The U.S. Must Rescind Support for Maliki Government
Within the past month, sectarian tensions have flared up in Iraq. The scale of the attacks, perpetrated by ISIS, the terrorist Sunni group has stunned people around the world, brings the Iraqi question into the forefront of our minds once again.
What happened to this country that seemed to have resolved its sectarian conflict in part after a bloody civil war? How could Iraq end up back at square one again?
Simply put, Iraq was never destined to be the country that we knew it as. The haphazardly drawn borders put in place after the British seizure of the territory in the early 20th century did not allow for a hazard-free existence.
With Shi’ites and Sunnis, Arabs and Kurds all mixed into the same country that they did not create, and for which they did not draw the borders, discontent is a guarantee. Combine that with poverty, corruption and the American war against Saddam Hussein, and you get a perfect mixture for the brutal civil war that is erupting there, yet again.
It is difficult to assess blame in a situation such as this. With a variety of historical factors and recent events that can implicate anyone from Bashar Al-Assad to the United States Armed Forces, one must be careful not to blame anyone in particular for this crisis without just cause. However, it seems clear that whether or not he is deserving of the blame, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is receiving much of it and it would be wise for him to step down.
Accusations of cronyism, corruption and a sectarian government that puts the interests of the Shia majority ahead of the Sunni minority have made Maliki an unpopular figure even with the United States government, which has been more than reluctant to continue its military operations in Iraq in any significant manner.
To put it simply, Maliki must go.
Currently, he is holding onto power, hoping that this current crisis will blow over and that ISIS will be defeated through sheer military force.
In Syria, where ISIS truly began to flex its muscle, we know that military tactics did not defeat them. Every atrocity and attack by Assad’s forces on ISIS and the Free Syrian Army only helped to strengthen the fervor that drives ISIS recruitment. Maliki’s troops have abandoned him on the frontlines, so he has taken advantage of a Shia majority that has organized itself into militias in order to defend Iraq.
It is apparent, though, that these forces are not under the control of Maliki, and that it is a very slippery slope from military action to full-out civil war and terrorism when leaders are not in control of their fighters. Again, we learned this from the civil war raging in Syria.
Frankly, this is a turning point in the conflict. When Assad was faced with a similar problem in the early days of 2011, he did not take the opportunity to step down and establish a unity government made up of all the different ethnic and religious groups. Three years later, over 100,000 people are dead in the Syrian conflict and many more have been made into refugees, straining the government of Lebanon.
With chemical warfare, improvised explosive devices and brutal block-by-block fighting in the cities, nobody is hoping for a similar fate in Iraq.
If Maliki were to step down, though, the United States must do its part and make their position clear.
The Obama administration has already demonstrated its ambivalence about the situation, refusing the Maliki government US airstrikes in the hopes of avoiding an inflammation of the conflict. But the introduction of hundreds of US troops to the front lines and the center of Baghdad are providing a modicum of support to the Maliki government.
This is untenable in the long-run, the United States must make it clear that if Iraq is to survive this crisis, Maliki must be a true statesman and step down for the good of his country.