Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden must be laughing in their graves at Nuri Al-Maliki, Iraq’s current prime minister, who is well known for his arrogance and his insolence.
Mosul and indeed the entirety of Nineveh province fell into ISIS’s hands earlier this week. Before that, vast areas of Anbar had also fallen into their hands. Salaheddine province could soon witness the same fate. All this happened in a short time, surprising and scaring the world. ISIS, an Al-Qaeda–inspired group that Al-Qaeda has distanced itself from, has begun to achieve the greatest terrorist victories seen since 9/11. It is crossing borders, cutting off oil pipelines and seizing cities one after another. Do not underestimate this quick and brutal group that seized arms, warehouses and banks. They may soon climb the walls of the capital, Baghdad, which is protected by the same leaders who were defeated in Anbar and Nineveh.
Maliki—the Iraqi prime minister whose continued tenure now depends on tough political wrangling and who three months ago pledged to eliminate ISIS in Anbar within two weeks—is to be blamed for the army’s defeat. Did his military leaders fail him? Or did he fail to defend the two provinces because he focused instead on settling political accounts, as his rivals claim? It’s not unlikely. After all, it was Maliki who dissolved the Awakening Councils that fought Al-Qaeda following the withdrawal of American troops just because they were Sunni. The result was that ISIS returned and seized Anbar and Nineveh provinces.
Unfortunately, Maliki persisted in settling his political accounts under the excuse of fighting terrorism—but he didn’t really fight terrorist groups. He adopted this style during most of his term in governance, describing those who disagreed with him as terrorists and forcing them to either flee the country or submit to him. Thus when the battle erupted his forces witnessed one defeat after another, because he refused the reconciliation of political parties there and because he abandoned the tribes who fought against Al-Qaeda.
The army was thus fighting as a foreign party in its own land.
A few days ago, Maliki altered his rhetoric and called for “uniting efforts to fight terrorism and curb it.” His call came following his meeting with UN Special Representative for Iraq Nicolai Mladenov. He said there are “intentions to open the door to anyone who desires to combat terrorism and to overcome disputes, no matter what their political stance is.” His words are positive and differ from his previous rhetoric. However, his problem is that his statements are not credible.
The battle against terrorist groups will be long and painful regardless of whether Maliki remains prime minister. Still, he must resolve the anger civil and military parties and tribes in Anbar and Nineveh hold towards him. Without their cooperation, Maliki will lose the war with ISIS, which could eventually reach him in Baghdad. Maliki let Al-Qaeda grow and expand in Anbar because he thought it would harm his rivals, but he did not comprehend the threat posed by terrorism.
The Americans have gradually intervened since December, when they realized that Al-Qaeda is growing in a manner that threatens all of Iraq, and when they realized that terrorists are preparing their forces and intending to attack Baghdad. They brought his attention to these threats and told him that Al-Qaeda’s power is growing in Anbar. They supported him with reconnaissance operations from Jordan and used drones to obtain further information on Al-Qaeda. They also provided him with plenty of data and advice, but he failed to hold a political reconciliation meeting, and then his forces failed in Anbar.
Is Maliki the victim of his consultants? Some of his ministers say that Maliki’s advisers underestimated the gravity of the situation and encouraged him to involve the army, without the support of people who live in the provinces the terrorists seized.
Whether it’s his corrupt consultants or his convictions, arrogance and insolence, Maliki is totally responsible for the security failure and the chaos threatening the country.