There is no doubt that the departure of Nuri al-Maliki from power in Iraq had brought comfort to all Iraqis and international powers, as his 8 years in power were a reign of political nightmares that took a heavy toll on Iraqis because of his sectarian policies and his hostility to his partners in the government, without forgetting the increase in rates of corruptions in all sectors of the state especially the defense and security ministries, which ironically participated in the end in the man downfall from power.
As we go further away from al-Maliki times we can not stop wondering if we are really over with the crisis of the political system, and of the state and national entity in Iraq. We wonder if his departure will end the state of political crisis & the severe and long-lasting corruption in the country, as the polarization and internal civil strife continued, to tore apart the social fabric and national levels of the region turning Iraq from the multicultural, unified homeland to ghettos or cantons of closed areas which are unwilling to share power and wealth together.
The fact is that the roots of crisis in Iraq were not only in the reign of al-Maliki but he helped to make it worse, its main collateral start with the American occupation and recompose of the political system on the basis of deconstructive set of rules that empowered the sharing of power on sectarian bases and lead to help the unqualified people to role just because they demand their sectarian share of the cake, with keeping in mind the long history of Iraq religious and political conflicts that regenerate again in the atmosphere of free chaotic weak state that followed 3 decades of central dictatorship regime.
All these factors lead to the crisis of the national state in Iraq today, which has two aspects: the crisis of the political system, based on sectarian, ethnic bases, and the crisis of the invasion of “jihadists” that is tearing apart the social fabric of Iraq.
11 years of interference of regional and international powers in Iraq, lead to the formation of weak political system that falls under the influence of its neighbors, leading to bad decisions like getting involved with the different sides of conflict in Syria, which made the already weak country become part of the Islamist extremists goals to create their Islamic state (IS) by exploiting Iraqi weakness with brutal efficiency, and weakened the state further. Now they are operating in an area stretching from Aleppo in civil war-torn Syria to Mosul, 500 km east all the way to the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, and 300 km south of Fallujah, near the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
In the outcome of such state, what should the incoming Prime Minister al-Abadi and his government do?
All the major players believe he needs to unify his government and country to fight IS, his task is to find friends among Sunni Muslims, and gain the Kurdish support, he needs to reinforce the shaky Iraqi government and demonstrate to his new partners that political decentralization of power from Baghdad is possible.
The Kurds are not so enthusiastic to return back to work within the Iraqi state. They dreamed of independence since World War I, and their political demands will point in the direction of future secession. The action of the previous PM made the Kurds feel that the had no stable future in a unified Iraq, the international support to them when IS attacked them made them feel its time to build their powers and have a strong position from the new government in Baghdad, they gave a 3 months deadline for their financial demands to the government to be meet or they will have another position.
While Sunni political leaders have begun responding positively to Mr. Abadi’s government and his plans to bring Sunni Arabs into military units to fight IS, they had in the other hand a list of demands that will challenge the voting voices that helped the Shia political coalitions rise to power, among them the new PM who came from the same Islamic political background as his predecessors, demands that may lead to Iraqi politicians to review the sectarian sections and troubled broadly interrupted paragraphs of the government constitution and its controversial terror laws.
The most dangerous challenge is in the Sunni neighborhoods and provinces which after years of war and mistrust due to the sectarian political order that rose during the American occupation of Iraq many of them fell that even the barbarous extremist control zones are safer to them than to be under control of security forces of the government which they see as the long hand of Iranian loyal Shia militants which to them is just another face of Islam extremism that hates them and wants to take revenge of decades of Sunni regimes that had prosecuted the Shia faith, in fact they believe that any international collation should include these militants in his attacks, as they fear if the extreme Sunni will go they will be left as easy target for the Shia militants revenge.
The Shia coalition has few enemies for the new PM, people who believe he is a tool of US, and that the old PM was betrayed by his partners, who stabbed him in the back, several voices are criticizing his choices for his government and blame him for unreasonable demands made by the Kurds and Sunni, they say he will help the old Baath party to return under his cape, 2 of the major militants (Asaib Al Haq & al-Sadr ) have hinted that they are opposing the US military aid in the fight against IS, and they might act hostile with any future US presence in Iraq, which if was true mean the man might end up with a confrontation with his on sectarian base.
We may not forget also the position of neighboring countries around Iraq, as the Sunni world welcomed the new government with a test of gloating in the previous PM, till now the relationships between Iraq and Sunni world is still standing on an edge, as they see Iraq as Iran strongest alley in the region while the Iranian on the other hand has not shown more than preserve welcome to the departure of their allies in Baghdad, with no real interest in joining the collation to fight IS, regardless that they had been already involve in the fight against it in Syria and in Iraq.
The challenges of corruption, and bad economy that depends on oil production as main export, which has lost good portions of its daily production after IS lay their hand on more than one oil field and started to sell it in the black market to Iraq’s old costumers Turkey and Syria, another two players whom call the shots in Iraq politics and are desperately needed to play part in the success of any real fight against IS.
Iraq is standing on a cliff that has only two ways to go, either jump into the hole and wish for a miracle to happen and he lands on its feet, or to cross half broken, shaky, torn apart rope bridge that is hanging by a thread, that may seems like blind man trying to cross the grand canyon on a rope, which can be done by the will and determination to have conversion to a national project that focus on rebuilding the state and the nation on the basis of citizenship and the system of civil and political rights, and the principle of power-sharing, and the state of law and institutions, creating a civil nation that has fair representation for everyone, hard goals for Iraq but if we act seriously and learn from our previous mistakes, not impossible.
Dr. Wamith Kaleel Alkassab is an independent Iraqi researcher and civil activist, currently based outside Iraq. You can follow him on twitter at @wk_alk