Editorial: Still not too late for Al-Maliki

Updated 26 April 2013

Editorial: Still not too late for Al-Maliki

IRAQIS deserve better than this. The Shiite dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki seems bent upon destroying the already frail inter-communal cohesion and returning his country to bloody conflict from which the greatest winners will be the evil forces of Al-Qaeda.
Rising tensions with the Sunni community in Kirkuk province have broken out into open fighting. Neither side is entirely blameless — Sunni fighters have been seeking to interdict supplies heading for the Assad regime in Syria and have attacked Iraqi government convoys. But should the Al-Maliki administration be intervening on behalf of the tottering Syrian dictatorship, almost certainly at the prompting of Tehran? Iraq has wounds enough of its own to heal, without exacerbating its own divisions with this shortsighted policy. The Assad dictatorship is doomed. When it falls, it will leave the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad exposed and deeply unpopular with a significant number of its own people.
After four months of confrontation and simmering violence, the situation has reached the point where in the last 48 hours, where at least 27 people have been killed in Kirkuk in fighting between government forces and local protesters. The process of attack and revenge attack seems to be gripping the region. In response to an ambush on an army patrol, at dawn on Wednesday, government units attacked a group of Sunnis, near Hawijah, killing 13 of them and injuring dozens more.
The assault prompted the resignation of the local MP, Mohammed Ali Tamim, who was also the minister of health. This means three Sunni ministers have chosen to quit in just over a month. With each resignation the balance of Al-Maliki’s government between Sunni, Shiite and Kurd becomes ever more skewed. Besides which, Sunni politicians have complained that they had great difficulty in carrying out their portfolios, because officials below them, the majority of them Shiite, declined to back their projects. Moreover, in Cabinet meetings, Sunni ministers were often ignored.
This marginalization of a key component of the country’s political make-up is producing predictable consequences. Ordinary Iraqis, including many Shiites, are losing faith in their government’s ability to direct the country toward the peace for which virtually everyone longs. This level of partisan politics is severely damaging confidence and with this loss of certainty, all communities are turning inward and looking to their own local leaders to protect and guide them.
Perhaps the greatest failure of the Al-Maliki administration was to find a way to negotiate with the leaders of Sunni-dominated communities, not just in Kirkuk but elsewhere in the country. As tensions rose this year, there has been no real effort to talk. Indeed it almost seems as if Baghdad has aimed at confrontation, rather than talking and seeking compromise solutions. If this is indeed the deliberate policy, then it opens up some terrible possibilities.
It has been claimed within Al-Maliki’s administration that Sunnis are helping Al-Qaeda. There is certainly a few who are, just as former members of Saddam’s Baathist party allied themselves with the terrorists after the US invasion and occupation of the country. However the majority of Sunnis see Al-Qaeda as the vicious and heartless bigots that they are, and want nothing to do with them.
Yet it appears that the Shiite political leadership wishes to pretend that every Sunni is allied to terror. Such a lie would open the way to portraying all Sunnis as terrorists, perhaps giving a green light for greater Iranian interference in Iraq, under the pretense of “defending the legitimate elected government .” The specter of the return of the death squads and carnage in the night is too horrific to contemplate, but that is the way the Iraq seems to be heading, back into the dark times of the US occupation.
What is so alarming is that Al-Maliki now seems totally unsympathetic to the principles of reconciliation and unity upon which his government was supposed to be built. Its behavior is provocative. It is creating discord where is should be sowing amity.
There may still be a way back. It may not be too late. But Al-Maliki must stop the army assaults in Kirkuk and send in negotiators not soldiers. Violence will only breed more violence and lead to further division. Now is the time for the Iraqi premier and his fellow Shiite leaders to show statesmanship and re-extend the hand of friendship to the Sunni community, a hand that should never have been withdrawn in the first place.


Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.