Amid calls to form a national government by his domestic opposition, much of the Sunni population, Shiite leaders and U.S. politicians, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Wednesday said to do so would be an affront to democracy.
It appears Maliki’s definition of “democracy” is a hangover from the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, triumphed by then-President George W. Bush as a political and military success: an interpretation of democracy that allowed Maliki to resume his position in 2010, despite Iyad Allawi winning the most seats in parliament. Maliki was silent on the concept of democratic values then.
But his inflammatory position today is an invitation to further and intensified civil conflict. And while the situation inside the country is bad enough, with ISIS capturing more territory and sectarian discord increasing, Iraq is susceptible to spillovers of violence from not just Syria but also Jordan and Iran. The country appears to be also on the brink of fragmentation, with the Kurds having taken charge of important territory in the north, key to their claims of a legitimate state for themselves. And this fracturing of Iraq would be a dream for many of its neighbors, not the least Israel.
There is talk of increasing armed support to the Iraqi army, but it was not for lack of weapons that we have seen so many soldiers abandoning their posts in recent weeks: it is for want of a sense of belonging and the absence of any sense of duty. And this is all Maliki’s doing, thanks to the divisive and sectarian policies he has implemented since he came to power in 2006.
Until Obama and Maliki’s Iranian patrons step up and ensure his exit, bloodshed will only continue.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 26, 2014, on page 7.