Farewell, Iraq: The Loss Of Nuri Al-Maliki's Authority Over Large Swaths Of Iraq
11 June 2014
By Mshari Al-Zaydi
The loss of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's
authority over large swaths of Iraq is due to several
First, there is the ideological blindness, personal
greed and sectarian sentiments that took hold of the
leader of the Islamic Da'wa Party and the head of the
Iraqi government, Nuri Al-Maliki. Second, there is the
absence of a political consensus and the lack of
mutual trust between Iraq's Shi'ite, Sunni, and
Kurdish communities—this is not to mention the spirit
of rivalry and monopolization of power that has taken
hold of Maliki and, before him, the former Iraqi Prime
Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. Third, the weakness of US
policy on Iraq. Following the invasion of Iraq and the
toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the head of the
Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, Paul Bremer,
oversaw the country's transition in a superficial and
foolish manner, handing the country to Iran and its
followers. He also disbanded Iraq's well-trained army,
a step which transformed the ranks of its sacked
officers into a breeding ground for animosity, one
ready to explode at any moment.
This, as well as many other issues, created a
political stalemate and made Iraq's Sunnis believe it
was impossible to achieve any kind of political
breakthrough. Maliki's government acted as a sectarian
regime, with Sunnis expected to submit and obey
orders. Even when Sunnis showed a profound sense of
patriotism and fought Al-Qaeda and Takfirist
movements—as was the case with the "Awakening"
councils—Maliki did not alter his oppressive and
The growing sense of outrage among Iraq's Sunnis was
also driven by the situation in Syria, where President
Bashar Al-Assad, backed by Iran's Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iraqi faction of the
Al-Abbas Brigades, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, is—to
put it bluntly—killing Sunnis. Only a few days ago,
Hezbollah announced the death of six of its fighters
who were killed within 24 hours in Syria, and
described them as "martyrs to the sacred duty of
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a
Takfirist militia that is even more radical than Al-Qaeda.
It has become the embodiment of the frustration and
outrage felt by Sunni fundamentalists and, only
temporarily, Iraqi Sunnis in general. ISIS is trying
to ride the wave of Sunni anger against Maliki. The
Sunni support for ISIS is not well-entrenched,
however. In fact, their anger has blinded them from
seeing the consequences that may ensue.
The picture is now all too clear: tensions between
Sunnis and Shi'ites have flared into a full-scale war.
This is evidenced by a fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah
Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, calling on
his followers to join the fight against ISIS. Against
this, we had the Iraqi Sunni Grand Mufti Sheikh Rafi
Al-Rifa'i issuing a statement last week hailing the
"mujahideen" in Anbar and Mosul. If this tit-for-tat
scenario continues, it will send Iraq spiraling back
to the old days of the battles of Karbala, Siffin, and
the massacres perpetuated by past dictators such as
Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf.
We also have Barack Obama: he says he is upset by the
sectarian conflict in Iraq (well, so are we.) But what
about offering a solution? Obama said that all
possibilities were "still on the table" but he will
not send any forces or war jets. What, then, is left?
We also have the Arab League (remember them?) saying
promising they will hold an emergency meeting on Iraq.
Clearly, the time of Iran's sole hegemony over Iraq is
drawing to a close. But unless it is rebuilt by its
people on a non-sectarian basis, Iraq will splinter
into three states: Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish. Another
possible scenario is that Iraq will become another
Maliki had a great opportunity to eschew partisan and
sectarian concerns in favor of more patriotic ones—but
he failed, and thereby lost Iraq.
A Saudi journalist and expert on
Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well
as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat's opinion
page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly
column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying
several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others.
He has been a guest on numerous news and current
affairs programs as an expert on Islamic.