As long as Iraq's corrupt political circus continues, there is no solution to IS
Even by its customarily low standards, Iraq has sunk to even greater depths than previously thought possible. It is not as though the Iraqis do not have to contend with one of the most feared global terrorist threats that has eclipsed even al-Qaeda at its zenith, the forces of the so-called Islamic State (IS).
Nevertheless, Iraqi politicians, with their corruption, nepotism, patronage networks and Mafia-like ways, still seem to think that politicking and jockeying over who has what ministry so that they may further their own economic interests is more important than attending to the crisis afflicting the country that they were installed – I mean “elected” – to serve. One is then left to wonder just how overblown the IS threat has become.
And why should one not wonder if the IS threat has been exaggerated, when Iraq’s leaders have enough time on their hands to try and unseat one another so that their own personal cliques may benefit at the expense of the common Iraqi citizen.
The sad thing is that, in the past few months, terrorist leaders responsible for death squads that committed some of the worst sectarian atrocities in Iraq are now being painted as heroes of democracy and Iraqi social plurality. Of course, here we are discussing Moqtada al-Sadr, scion of the Sadr family of Shia clerics, leader of the Mahdi Army terrorist organisation and of their now rebranded Peace Brigades.
Although I have elsewhere likened the prospects of Sadr acting as the hero who can save Iraq from sectarianism as being as realistic as Danger Mouse saving the world, it is still disconcerting that people can believe that a man who was up until recently overtly bent on the destruction of the Sunni population can suddenly have a change of heart.
The parliamentary tumult he caused was less to do with creating unity amongst Iraqis, and more to do with Sadr throwing his toys out of the pram because Iran has granted a greater share of power and influence to others at his expense. This is evidenced by the fact that Sadr and his supporters criticised Iranian influence over other Shia Iraqi groups in public demonstrations, ironically forgetting how his own power base was bred, funded and trained by Iran.
His criticisms of Iran did not go down well amongst either his detractors or his benefactors, as the former pointed out that he had just concluded a meeting with Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah chief and fellow Iranian stooge, and the latter, in the form of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, allegedly threatened to set their hounds on Sadr if he did not cease and desist from biting the hand that had fed him.
Nevertheless, Sadr’s antics created the perfect opportunity for other sectarian blocs, including some under the control of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, to attempt to purge the Iraqi government of any vestige of Sunni Arab presence, even if that presence served only to legitimise the grossly intolerant and sectional parliament. To achieve these ends, parliament voted to hoist the Iraqi Islamic Party’s Sunni Arab Saleem al-Jabouri out of his chair and post as Speaker, but failed due to their own factional in-fighting and inability to agree on which bloc or party had the largest piece of the Iraqi pie, now seeping with blood.
Jabouri seemed shocked that some of his former Iran-backed allies were now trying their utmost to hurl him out of his job as parliamentary speaker. It is not as though he did not have any prior warning about the perils of being a token Sunni working in a sectarian system established by the Americans and dominated by Shia parties, many with undeniable and strong connections to the radical mullahs of Iran.
After all, American forces humiliatingly assaulted the home of former Islamic Party leader Muhsin Abdulhamid, and later Maliki was to turn on another token Sunni, former vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, and had him sentenced to death in absentia while he was in exile in Turkey. The idea that Jabouri was caught by surprise is funny in itself, and in Iraq such a person is commonly known as a qashmar – someone eminently gullible.
The disaster of Iraq’s political system is further illustrated by the country’s leaders having established Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries on Earth. In fact, Iraq ranks even lower than “fantastically corrupt” Nigeria, as Prime Minister David Cameron put it to the Queen last week. In 2012, Transparency International gave Iraq a score of just 18 out of 100 in terms of the perception of its ability to counter corruption. It has since slipped to repeatedly scoring a meagre 16 points every year since then, demonstrating how Iraq is getting worse in yet another way aside from the continuing, merciless violence.
The apathy towards Iraq has gotten so bad that almost no one is even reporting that the city of Fallujah is being smashed between the hammer of the Green Zone government and the anvil of IS fanatics. The Iraqi authorities have imposed a total siege on the city, and have been shelling it incessantly since January 2014 when IS took control. Fighting IS is one thing, and shelling Fallujah General Hospital to the point where it is barely functioning is another. In fact, it is a war crime, yet it is too inconvenient for the international community to acknowledge that the Iraq they created has surpassed Saddam Hussein by any and all metrics of brutality, mass murder and repression.
Whilst the centrepiece of much of today’s news is Syria, occasionally flitting back to Palestine now and then, Iraq is largely forgotten. It seems that society has become content to imagine that whoever is fighting IS must be good, not heeding the fact that the Iraqi government and its rampant sectarianism is largely to blame for the birth of IS in the first place. The roots of the Syrian crisis can be found deeply burrowed in the catastrophe of Iraq, its corrupt tendrils extending across the fertile crescent all the way to its main source of nourishment, Tehran.
If the international community is serious about solving the Syrian crisis, they need to atone for the original sin that is Iraq, and how it was handed over to sectarian fanatics covered in the shroud of a false democracy.
- Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter's Strategy & Security Institute, and winner of the Al Jazeera Young Researcher Award. He blogs at thewarjournal.co.uk and tweets from @thewarjournal
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Iraqi protesters walk towards the "Crossed Swords monument" in Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone" on 1 May, 2016 (AFP).