Is Maliki trustworthy or a source of concern?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose mandate in office has ended, managed to win U.S. support during his visit to the White House in November 2013. Before that visit, the American administration was unhappy with Maliki’s mismanagement of the country following the withdrawal of US troops, as corruption levels surged in Iraq and so did authoritarianism, sectarianism and the services provided to Iran in Syria.

Maliki overcame the lukewarm relations with Washington after he was able to convince the Obama administration that he was 1) on the U.S. side in fighting terrorism and 2) committed to holding elections as scheduled in April. Following his return from Washington, he sent his forces towards Anbar claiming that this was to fight terrorism, and he also announced the elections date. The United States gave him diplomatic support and sold him the best of its weapons: Hellfire missiles, drones and Apache helicopters.

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A year before that, Maliki bought Russia's support with a $4.3 billion arms contract - the biggest military deal for Russia in the Middle East since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Afterwards, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made his famous statement that the two countries share similar positions on regional issues and increased Russia's support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

But Maliki's problem is that his concept of governance resembles that of Saddam Hussein - it's based on monopolizing power

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

With this strategy, Maliki paved the way to govern Iraq for the upcoming decade by making sure that three powers were on his side: the U.S., Russia and Iran.

But Maliki's problem is that his concept of governance resembles that of Saddam Hussein - it's based on monopolizing power.

Saddam thought that his massive armed forces, expanded suppression, elimination of rivals either by pursuing them or intimidating them, dominating the state's resources, keeping all authorities under his sole control and financially and militarily satisfying superpowers will protect his regime. Saddam entered a war against Iran for the United States, and Maliki supported Assad for the sake of Iran and he pursued al-Qaeda in Anbar for the sake of the United States.

Now Maliki is fighting to defend his existence and not to defend Iraq's security and the regime's safety as he claims. This does not deny that Iraq is truly confronting two grave threats: terrorism and division. The Americans, like many national Iraqi parties, have started to feel that Maliki is the problem and not the solution. If Maliki hadn't marginalized the Sunnis and fought them in Anbar, al-Qaeda organization wouldn't have staged a strong comeback and become a major threat to the entire world. If it hadn't been for Maliki's authoritarianism, the Kurds wouldn't have occupied Kirkuk, sold oil and headed towards independence.

Anger is not limited to minorities. The majority of Shiites as well are not happy with Maliki. Most Shiite leaders and other Iraqi political party leaders have called for immediately forming a government acceptable to everyone, in the strongest political move against Maliki thus far.

If the Iraqis want to maintain their united, rich and diverse state and more importantly, if they want to restore peace, they have no other choice but to reconcile under the umbrella of the constitution and the political system. They must establish a government that can achieve reconciliation and put an end to the fascist rule of Maliki.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 29, 2014.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
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