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If the fall of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul is currently just a bitter blow to [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] Al-Maliki’s government, tomorrow the entire Iraqi nation will have a taste of that bitterness. The fall of Mosul is a bad omen for the ultimate fall of Iraq and the entire region in the vortex of a religious war. Those who serve with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are, in fact, supporting a line of thought which is characterized with narrow-minded religious views as a result of which they even cut off the heads of other opposition forces that do not think like them. The fall of Mosul is not just a blow to Maliki, because the timely reaction shown by Usama al-Nujayfi (Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq) clearly proved that this ominous development is a drastic blow to Iraqi Sunnis as well.
By Sadeq Maleki, Senior Middle East Expert and Analyst
War and armed conflict is the final fate of an Iraq which has been already disintegrated in the minds of its own people. As long as Iraqis believe in dividing themselves into Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, the problem in this Arab country will not be solved and the ISIL will have enough room for its maneuvering.
Although the fall of [the former Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein made all the Iraqis happy, today, refusal to accept the new power equations in Iraq by the new rulers of this country and their regional allies, has determined a different fate for the country and has deprived Iraq of the tranquility and stability that it should have.
Iraqi Shias, who had fought against the former regime before having the political experience of running the government, practically failed to act as the rightful winners of vote-based democracy in the country despite the fact that they shouldered a heavy responsibility after the fall of Saddam.
Maliki proved that he is a powerful man and his third consecutive win in the country’s elections showed that he is more likely to become Iraq’s next prime minister than other hopefuls. However, this seems to have not been adequate for running Iraq. Complicated social conditions which emanate from ethnic and religious grounds that exist in Iraq have made running the government in this country very difficult, if not impossible. This problem, of course, was not specific to Maliki and any other person in his place would have finally faced it. Iraq was emancipated from the dictatorship of Saddam, but it is now in the clutches of small and big dictators who care more about their own group interests than the national interests of Iraq.
Shias gained control of the government in Iraq, but they failed to appear as good rulers. Apart from problems caused by their Sunni and Kurd rivals, Shias themselves are also to blame for the current situation. Although Iraqi Shias account for more than 60 percent of the country’s population, they have not been able yet to take the best advantage of this capacity in the political arena. It is true that Shias lack the political experience of Kurds and Sunni people, but the lapse of more than a decade since the fall of Saddam should have been a good opportunity for them to gain that experience.
Existence of divisions and profound differences among various Shia groups was a major factor which paved the way for the fall of Mosul and provided good grounds for the ISIL to take over the city. Tactical differences among Shia groups is permissible, but when those differences make their way into strategic areas, they cannot be considered permissible anymore because in that case they not only damage the position of Shias in Iraq, but also deal severe blows to the integrity of the country as well.
Lack of unity among the ranks of Iraqi Shias has been the most important factor that has damaged the position of Shias in the country, in particular, and deteriorated the situation in Iraq, in general. Ethnic and religious division in Iraq is a reality, but that reality can be used as an opportunity for Iraq instead of being allowed to turn into a threat to this Arab nation. Such an opportunity is available to few Arab countries. The responsibility that the Iraqi Shias shoulder for the promotion of unity and turning threats into opportunities is heavier than that of all other groups and political currents.
The reaction shown by Al-Nujayfi and expression of concern over the developments in Mosul is a silver lining which can help Shias and Sunnis get together and take joint steps on the right path by looking upon the entire Iraq free from religious issues. Such a development can, as a first step, speed up the process of forming the new Iraqi government with Maliki or another person as prime minister.
In the second stage, suitable grounds can be provided to overcome the existing problems and restore stability and tranquility to the country by having a correct understanding of threats that currently face Iraq. All Iraqi political groups and personalities, especially Al-Nujayfi, [Massoud] Barzani (President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region), [Ammar] Al-Hakim (leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq), and Muqtada al-Sadr (the influential Iraqi Shia cleric) shoulder a heavy responsibility for taking the country through the ongoing crisis and bringing stability and security back to Iraq.
In the meantime, Iraqi Kurds have offered Maliki to enter Mosul and take it back from the ISIL terrorists. Assuming that this proposal does not seek specific political goals and is aimed to promote national unity in Iraq, it can be a good starting point for the country. During the past year, Erbil (capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region) has been challenging the central government in Baghdad by independently exporting and selling oil. There is also a possibility that this offer is part of a plan, which will be pursued later by the Iraqi Kurds, who are actually seeking to consolidate their control over the important city of Mosul.
The important point is that the fall of Mosul, where more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and police force were in positions, at the hands of 3,500 ISIL terrorists can only mean one thing: elements inside the city have been cooperating with the ISIL and the terrorist group has had a social support base there. Therefore, Maliki should have taken action before the ISIL did in order to improve his government’s relations with various social groups in that city and make changes among military forces positioned there. Delay and dawdling in purging the Iraqi army of Baathist elements lacks any logical justification and if continued, the Iraqi government would have to incur more losses such as the fall of Mosul and facing other threats. In the meantime the important role played by countries that support the ISIL should not be ignored. Some of those countries, which are delusional enough to believe that a Shia crescent is taking shape in the region, are trying to form an opposite state in the Levant and Iraq.
Last but not least, the coincidence of the fall of Mosul and spread of insecurity in Iraq with the recent visit by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Turkey and conclusion of very important cooperation agreements between Tehran and Ankara is a noteworthy point which should not be taken lightly.
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