Road to hell

Protesters chant slogans against Iraq's Shiite-led government as they wave national flags during a demonstration in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

The levels of violence in Iraq over the past year are staggering, particularly considering the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and the existence of a government that is supposed to be focusing on unity among its people.

Rather than fulfill that role, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has instead become an instrument of division.

It has fostered conflict with the country’s Kurdish and Sunni communities, as well as other minorities, and has divided the oil revenue between north and south, creating further splits.

The government has proved that it is an Iranian-inspired, supported and cultivated government, rather than one focused on the interests of the Iraqis.

It has become riddled with corruption that leaks billions of dollars. The extent of this is visible in the suffering of the Iraqi people from a variety of social ills, despite living in one of the most oil-rich countries in the region.

Adding fuel to this fire is the country’s support for the Syrian regime on the orders of the Iranians, in defiance of international resolutions.

Such support has been direct, such as in the agreement to provide the Syrian government with diesel fuel, or in simply allowing the use of its airspace and ground routes to enable Iran to transport arms to the regime.

This divisive and directly provocative action has come against a backdrop of clear moves by the Shiite-dominated Cabinet to try and marginalize Sunni power within the country. This has been done either through strategic government positions, or accusations of terrorism and corruption against Sunni officials, tried in kangaroo courts.

That strategy has been rejected even by some Shiite preachers and leaders, wise to the damage that it threatens to inflict on the country’s fragile balancing act.

The first hint of where such policies are likely to lead can be seen in the protests that have hit the country in recent days. The government has proved itself inept or unwilling in addressing concerns, instead giving cause for the escalation of such protests.

It is playing a dangerous game. Protests like these have been the catalyst for the downfall of governments much more strongly cemented than theirs.

The Maliki government is clearly concerned over the potential for a Sunni-regime once Assad falls. But its reaction so far is unlikely to end well for any involved, with the potential for sectarian lines to be entrenched, and a return to the kind of violence the country saw at its peak in the last ten years.

If the current atmosphere of fear and division fostered by the government is not nipped in the bud, and accompanied by the implementation of a system of transparency and justice, an Iraq for all, then the country will become a time bomb, threatening to endanger a nation of 50 million that should be doing all it can to achieve the peace its people desperately need after so many years of devastating violence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 29, 2012, on page 7.




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