Assad, Maliki and the use of ISIS

Iraq's Maliki has become an outcast as many political forces have abandoned him

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Two similar events in two neighboring countries, two allied regimes and two leaders are about to fall in Iraq and Syria. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bashar al-Assad are facing the same challenges and problems; they have to leave power while both are allied in the war. Maliki reiterated that he will not allow the collapse of his ally, the Assad regime, despite its horrific crimes.

This is neither my story nor my point of view, but both regimes fought against the so-called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). There is nothing suspicious about fighting ISIS since it is a terrorist group, except that its emergence was in parallel with the crisis of the two regimes and it has only been active in regions controlled by the opposition. Maliki and Assad used ISIS to manipulate the Western and local public opinions. Fighting ISIS was associated with the survival of the two regimes that are presumably living out their last days in power!

Maliki, the outcast

Maliki is a legitimate governor who was elected through ballots, but he does not want to leave power especially as there are only two months remaining before the parliamentary elections that will determine the future of the prime minister’s office. It will be difficult for him to win, if not impossible. Today, Maliki has become an outcast as many political forces, including his allies who vaulted him to power four years ago, have abandoned him as he did not win the majority of votes. He won with the votes of the Sadrists, the Supreme Council led by Ammar al-Hakim, and the Kurds. Now, it is almost certain that the Sadrists and al-Hakim’s council are against him, and thus he has lost the majority of the Shiite vote. Moreover, Maliki is at odds with the Kurdistan Regional Government, and as a result he has lost the votes of the Kurds. What is even worse is that his candidates have shamefully lost in the recent municipal elections, during which the majority of Iraqi people rejected Maliki, who spent eight years tearing apart the country with corruption and terrorism.

The most likely, and worst case, scenario is that Maliki will indeed use the clashes against ISIS and insurgents in Anbar to declare a state of emergency

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

When Maliki visited Washington, the U.S. government warned him of using the card of fighting terrorism as an excuse to cancel elections. They have even told Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi that they fear Maliki’s battle against ISIS in Anbar is a precursor to postponing elections in a bid to stay in power.

Indeed, this may be Maliki’s plan: provoking Anbar tribes and clans under the pretext of fighting the terrorist ISIS and luring Anbar’s people into a sectarian war. Maliki wants to polish up his image by engaging in combat in Sunni Anbar as the protector of the Shiites. He aims to gain back the votes of the Sadrists and Ammar al-Hakim’s Supreme Council! Hence he felt that he cannot lobby the Shiites especially since the Sadrists have explicitly warned him against waging battles against ISIS to win the elections.

Worst case scenario

The most likely, and worst case, scenario is that Maliki will indeed use the clashes against ISIS and insurgents in Anbar to declare a state of emergency, and then postpone the elections until the end of July when the Iraqi parliament expires and loses its legislative powers. Consequently, Maliki alone will decide when and how to hold the elections, after a year or two, and consequently he will remain a nightmare haunting the Iraqi people.

Maliki is replicating Assad’s plan in Syria. He uses ISIS to intimidate Iraqi people and to threaten the West in his bid to stay in power. Maliki’s connections with Iran make the repeat of Assad’s scenario likely.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 1, 2014.


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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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