Only unity can save Iraq

Iraq's newly-elected president Fouad Massoum, right, meets with French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, left, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Thaier al-Sudani, Pool)

Iraq’s new President Fouad Massoum has taken the courageous step of passing over divisive Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a bid to see a new, inclusive government tackle an Islamist-led insurgency.

Haider al-Abadi’s nomination as premier has been welcomed by the U.S. and the U.N., while Iranian officials had already made clear their opposition to seeing Maliki try to secure another term in office.

Maliki’s response has been to resist change and ignore the notion that he bears any responsibility for the wretched state of affairs that Iraq finds itself in. He has resorted to bizarre legal challenges and sending armed supporters into the streets of Baghdad, but it is hoped other Shiite politicians and factions will refrain from backing his quixotic bid to remain in power at all costs.

For eight years, Maliki wielded wide powers as prime minister, but he forgot that with power comes responsibility. He focused exclusively on elections – clinging to the refrain that his bloc won the largest number of seats – while forgetting another key aspect of a democratic system, namely accountability.

When ISIS and local insurgents swept through large parts of Iraq in June and July, the divisive Maliki absolved himself of any blame, even though the army and security bodies that he supervises practically collapsed. Maliki’s knee-jerk response was to cry “foreign plot,” but few Iraqis or non-Iraqis were fooled.

Maliki’s final tactic involved threatening that Iraq would descend into the abyss if he was not retained as prime minister, an inaccurate claim: Iraq has descended into the abyss, and the Iraqi people deserve an inclusive, national unity government if they have any hope of moving forward.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 12, 2014, on page 7.




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