Following the terrorist attacks that rocked Baghdad [last week], the comments made by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyer Zebari were sharp and on edge, however they were also realistic and justified and deserve to be contemplated at length.
Zebari said that he expected the coming violence “will be bigger.” Following a careful reading of the situation, we can say that the Minister’s comments were expected and correct, but unfortunately some in Iraq are analyzing events from a narrow perspective. I received some criticisms following my previous article “Why is Iraq Ablaze?” even though it is clear that by celebrating the withdrawal of US forces, the Iraqi government is making a strategic mistake.
The government wished to portray this withdrawal as victory in order to give President al-Maliki momentum going into the forthcoming elections. It is common knowledge that the existing political system in Iraq was the product of a US operation from the ground up, as was its recent withdrawal, and the portrayal of this as an achievement of al-Maliki’s has divided the Iraqis. This withdrawal – even if it was inevitable – represents a threat to Iraq so long as there is a lack of genuine political reconciliation which would reduce the risk of sectarian violence.
The other mistake was an over-confidence in security; this manifested itself in the removal of blast-proof concrete walls from Baghdad. These concrete walls were also removed for electoral reasons, and the goal of this was to show the al-Maliki government in a strong light and demonstrate that it is in complete control of the security issue throughout Iraq. However all indications confirm that Iraqi security has been infiltrated, not just by the Baathists and Al Qaeda, but also by Iran and its agents. At this point, we must recall that Iraqi security apparatus are composed of members of Shiite militia who following the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime carried out terrorist operations in Iraqi cities, not to mention the death squads. We must also recall the bank robberies that were committed by members of some security forces, not to mention the kidnapping of Britons from the Ministry of Finance which took place a few years ago and other events.
One might ask, what have the Baathists got to do with the makeup of the Iraqi security apparatus? Why are accusations now being leveled at this outlawed party?
The answer is very simple. What made it easy for these security personnel to betray their profession, rob banks and carry out assassinations? [The answer is] that it is easy to betray a country in its entirety.
And so we say once and again, and for the thousandth time, victory in the Iraqi election must come throughout the door of genuine political accomplishments, and this is to solve the basic problems facing Iraq, the most important of which is reconciliation, instead of throwing away more lives and opportunities. National reconciliation is enough to prevent regional intervention, and is capable of sheltering Iraqi citizens in their own country, rather than them looking for a sectarian or foreign umbrella [to shelter under].
An important point that a high-ranking Iraqi security figure drew my attention to was the continuous accusations being made by the al-Maliki government towards what it describes as Takfirists and Baathists, as this represents a very strong message. Following every piece of security news, this description is repeated, and the message which is understood by half the Iraqi population is that Sunnis are being accused of carrying out these terrorist operations by al-Maliki, and it is in his interests for political and sectarian issues in Iraq to remain entangled, thereby complicating the security [situation].
Therefore Zebari has every right to say that the coming violence will be bigger…and we will add that this violence will be worse unless there are real solutions, most prominently, political reconciliation.