Maliki must hit the road

Newly-recruited Iraqi volunteers, loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in army uniforms take part in a training on June 19, 2014 in the capital Baghdad as thousands of Shiite volunteers join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

Nouri al-Maliki must go.

Elsewhere, a national leader presiding over a failure of such magnitude would do the right thing and step down; in Japan, an official would commit hara-kiri.

Maliki’s list of failures is long, but can be summed up by his sectarian policies designed to alienate a large segment of the Iraqi public instead of giving them a stake in their country.

Maliki’s woeful performance has lurched from his campaign to end the U.S. presence in Iraq to his recent, desperate pleas for Washington to return in the form of airstrikes, after his own mistakes fanned an armed insurgency.

So far, his rhetoric has mirrored that of his neighbor Syrian President Bashar Assad: there are no significant domestic factors in the uprising, and everything can be labeled terror, treason and foreign plots.

The White House has known for some time that Maliki’s rule was leading the country to the brink of the abyss, as America’s Arab allies issued strong warnings about the deteriorating situation. Was the U.S. deliberately waiting for things to explode?

In any case, Iran’s role is of paramount importance. It’s time for Tehran to prove that its rhetoric about promoting sound Sunni-Shiite ties is not just hot air. Removing Maliki would go a long way toward demonstrating Iran’s intention to truly help build a cohesive Muslim-majority country next door.

If Maliki isn’t shown the door and the root problems remain unaddressed, then Iraq will be a time bomb, meaning that what the world has seen so far pales in comparison with what is to come.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 20, 2014, on page 7.




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