There is a reality in Iraq and the areas surrounding it that cannot be ignored, especially in light of the withdrawal of British forces from Basra. The danger of the fighting between the Shia militias and their rivals is a clear and present one, particularly between the Sadrists and the supporters of Abdulaziz al Hakim.
Another reality is the handing over of security responsibilities by multinational forces in Diyala to Iraqi security forces.
Furthermore, it is important to note that both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have dispatched diplomatic missions assigned with the task of finding a location for their embassy headquarters in Baghdad. This denotes an Arab mobility that is accompanied by an awareness of the severity of the situation in Iraq.
An equally important development that cannot be overlooked in Iraq’s vicinity is Hashemi Rafsanjani’s appointment as head of the Assembly of Experts, which is a powerful clerical body that plays a crucial role in the Iranian arena.
Two days ago, I was on the phone with one of Iraq’s leadership figures whom I trust.
His voice sounded uneasy, so I asked him about the situation in Iraq and how he was faring. He replied, “The situation in Iraq sickens me… Iran is tampering with my country in an unimaginable way!”
Based on that (and if Iran is not subjected to a military strike from abroad first), with the impending presidential elections, Mr. Hashemi Rasfanjani should not only oust Ahmadinejad from his seat – but rather hurl him from it.
Mr. Rafsanjani is not ‘Hashemi Jefferson’ so do not expect him to dream of a free Iraq independent of Iranian influence, however he is a veteran and a rational politician who has previously proven his evaluative powers. Undoubtedly, he is more competent in dealing with sensitive issues than Ahmedinejad and his aides are.
Rafsanjani’s victory is as impossible to overlook as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) pre-emptive move [to appoint a new commander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari], which appears to be a swift maneuver to save its last line of defense on the chessboard.
Added to the mix is the US President’s visit to Anbar and his meeting with the Sunni tribal sheikhs, which is an important shift if indeed the Sunni leadership deals with it in an appropriate manner. However, Nuri al Maliki is right to have reservations regarding arming the Sunnis in Iraq – based upon the consideration that that they would pose a threat that could lead to an armed conflict between the Sunnis and Shia.
And yet, arming these tribes to confront Al Qaeda could present an opportunity to unify the ranks ¬– if the Iraqi Prime Minister is capable of exploiting the situation well. This includes avoiding the exclusion of some Iraqis, in addition to decreeing and implementing a system to dissolve the Shia militias, and the Sunnis likewise, so that the authority could belong to the Iraqi state – not the militias.
These are realities that have come into actualization over the past two days, and all of which can be considered signs of hope portending that Iraq could be redeemed from the mire it is sinking into. But in order to achieve that, this next stage requires an Arab effort that stems from an awareness of the danger that the situation in present-day Iraq poses to the future of the region.
Likewise, it is equally critical to prevent Iraq from becoming a ball that is tossed between the Democrats and Republicans, between those of them who understand the region’s problems and those who don’t. However, this can only be achieved through an Iraqi effort that prioritizes national interests, which is a matter that cannot be accomplished without Arab action to support all Iraqi parties. It must be a move that does not neglect the tribes or the militias nor ignore the impending battle over the fate of Kirkuk – an ugly battle if it were to erupt.
What I want to say is that there is a glimmer of hope, but the real question is: Are there politicians who are capable of this responsibility? That is the question!