x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Any effort to save Iraq can begin only when Maliki leaves his post

Iraq's welfare depend solely on Al Maliki's departure, columnists at Arabic newspapers say

Recent developments in Iraq, have sparked much debate. Over the past few days the view that has dominated the Arabic media has been that Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, should step down.

This week’s editorial in the pan-Arab daily Asharq El Awsat stressed that Mr Al Maliki’s “actions have drawn accusations from his neighbours, especially Saudi Arabia, of him ‘sponsoring terrorism’ in Iraq and the region. He was also accused by his former allies, such as the Kurds and some Sunni parties, of colluding with armed factions to kill Shiites.”

“All this instead of prioritising national interests, taking responsibility and changing his exclusionary methods”.

The firm natural response by the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, clearly reminded Mr Al Maliki that “he was the one to undermine the ability of the Iraqi army to secure all its positions and that he was the one who ignited and fuelled sectarianism”.

“Today, Al Maliki is rejected by the Sunnis, the Kurds, the region, as well as by some Shiite scholars and nationalists. He no longer has any allies, except Iran and the Revolutionary Guard, who seek to wreak havoc across the region by instigating sectarian strife. Mr Al Maliki hopes that such strategy would bail him and his regime out.”

“Terrorism practised by Sunni groups is unacceptable and has been totally rejected; so are all the sect leaders. Any serious effort to salvage Iraq can begin with the exit of Mr Mr Al Maliki. He is at the heart of the problem and is not fit to be part of the solution,” the editorial concluded.

“The prime minister’s problem is that he has become confused as the clans and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand in the way of his third term. He was also taken aback by Washington’s refusal to provide charity ‘on demand’. If he wished for air strikes, Washington responded by sending dozens of political advisers and special forces only for planning purposes – to explain what leads to the death of the country’s soldiers,” remarked Zouhair Kseibati in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

“As for the threat of separation, a concern voiced by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, it clearly goes beyond simply improving the terms of negotiation around a consensual government in Baghdad, so long as Iraq’s Kurds consider themselves immune to the battles of ISIL and the clans and that their historical moment is the one where they chose not to get involved in the sectarian conflict and its costly consequences,” he wrote.

“President Barack Obama will insist on the wisdom that he saved Mr Al Maliki’s regime, especially keeping in view the threats ISIL poses to Americans.”

Writing in the Beirut-based French-language daily L’Orient Le Jour, Christian Merville said: “Instead of announcing his departure or retirement, or even establishing a multi-ethnic and a multi-religious team, he has been showing resistance to those who have made him the king and demanding additional support to counter the inevitable rise in terrorism, as well as air strikes against rebels.”

“It isn’t the mere 300 ‘advisers’ promised by Mr Obama that annoyingly remind us of the US involvement in Vietnam and its support for the Ngo Dinh Diem. The prevailing atmosphere in Iraq also suggests the end of a reign on the banks of the Euphrates and is reminiscent of the last days of Saigon,” he concluded.

cmirza@thenational.ae