The nomination of Iraq’s Prime Minister-Designate Haider al-Abadi spelled out an end to eight years of sectarian rule exercised by his outgoing predecessor Nouri al-Maliki.
Maliki was seen by many as a nightmare for Iraq, with the oil-rich Arab state being poor and seen as working in the service of Iran during the premier’s eight-year tenure. A third-term in office for Maliki could have meant more suffering for the Iraqi people. Iraq was on verge of an extended civil war and division even until Maliki decided to step down.
Now that Maliki is to leave office, Abadi will have to work hard to repair Maliki’s wrongdoings and help Iraq sail out of troubled waters. It is time for Iraq to become a secure country for all its people with no discrimination whatsoever, be it on the basis ethnicity, religion or origin. Iraq was never as such for decades.
Here, we must list what Abadi should do. It is enough to mention Maliki’s wrongdoings so that the designate can repair or avoid any reoccurrences.
Numerous mistakes of Maliki
Among the numerous mistakes of Maliki is his reformation of the Iraqi army on a sectarian basis. In my view, during Maliki’s premiership, the U.S.-trained Iraqi army was not really a national army but more of a private militia at the disposal of the Shiite premier’s sect and his Dawa Party. The Iraqi army, or Maliki’s militia, was like Muqtada al-Sadr‘s Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades or Badr Corps.
For Abadi to turn the page and open up a new chapter for Iraq, the premier-designate has to be the man of the peopleRaed Omari
In his endeavor to ensure a fully obedient militia, Maliki seemed to have systematically excluded all experienced Arab Sunni officers – mostly ex-Baathists – and Kurds, consequently pushing them towards more desperate options. Those officers were Baathists because they had to be so in order to remain in the army and ensure promotion and not for any other considerations.
Abadi should keep the rebuilding of a national army as his major priority. The new army needs to inclusive, incorporating all Iraqis from various sects, ethnicities and origins. In this endeavor, the new premier-designate is indeed required to dismantle all the militias, beginning with Maliki’s band, and include them under the umbrella of the Iraqi army. There is a fear now that Maliki’s army could revolt against the replacement of their leader. For some reason, I see Maliki’s orders to the army to stay away from the political crisis and continue in their security and military duties to defend the country as being negated by the Arab saying: “a true statement disguising an evil intention.” His statement may be positive, but what are the intentions?
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ought now to be the major target of the new Iraqi army Abadi is required to reform. Inasmuch as ISIS has been a source of instability and insecurity to Iraq, it can turn into a stability factor. It is the common enemy of all the Iraqi people.
So, rebuilding a national Iraqi army is Abadi’s top priority and the formation of an inclusive government is the first step towards that end.
Throughout his eight-year term, Maliki exercised sectarian-based domestic policies, with the make-up of his government being largely Shiite. The de-Baathification process and the war against terrorism seem to have been the two major tools Maliki employed to implement his sectarian agenda, meaning the marginalization of the Arab Sunnis.
Remarkably enough, Maliki’s de-Baathification was a “Dawafication,” if such a coinage can be used. Maliki has replaced all army officers, public employees and even parliamentarians, who were once members of President Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, with his Dawa party men. If in the past, Saddam’s Baath was Iraq’s woe, Maliki’s Dawa was the same.
Let’s put aside Maliki’s indulgence in conspiracy theory, it was the Anbar uprising against the totalitarian rule and the marginalization policies of Baghdad’s Shiite government that formed the major contribution to Maliki’s exclusion from Iraq’s political scene. This should be a lesson for Abadi: Iraq cannot be ruled by one sect. It is either inclusivism and pluralism or destruction and unrest.
In addition to these two major stability factors (the army and cabinet), Abadi’s government is required to give special care to the country’s wealth source - oil. Iraqi oil has been said to be stolen by Iran with reports saying that Iraq’s southern city of Basra has been a black market for Iranian merchants since 2003. Evidence of Iraq’s deteriorating oil industry and it’s zero contribution to its economy sum up Iraqis financial troubles. People in one of the world’s major oil producers are poor and forced to look for jobs in other countries.
For Abadi to turn the page and open up a new chapter for Iraq, the premier-designate has to be the man of the people - all the people. In brief, there should be no more marginalization.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2SHOW MORE