been able to crush the militant groups and lacks the intelligence needed to counter their plans....A close study of the terror incidents all these years suggests that Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups have been working on a two-dimensional pattern, i.e, by aggravating the sectarian discord by targeting the majority community again and again and second, by discouraging people from joining state services.”

Abdelaziz Aluwaisheg, writing for the Saudi daily Arab News, is even more critical of Maliki, accusing him of being complicit in the violence to further the interests of his domestic and international allies: “U.S. Senators are right in expressing alarm about Al-Maliki’s divisive policies and his use of U.S.-supplied weapons in suppressing his opponents. He has created an atmosphere that has made it possible for Al-Qaeda and like-minded terrorists to regroup in Iraq. It is especially ironic that Al-Maliki is using U.S. military and political support to further the interests of Iran and to help the Syrian regime stay in power, in defiance of declared U.S. policy.”

The obvious question now is what, if anything, can be done to mitigate the violence in the country. The Saudi Gazette editorial suggests that Mr. Maliki must take a harsher line against terrorist groups, while attending to economic needs: “For Maliki to pull Iraq back from the brink of chaos and anarchy requires a rapid and convincing political settlement, most importantly with the Sunni community....An end to the terrorist bombings will head off a return on inter-communal butchery.  Moreover a properly functioning government will be able to address the myriad of inefficiencies and failures, not least in the health and education systems and the oil and gas sector. A genuine national unity government will also be able to confront Kurdish independence ambitions in the north and hopefully keep the country together.”

But the Gulf News editorial believes that the Iraqi government must resist resorting to more violence: “Al Maliki has to stop trying to impose security by force, even after this Sunday when Al Qaida affiliates exploded nine car bombs in Baghdad, taking the death toll to more than 5,300 Iraqis this year....Force is not the answer. A minimum of security is required, but Iraq’s widespread tribal and sectarian violence has to be tackled in a much more wide-ranging manner. The people at large need to feel that they can trust their government and that their government has their best interests at heart. This is not the case at present. Al Maliki needs to counter corruption amongst his own officials.”

But it seems that Mr. Maliki can’t seem to do much right these days. According to a report by Al Hayat’s Mostafa Zein, Maliki’s visit to the U.S. Congress revealed his dependence on the whims of the U.S. government: “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has brought along a great number of issues to Washington. Some of them are domestic, such as partnership in governance, elections, armament, militias, relations with the Kurds and oil. Others are regional, such as the issue of Syria and the relationship between Baghdad and Tehran, in addition to homegrown and worldwide terrorism.... In short, Congress dealt with Maliki as the representative of a sect, while he had sought to represent Iraq’s other sects and ethnic groups as well. It held the Prime Minister accountable for his domestic and foreign policies. After reprimanding him, it threatened to pressure the administration to stop providing him with military aid — i.e. to lift its cover and allow him to be set upon by the sects whose rights have been suppressed, by those demanding independence from Baghdad and by those hostile to Iran.”

The visit was also roundly criticized by some Iraqi politicians who continue to see the United States as the aggressor: “Sadrist affiliate Ahrar bloc MP Hussein al-Sharifi criticized today the visit of Premier Nouri al-Maliki to the United States, pointing that this visit only yield waste and destruction. In a statement, copy received today by Aswat al-Iraq, he rejected this visit because America occupied Iraq, destroyed its infrastructure, plundered its wealth and planted terrorism and denominationalism in the country. He expressed astonishment for accepting the invitation because America wanted so.”


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