Editorial: Nuri Al-Maliki’s many mistakes
Editorial: Nuri Al-Maliki’s many mistakes
Terrorists mounted one of their textbook operations this week. They seized an Iraqi Army position established to guard a section of oil pipeline in the north of the country near Mosul. Themselves dressed in military uniforms, the attackers were able to fool the 16-strong unit, long enough to grab their weapons and force them to surrender. They then beheaded some of the luckless soldiers. They left the bodies of the others hanging from gates. One of the soldiers appears to have been taken away by the attackers. There is speculation that he may have been in league with them.
Iraq is a war zone. Basic military procedure dictates that whoever seems to be approaching a defended position should be halted at a safe distance and checked out. The real soldiers had an armored vehicle with them. This was reportedly a well-established defensive position. Properly manned and commanded, it should not have been over-run, even by trickery. Yet these soldiers and their officers appear to have been completely unprepared for what hit them, with deeply tragic consequences.
Sadly, the horrific event at this remote outpost is in its way a metaphor for what is happening with the Shiah-dominated government of Nuri Al-Maliki. It knows that it sits in the midst of a rising tide of violence. It knows that evil forces are coming at it. It ought to know that the only way that it can defeat the assault to which it is being exposed, is by proactivity. It needs to reach out to pinpoint the men of violence. Discovering their plans. Unmasking their supporters. And interdicting their attacks before they can be driven home. Even the incompetent American occupation forces learned that they needed to take the war to the terrorists. To do this, they made deals with those Sunni communities that supported the men of violence and cut off their local support.
Official figures, which are probably an underestimate, show that at least 1,000 people were slain in Iraq this January. The majority were civilians, unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This terrible death toll is the highest in a single month for six years. Nearly 8,000 Iraqis died in political violence in 2013. But what is it that Al-Maliki is doing to combat this rising tide of savagery?
The astonishing answer is, virtually nothing. His government has lost control of large parts of Anbar province, including the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The territory has been taken over by terrorists belonging to the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). These violent bigots are as much of a terror to the locals as they are to the government forces. It is estimated that approaching 400,000 people have fled the two cities and surrounding areas. Their flight is as much about fear of what will happen to them at the hands of ISIS thugs, as it is that they may be caught up in a battle, if the Maliki government summons both the will and the courage to try and retake control in the province.
Far from seeking a national consensus that could build a united front against the terrorists, Al-Maliki continues to alienate the Sunni community. Without the restraining influence of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, who has suffered a severely debilitating stroke, Al-Maliki’s relations with the increasingly independent-minded Kurds in the north of the country, continue to decline.
The National Unity government he is supposed to be leading is a farce. Virtually all Sunni politicians have been driven from Parliament. Kurdish legislators hardly bother to involve themselves in the political process in Baghdad. The government neither seeks nor welcomes dialogue. There is however a permanent welcome mat for Iranian diplomats and politicians. The visits are rarely high profile. More often it is Al-Maliki or his people who travel to Tehran. But it is hard to fathom the sort of advice the Iraqi premier is being given, let alone taking. Is he really being encouraged to let his country fall apart and into the hands of extremists? Are the Iranians setting up this most inept of politicians, so that Iraq will once again become an urgent regional security issue? Is the Iranian plan take the pressure off Tehran’s real ally, the murderous administration of Bashar Assad in Damascus?