<a href="http://www.mepc.org/articles-commentary/middle-east-focus">Middle East In Focus</a>
Over the last two weeks, Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities have suffered a barrage of suicide bombings and other acts of violence. Additonally, and perhaps not wholly disconnected from that chaotic reality, the demands of the various factions in the country have become increasingly irreconcilable. Fearful of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s hold on power, some have called for his removal. Others look to balance power between the different branches of government and push for a diffusion of power among the various regions.
According to reports by Al Sumaria TV news, “Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Iraqiya senior official Saleh Al Mutlaq called, on Wednesday, to replace Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki. Keeping him as Prime Minister threatens to partition Iraq and warn to drag the country into chaos, Mutlaq argued. He revealed upon information he received that Iran supports to keep Al Maliki as the Prime Minister of Iraq, he said.... ‘It is now clear that Maliki’s persistence in his post might lead to the partition of Iraq and poses the risk of dragging the country into a disaster,’ Mutlaq told a statement which Alsumarianews received a copy of. ‘We demand Maliki’s replacement because we terribly fear this outcome,’ he added.”
Furthermore, some provincial leaders are pushing to have their provinces reorganized as federal regions. For example, according to Al Sumaria: “Salahuddin Province announced, on Thursday, that it began distributing support forms for the province’s declaration as a region. Signatures will be presented to the electoral commission to carry out next steps stipulated by the Iraqi constitution, Salahuddin explained stressing that turning Salahuddin into a federal region is an irreversible public demand....The idea to establish regions in Iraq isn’t quite mature yet, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki said in a special interview with Alsumaria, on December 8. Balad, Dujail and Samarra districts should be affiliated to Baghdad as per Iraqi President’s planning, Maliki concluded.”
Iraq’s main political blocs met this week in part to resolve some of these problems. However, as Aswat Al-Iraq staff reported, “The Chairman of National Alliance Ibraheem al-Jaffari disclosed…that the meeting of the political blocs called for national unity, abidance by the constitution and separation of powers, but did not solve any disputed question....He added that the National Alliance stressed the importance of having political unity, strengthening the government, parliament and judicial power, with the necessity to separate the three powers.Sunday meeting was upon an initiative made by President Jalal Talabani and attended by Premier Nouri al-Maliki, Parliament Speaker Usama Nujaifi and representative of main political blocs in the parliament, in preparation for holding the general national conference due at the end of this month.”
Faced with a paralysis of the political process, some believe the real culprits are outside the country. As Azzaman’s Fatih Abdulsalam points out, “Since the fall of the former regime at the hands of U.S. occupation, Iraq has been passing from one crisis to another. So, for the country to be in crisis it is nothing new....The reason is not hard to tell: The country’s crises and difficulties are the outcome of the policies U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer introduced in the post-Saddam Hussein Iraq....he U.S. left Iraq in turmoil, failing to solve any of the crises it faced while occupying it. The government, already weak and almost powerless, now has to deal with crises far beyond its potential. Major issues like regional autonomy, which many provinces aspire for, the distribution of wealth, and above all security are not easy to solve. Shelving them breeds more and more crises pushing the country towards a very dangerous cliff.”
As far as the argument about U.S. involvement in Iraq is concerned, AK News’ Joel Wing reflects on recent poll results conducted by Zogby Research Services. Wing’s analysis of the poll shows on balance the U.S. influence in the country as being detrimental: “respondents in a number of Arab countries and Iran did not think that Iraq benefited from the American presence, undermining a cause and effect relationship between the transformation in Baghdad and other Arab capitals....A majority in all but one country also felt that the United States was the greatest beneficiary of the war, not the Iraqi people, and large numbers in each country felt that America had the worst impact on Iraq.”
The question remains: what will become of Iraq? In an op-ed for Gulf News, Shakir Noor wonders whether Iraq will “end up as a dictatorship…. Few are buying Al Maliki’s case in a country that is increasingly getting polarized, exposing the old faultlines and unraveling the so-called national unity that the United States cobbled together before exiting....For the pessimist all the possibilities for the return of dictatorship in one form or another are visible on the horizon. The return of mindless bombings does not promise stability. The situation could get worse in 2012. The forces of terror and their supporters inside Iraq and outside are poised to stage a comeback if the democratically elected politicians do not put their sectarian differences aside and unite for the sake of the nation.”
The Gulf Times editorial on the other hand issues a stern warning to the leaders of the various political blocs: “With the Arab world in the throes of change following the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and with anti-government protests continuing in Syria and Yemen, any large scale violence, especially of the sectarian type, would have disastrous consequences for the region. It is imperative, therefore, that political and religious leaders in Iraq come up with an effective strategy to end violence and take control of the country and prove to the world that they can manage their own affairs, especially since the Americans have packed their bags and left.”
Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.