Despite growing unease over his tenure by allies in the West and the region, including internal partners in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears as determined as ever to retain power, but his obstinacy looks to threaten the stability of the entire region and for any semblance of security to be maintained, he must leave office soon.
Since coming into office in 2006, Maliki has apparently attempted to recreate many of the aspects of Saddam Hussein’s despotic rule: he has developed a frosty relationship with the Kurds, and has made life hard for the Sunnis, mirroring Saddam’s alienation and persecution of Shiites, all the while consolidating his own power.
But now his only real friend is Iran. And even there we can see discord between moderate elements and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the latter more keen to intervene in Iraq to prop up Maliki. What plays out now between these two groups in Iran may well be the defining factor on how far and wide the ramifications of the current crisis.
For right now, any increased involvement by the Iranians will likely only lengthen the current crisis and see sectarian tensions enflamed even further, and not just in Iraq, but across the region.
Instead of adding fuel to the fire, the Iranians should recognize that it is Maliki’s policies and stances which have created the current situation, and that any hope of de-escalation of the nightmare that the Iraqi people are now experiencing will have to start with Maliki’s exit.
Genuine and honest dialogue must be entered into to find a suitable replacement for Maliki, and as soon as possible. Otherwise generations to come might suffer for his mistakes.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 08, 2014, on page 7.