There is no quick and easy solution for the quagmire that is Iraq. The question is whether a solution that has some chance of stabilizing the region can be found while Iraq as it is today still exists.
On Tuesday, Nickolay Mladenov, the top U.N. official in Baghdad, urged Western powers — specifically those in the European Union — to encourage various political groups in Iraq to cobble together a new government that will be in line with the nation’s constitution while also overcoming sectarian tension, according to a report by Reuters.
That sectarian tension, caused largely by the Shi’ite government of Iraq, has the nation on the verge of breaking apart. It doesn’t take much imagination to see Iraq immerse in an all-out civil war if something isn’t done soon.
Shi’ites had been held down under Saddam Hussein’s reign, but became the predominate group in post-Hussein Iraq because of their raw numbers. They also once again followed a trend that has been disturbing when it comes to how people act when their political group obtains power. Rather than make sure everyone is treated fairly and given a voice, the “winners” marginalize those who had marginalized them.
We see this in America and elsewhere, though seldom at such a violent level. When there is a flip as to which political party is in control, the new powers-that-be invariably take the “to the victor the spoils” approach. And, just as invariably, the former top dogs complain when they get the same type of treatment they dished out.
The Sunnis who dominated Iraq under Hussein’s rule have been alienated under Iraqi prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-heavy government. That made them easy recruits for ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), a militant group so extreme that Iran is concerned to the point where it is talking to the United States.
Maliki has told the United States he will meet the July 1 deadline to form a new, inclusive government, but whether that will come to pass is doubtful. ISIL’s rabid militants have swept through the northern part of Iraq, with reports saying 1,000 people have been killed this month in the violence. The militants are not the type to negotiate.
That is a heavy threat to bear while trying to conduct the delicate negotiations that would lead divided blocs to coalesce into a government authority that can effectively run a military capable of countering the violent militants who think nothing of firing on unarmed civilians with machine guns and throwing their victims into mass graves.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to convince the Kurds, who have stayed with Iraq primarily because of its oil, to back the Baghdad government, arguing it is in their best interests. Whether that plea will take hold given that the Kurds took advantage of the ISIL violence to expand their territory and claim an area rich with oil deposits is anyone’s guess. There are indications that the Kurds are waiting out the situation while they look for a chance to declare their territory independent of Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Sunni militants were continuing Tuesday their siege on Iraq largest oil refinery, which continues to impact oil prices around the world.
With all of the troubles Iraq is facing and the ineffectiveness of its military in stopping the violence, prospects look grim. We can only hope that someone can figure out how to cut the lighted fuse before it reaches the powder keg, a fuse that grows frighteningly shorter by the day.
— The Albany Herald Editorial Board