x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Al Maliki to blame for Iraq violence

Thanks to Mr Al Maliki's policy of power-hogging, says an Arab writer, various sects, ethnic groups and political figures in Iraq feel disenfranchised, including members of his own sect. Other digest topics: Libya, Syria

Iraqi prime minister's politics of exclusion and chronic denial are reigniting car bomb attacks

The international news agency Agence France-Presse has reportedly set up a dedicated unit to keep track of the number of casualties in Iraq, as the country is witnessing a surge in car bombings and gun violence in various cities.

This, according to an editorial yesterday in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, is another indication that Iraq may be relapsing into its bloodiest years of violence in the past decade, when the monthly death toll in 2006 and 2007 routinely hit the thousands.

First to blame for the increasing bloodshed, which killed at least 86 on Monday alone and 352 so far this month, is Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki.

"Mr Al Maliki failed to contain the rising sectarian tensions in the early stages, resorting instead to security solutions and rejecting dialogue with his opponents," the editorial noted.

Mr Al Maliki ignored the demands of residents in Anbar province, where the largest sit-ins and protests have been taking place.

A Shia Muslim, Mr Al Maliki is accused by Sunnis of being biased towards his sect in terms of official posts. The bomb and gun attacks on Monday targeted mainly Shia areas, including in the capital Baghdad.

In a statement reported yesterday, the Iraqi premier said: "I assure the Iraqi people that the [the militants] will not be able to bring us back to sectarian conflict," pledging an overhaul at the high and middle levels of his security apparatus following its failure to stop the attacks.

A statement like this shows how Mr Al Maliki is still "in denial", since the crisis is about political failure, rather than security flops, Al Quds Al Arabi argued.

"The current crisis is political first and foremost, and the bloody bombings that take innocent lives are one facet of that political crisis."

Thanks to Mr Al Maliki's policy of power-hogging, various sects, ethnic groups and political figures in Iraq feel disenfranchised, including members of his own sect.

"This is what blew the lid off simmering tensions and gave rise to the violence we are seeing today," the editorial said.

Mr Al Maliki cannot blame the people of Anbar, who have adequately proven their commitment to their nation: they have taken part in the last general elections, joined non-sectarian parties, like the Iraqi List, and, more recently, extended a dialogue initiative to Mr Al Maliki when the violence started.

He turned them down, the paper noted.

"Their involvement has unfortunately been misconstrued as a weakness, and was paid back with the use of force and marginalisation," the newspaper said in conclusion, suggesting that Iraq needs fresh general elections.

Libyans fear instability may bring intervention

Libyan leaders must be in great distress as they hear from western and African sources that the lack of security in their country might require outside intervention, according to Al Ahram, the Cairo-based newspaper.

Recent news reports out of the United States have revealed that the White House has prepared plans to dispatch special forces to Libyan territories to hunt down the culprits in last September's attack on the US mission in Benghazi, the paper said in an editorial yesterday. The US ambassador and three other members of the US mission were killed in the attack.

Nigerian diplomats have also been talking about "hotbeds of terrorism" in southern Libya, while the president of Chad, Idris Debby, revealed that Chadian militants were receiving training in the Libyan south.

And earlier the French president, Francois Hollande, declared that militants who fled Mali after the French intervention have taken refuge in Libya.

"These statements can't be good news for Libyans," Al Ahram said. "Libyans, who care about Libyan interests, stability and security, are hoping that their country's sovereignty will not pay the price for the irresponsible behaviour of some groups operating on their territory."

And their worry is justified, the paper added, as some western powers seem likely to use the perceived lawlessness in the Libyan south as a pretext to meddle.

Syria is unlikely to have used poison gas

The question about whether the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against the rebels is still waiting for a definitive answer. But an "objective assessment" of that possibility leads to deductions that lean more towards the negative, wrote columnist Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan yesterday.

Obviously, using chemical weapons is not in the best interest of Bashar Al Assad's forces, because it might invite foreign military intervention, the columnist said. Plus, the Syrian army does not need to use chemical weapons for some heightened terrorising effect - it has already achieved that.

"The regime has not been sparing in its vicious, large-scale use of heavy artillery, missiles, air strikes and execution squads to spread fear and horror among the population and push people to flee," Hammad said.

"So, to be objective, we must admit that the reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria cited a small number of cases of poisonous gases, not in excess of 10 or 20, while the actual use of such weapons of mass destruction would kill thousands at a time," he said.

Mr Al Assad has managed to exact enough bloodshed and destruction that this question of chemicals sounds a bit like a distraction sometimes.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk