The Americans, between two options in Iraq
We hope that President Barack Obama’s administration does not commit the same mistake it committed in Syria in Iraq
The American administration is not the only party that is hesitant and confused about how to deal with the serious Iraqi crisis that is new to the region. Everyone is confused and everyone is waiting to see what the consequences of the violence will be. The confrontations have taken different forms which boast Arab Spring characteristics – such as the revolt against a failed political regime –and feature sectarian tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiites and the infiltration of terrorism from Syria to Iraq. During this crisis - where time means bloodshed - it’s required that two contradictory aims are achieved: deliberation and urgency and deep understanding and quick action!
Therefore, we hope that President Barack Obama’s administration does not commit the same mistake it committed in Syria; we hope it does not deal recklessly with the situation in Iraq and that it will prevent events from developing until they decide the region’s fate and cause chaos that threatens the region and the world. We also hope it doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the former administration of George Bush and rush into a security and military solution, preferring it over reconciliation among Iraq’s factions.
The American government can militarily support the government of Nuri al-Maliki against a mixture of clans, Ba’athists, rebels and terrorists but it will not achieve victory and will actually deepen the wounds and further complicate the problem, especially when it comes to confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. The only ones capable of confronting the terrorists are the Sunnis because they are present in the areas and speak their language. This is why a political solution is the only chance to control the situation and pursue the ISIS and al-Qaeda.
There’s no solution other than a comprehensive political solution and the time is ripeAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The U.S. had 130,000 soldiers in Iraq but still couldn’t impose its control because it failed to come up with a political solution. And now, the same story is being repeated: citizens who had been marginalized are angry and extremist groups swooped in on a sectarian government that Maliki wants to revitalize after the recent parliamentary elections.
It’s due to this dysfunctional formula that chaos and war could go on for a decade or two without a winner or a loser. It would be a war that no domestic or foreign party will succeed in curbing.
Comprehensive political solution
There’s no solution other than a comprehensive political solution and the time is ripe. Without a comprehensive political solution, Iraq will be another Syria and the fighting will probably be more violent. Some may say that the political solution in Syria has failed, so how will it succeed in Iraq? It will succeed because the crisis is still in its inception and, unlike Syria, Iraq has a just democratic regime but an unjust dictator ruling it. In Iraq, there viable political process that needs a new rule that prioritizes reconciliation and that puts an end to detentions and security pursuits.
The grievance held by most rebels is particularly against Maliki and his government and not against other political powers. This makes it easier to negotiate and reach reconciliation. Maliki is only enthusiastic about imposing a security solution because his only aim of mobilizing sectarian emotions, of urging Iran and the U.S. to militarily support him and of shifting the blame on Saudi Arabia, is to stay in power. Maliki is to be personally blamed for today’s crisis due to his political failure - during his entire time in power, he never sought - not even once - to achieve reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites and the rest of the country’s communities. Maliki ill-treated his rivals and continued to pursue rival leaders and representatives. He hijacked the political system and dominated the state’s powers over the past four years. The result is the humiliating military defeat which he’s evading, he is instead dumping the responsibility for the defeat on military leaders and he’s being oblivious to the fact that he’s not only commander-in-chief of the armed forces but that he also appointed himself as minister of defense and chief of security and intelligence as well!
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 18, 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.
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