Syria has prised open the gates to hell in Iraq

Nuri al-Maliki's support of Bashar al-Assad brought about his moral downfall and revived al-Qaeda and Sunni anger

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi
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The Americans rejected all of their allies’ suggestions and reassurances and insisted on their stance against providing the Syrian opposition with advanced weapons to speed up the battle and topple the regime in order to end the Syrian war and its repercussions on the region. The Americans’ excuse is that they fear these weapons would fall in the wrong hands and turn into a problem for everyone. They must be embarrassed now as they review their intelligence reports which detail the quantities and qualities of advanced weapons - of armors, rocket launchers and even thermal rockets and jets - that fell in the wrong hands in Iraq’s Mosul, Baiji and other cities.

This is the disaster which occurred last Tuesday when Iraq and the region woke up to the news of the fall of Mosul - Iraq’s second largest city - to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is however a natural result of ignoring the Syrian situation for the past few years. Worse will actually happen as Iraq - the way we know it - has totally changed and the same will apply to the region. Perhaps the fall of Mosul will mark the end of the Sykes-Pikot era.

Maliki’s support of Bashar al-Assad brought about his moral downfall

Jamal Kashoggi

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will try to regain control by force. The man is an expert at taking wrong decisions ever since he gave up to the three destructive traits of sectarianism, love of power and concern for making gains. Only one of these traits is enough to destroy any country, so when you have all these traits in one leader it is a problem.

Restoring control by force

I said he will try restoring control by force. He’s called on Iraqis to mobilize after his army, which he equipped with American sponsorship and which he spent billions of dollars on, collapsed. Now, let us assume the people, what’s left of his army and his sectarian militias meet his call and that he announces a scenario similar to Karbala and divides the Iraqis into two groups of people. If he wins, then he wins a war like that of Saddam against the Kurds. He will subjugate the Sunni Iraqis to an occupation they won’t accept and will staunchly resist. The international community will not accept this either. Or wait, maybe I rushed this last point as the international community accepted what’s happening in Syria. Now, if Maliki is defeated and his army is deterred to the south, then this is also bad news. In this case, Iraq would be officially divided and another disaster would befall the Sunnis of Iraq. The ISIS does not share authority with anyone. He who has taken Mosul, Salaheddine, Tikrit and perhaps Samarra and Kirkuk by the time this article is published is not the ISIS alone - other factions helped. Some say these factions are the remnants of Saddam’s old army and that they’ve brought themselves together and united with the ISIS as a result of their hatred of Maliki and his sectarianism which marginalized all moderate Sunni leaders. Instead of being rivals with them at parliament, Maliki excluded moderate Sunnis. Therefore, Mosul’s residents began to prefer the ISIS over Maliki. Maliki marginalized the Sunni political partners.

Other Arab Sunni factions, tribes and politicians will reject the ISIS’ crudeness after the confrontations with Maliki - and even before it. We’ll witness decapitations and the displaying of heads in cities’ squares. Nineveh’s mayor Atheel al-Nujeifi - who’s not on good terms with Maliki - is a mere apostate for them. They also view those around him as such. And the same applies to former leaders of awakenings, tribes’ leaders and politicians. The ISIS governance system is very simple. If you accept it, you’ll be left in peace and if you don’t, you will have your head decapitated and displayed in a square. There are no elections, no democracy and no making choices. There’s the commander of the faithful and you must obey him and he who represents him or else. Of course, the Iraqis will eventually reject this just like any people who reject grievance and bullying will. A revolution will erupt and the Kurds, who will also have had enough of the ISIS, may intervene. They’ve actually progressed towards Kirkuk. Maybe the Turks will be dragged into the battle. They must be worried about the ISIS expansion near them. The result is a civil war among Iraq’s Sunnis - a war that eventually ends whatever is left between them and their Shiite brothers. It’s a destructive recipe, a gate for great Arab chaos. It’s chaos we’ve brought upon ourselves when we failed to finalize the Syrian war and allowed it to expand and expand. It spilled over to Lebanon and Jordan. Refugees are altering these two countries’ demographics and there are sectarian divisions and armed clashes in Lebanon. The Syrian crisis revived salafist jihadist groups in Jordan, and there are clashes along the borders. There are similar clashes in Turkey which has the biggest number of refugees and where there are domestic tensions. As for Saudi Arabia, Syria has become the recruitment and training school for the third generation of Saudi al-Qaeda members, or rather ISIS members, and they are smarter and more ruthless than those who preceded them. In Europe and America, there’s been some terrorist operations. Some operations were carried out and some were thwarted. As for Iraq, Maliki brought the worst of the Syrian war’s evils upon him and his country.

Maliki supported the Syrian Baathist regime. When he was an activist dreaming of the state of law and justice and reading and explaining the books of his mentor Mohammad Baqer al-Sadr, he revolted against a similar regime in Iraq. But after he assumed power, he turned into a mere sectarian man holding on to power and sharing his fortune with his family and clan. This quickly influenced the situation and corruption spread in Iraq.

Moral downfall

Meanwhile, Iraqis - Sunnis and Shiites - remained poor though they live in the second oil rich country in the region. Maliki also used his victory in the elections to eliminate all those who oppose him, particularly the Sunni ones. It appeared like he was possessed by a desire to avenge. He found no one but his supporters around him last Tuesday.

His support of Bashar al-Assad brought about his moral downfall and revived al-Qaeda and Sunni anger. Some of this anger was peaceful - represented in Anbar uprising and the Iraqi spring which peacefully pressured the authority to gain the right to hold protests. But Maliki resorted to killing them and displacing them. He even went as far as learning Assad’s tactic of shelling them with barrel bombs. During his speech after Mosul’s fall, he called on neighboring countries to close their borders to deter terrorists though he knows that his policy is what opened borders between Iraq and Syria and what led the ISIS to march towards him from Syria. And so, what happened, happened.

Some said the quick collapse of Maliki’s forces is a conspiracy schemed by the latter so he imposes a state of emergency and becomes a dictator. I don’t believe it’s a conspiracy but I think it’s a miscalculation that backfired. Even if it’s a conspiracy, it makes no difference as the disaster has befallen on Iraq and opened the gate to great chaos on our world. It’s time for a quick intervention by the region’s very few countries who have not been affected by the chaos. Saudi Arabia and Turkey in particular must intervene.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on June 14, 2014.


Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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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