Will ISIS also seize Baghdad?

Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein and late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden must be laughing in their graves

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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I wrote this question a few days ago but then backed down. I was afraid people would think I am bringing it up out of nothing but mere instigation. However, now that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces have seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-most populous city - in less than a day - the question is legitimate. Which city will the ISIS march towards to next? Baghdad may be the target.

Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein and late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden must be laughing in their graves at Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister who is well-known for his arrogance and insolence.

Mosul and the rest of cities in the Nineveh province fell into their hands. Before that, vast areas of Anbar also fell into their hands. Salaheddine province is also about to witness the same fate. All this happened in a short time, surprising the world and scaring it. The terrorist ISIS, which defected from al-Qaeda, began to achieve the greatest of victories since the Sept. 11, 2001 twin attacks against New York and Washington. The ISIS is crossing borders, cutting off oil pipelines and seizing cities one after the other.

Quick and brutal groups

Do not underestimate these quick and brutal groups which seized arms warehouses and banks funds. They may soon climb the walls of the capital Baghdad which is protected by the same leaders who were defeated in Anbar and Nineveh!


Maliki persisted at settling his political accounts under the excuse of fighting terrorism but he didn’t really fight terrorist groups

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Maliki - the Iraqi prime minister whose government’s term expired and who three months ago pledged to eliminate al-Qaeda in Anbar within two weeks - is to be blamed for the army’s defeat. Did his military leaders fail him? or did he fail to defend the two two provinces when he focused instead on settling political accounts there as his rivals claim? It’s not unlikely. After all, it’s Maliki who dissolved the Awakening Councils - which fought al-Qaeda following the withdrawal of American troops - just because they are Sunnis! The result was that the ISIS returned and seized both provinces!

Unfortunately, Maliki persisted at settling his political accounts under the excuse of fighting terrorism but he didn’t really fight terrorist groups. He adopted this style during most of his term in governance. He described those who disagreed with him as terrorists, forcing them to either flee the country of submit to him. Therefore, when the battle erupted, his forces witnessed one defeat after the other because he refused the reconciliation of political parties there and because he abandoned the tribes who fought against al-Qaeda.

A foreign party

The army was thus fighting as a foreign party in its own land.

A few days ago, Maliki altered his rhetoric and called for “uniting efforts to fight terrorism and curb it.” His call came following his meeting with U.N. Special Representative for Iraq Nicolai Mladenov. He said there are “intentions to open the door for anyone who desires to combat terrorism and to overcome disputes no matter what their political stance is.” His words are positive and differ from his previous rhetoric. However, his problem is that his statements are not credible.

The battle against terror groups will be long and painful regardless of whether he stays prime minister or not. He must resolve the anger which civil and military parties and tribes in Anbar and Nineveh hold towards him. Without their cooperation, he will fail at the war with the ISIS which will reach him in Baghdad. Maliki let al-Qaeda grow and expand in Anbar because he thought it would harm his rivals, but he did not comprehend the size of threat which terrorism poses. The Americans have begun to intervene since December when they realized that al-Qaeda is growing in a manner that threatens all of Iraq’s provinces and when they realized that terrorists are preparing their forces and intending to attack Baghdad!

They brought his attention to these threats and told him that al-Qaeda’s power is growing in Anbar. They supported him with reconnaissance operations from Jordan and used drones to attain further information on al-Qaeda. They also provided him with plenty of data and advice but he failed to hold a political reconciliation and his forces failed in their war in Anbar.

Is Maliki the victim of his consultants? Some of his ministers say that Maliki’s advisors underestimated the gravity of the situation and encouraged him to involve the army without the local support of residents of provinces which al-Qaeda seized. Whether it’s his corrupt consultants or his convictions, arrogance and insolence, Maliki is totally responsible for the security failure and the chaos threatening the country.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 11, 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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