Editorial: Nuri Al-Maliki’s many mistakes

Updated 14 February 2014

Editorial: Nuri Al-Maliki’s many mistakes

The wicked violence in Iraq continues to mount. Death comes indiscriminately to civilians from car and suicide bombers. It also arrives through assaults on an underpaid, under-resourced and under-motivated police and army.
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?


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.