Maliki’s Karbala speech was filled with anti-Sunni rhetoric

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently returned from Tehran where he had travelled to seek help in winning parliamentary elections, set to be held in almost three months. Over the past few days, Maliki went to the city of Karbala where he escalated his sectarian rhetoric against the country’s Sunnis. Maliki traveled to Karbala under the excuse of participating in the Shiite commemoration of Imam Hussein’s death.

However, under the excuse of pursuing al-Qaeda and the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, he used the occasion to deliver a hateful speech full of incitement and of threats against the protesters in al-Anbar.

Shiite leaders, not Iraqi Sunni figures, stood up against Maliki. Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr said in a statement: “We heard from brother Maliki a threat against protests [in the] west [of the country.] This must not be an introduction to settle sectarian accounts with Sunnis, it must only target terrorism.” Sadr also called on Maliki “to transfer such issues to parliament to cast a vote [on them] before making any individual acts that everyone may regret [later.]”

Who is he targeting?

Although he sent thousands of soldiers - considering he is the supreme leader of the armed forces - to al-Anbar, the majority of which is Sunni, those who he really targets are his Shiite rivals. Maliki knows that his chances of winning the elections are relatively weak. He therefore thinks that he can improve his luck by escalating his sectarian rhetoric as this may intimidate Shiite citizens into voting for him.

Maliki failed to manage Iraq’s security, politics or development all the while attaining privileges which have placed him outside the sphere of accountability

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

An Iraqi Shiite leader I met a while ago raised my awareness of the point that Maliki is willing to ignite a sectarian war in order to make electoral gains. The same Iraqi Shiite leader also voiced fears that Maliki may lead the country into a worse situation, adding that if Maliki feels this will not be enough to win, he may resort to obstructing the entire parliamentarian electoral process under the excuse of fighting terrorism. He would thus be able to extend his term for two more years.

Maliki failed to manage Iraq’s security, politics or development all the while attaining privileges which have placed him outside the sphere of accountability.

This man has not given the Iraqis - whether Shiite, Sunni or of any other category - any reason to elect him. He emptied the government of its ministers and took over most posts, marginalized the parliament’s supervisory role, dominated institutions that are supposed to be impartial and supervisory. Corruption became common among his high-ranking officials and the common Iraqi citizen ended up with no security and no hope for a better future.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 25, 2013.


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.

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