Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Nouri Al Maliki’s dismal record of fear and division

Iraq goes to the polls, prompting a look at the record of prime minister Nouri Al Maliki and his bid for a third term.

Nouri Al Maliki, who is intent on securing a third term as prime minister when Iraq goes to the polls today, hopes that voters will favourably compare their situation now to the Iraq of 2006, when he was first elected. By that measure, most Iraqis are better off today – eight years ago, the nation was effectively in the midst of civil war in the aftermath of the US-led invasion. But comparisons to 2006 could prove to be something of a double-edged sword, with many observers blaming Mr Al Maliki’s divisive brand of sectarian politics for causing the country to slide back into a period of violence.

Voters who look back only a few years will recall an Iraq that seemed to be slowly emerging from its lost decades, first from the rule of Saddam Hussein and then from the chaos that followed the 2003 invasion. That Iraq seems distant from the situation today, where indiscriminate killings are once again daily occurrences.

A resurgent Sunni jihadist group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has led a brutal campaign around Baghdad for more than a year. In response, Iraqi security forces have begun employing Shiite militias as shock troops. This dynamic has led to events such as in Buhriz, a town 50km north-east of Baghdad, which was briefly occupied by Sunni militants last month. After they left, Iraqi security forces and dozens of Shiite militia fighters arrived and stormed homes, summarily executing the young men they found. One estimate put the death toll at 23.

How much of this ought to be laid at the door of Mr Al Maliki? Iraq in 2006 desperately needed a unifying figure who could reach across sectarian divides to bring the country’s many elements together.

What Iraq received was the cynical use of the nation’s sectarian divisions to bolster Mr Al Maliki’s own position and those of his Shia allies, to the detriment of the country as a whole. Given Iran’s meddling in favour of Iraq’s Shia groups, one could question whether the Sunni insurgency could have been reined in by an inclusive prime minister: the divisive tenor of Mr Al Maliki’s rule renders that question moot.

All Iraqis seek security and stability so they can get on with their lives, not a return to civil war and anarchy.

Updated: April 29, 2014 04:00 AM