Maliki’s political game to have alarming regional repercussions

Maliki’s political game to have alarming regional repercussions

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has thrown hard-won political stability in Iraq into disarray by stoking tensions with Sunni politicians, and strained ties between Turkey and Iraq is only a small fallout of an increasingly deepening political stalemate in the country as violence has started to show its ugly face, Today's Zaman reported.

The latest potentially devastating overtures of the Shiite leader against Sunni politicians now risk spiraling into a wider struggle in the war-torn country, where sectarian sentiment always runs close to the surface.

Maliki, a Shiite, who has tolerated growing Iranian influence in Baghdad, issued an arrest warrant last month for his Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and having death squads a day after US forces left the country as promised.

Hashemi fled to Arbil, the capital of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, where Baghdad's security forces can't reach. Iraq is now mired in sectarian conflict with frequent bombings, mainly by Sunni insurgents, that have killed hundreds.

300 people have been killed since US forces left the country on Dec. 18, and Maliki shows no sign of compromise to end the spate of sectarian killings in Iraq. A total of 4,059 civilians were killed in violent incidents in Iraq in 2011, compared to 3,976 in 2010, rights group Iraq Body Count said in its annual study last week.

The toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 unleashed a sectarian conflict that has left more than 114,000 dead.

The current political conundrum in Iraq also risks scuttling the government formed following months of painstaking efforts of not only Iraqi politicians but also neighboring countries and the US. In a bid to create a consolidated, consociational democracy, dozens of government posts in the Iraqi government are split among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs. The possible collapse of this complex political landscape crisscrossed by long-standing sectarian and regional rivalries brings Iraq closer to the sectarian tensions that triggered widespread slaughter in 2006-2007. A protracted political stalemate with no end in sight and fears of a schism reaching down to street level are now becoming reality.

Turkey hosted most of Iraq's Sunni politicians in İstanbul in 2010 and urged Shiite politicians to include them in a government that would be inclusive and cross-sectarian. "Turkey's strong support of the Sunnis against Maliki in the 2010 elections is now coming back to haunt it," Joost Hiltermann from the International Crisis Group said.

He said, rather than seeing Maliki as an Iranian proxy, which he isn't, and trying to circumvent and subvert him, Ankara should be supporting the continuation and strengthening of the current, elected national unity government, convincing the Iraqi prime minister to reabsorb the Sunnis he forced out but without at the same time becoming the advocate of those Sunnis and the Kurds. "It is a fine line," he added.

Sectarian strife in Turkey's southern neighbor could have ramifications and alarming implications beyond Iraq's borders in a region where a 10-month uprising in Syria is rapidly taking on a sectarian tone, and Sunni Turkey and Shiite Iran are in a tussle of power over these lands. This was the message Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sent to Iraqi leaders from Ankara on Thursday in a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. Both foreign ministers loudly said Iran and Turkey complete each other in the region despite the fact these two countries have always had difficulty explaining how they relate to each other. And there is agreement among observers that Turkish-Iraqi tensions are indirectly related to a wider Turkish-Iranian rivalry in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey's troubled start to building healthy bilateral relations with Iraq without US troops calls into question the necessity of US forces in the Arab country. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said he urged both US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to keep US troops longer in Iraq.

In an interview with al-Hurra TV last Friday, Maliki said Turkey's interference in Iraqi domestic affairs is unacceptable and that Turkey is playing a role in Iraq that could result in civil war -- a development that would also affect Turkey.

Douglas Ollivant, a senior national security studies fellow at the New America Foundation, said very few countries appreciate foreign heads of state commenting on their internal affairs, but that is not to say that Turkey is wrong in its comments, merely that "we should not be surprised that Maliki is not appreciative." He added that the problems are ultimately Iraq's to solve, though Turkey, as a neighbor, is not without interest in getting them solved.

Having spent almost all of his political career under the boots of American soldiers, Maliki accused Turkey of infringing Iraq's sovereignty.

Turkey fired back at Maliki, claiming Turkey is not interfering in Iraq's domestic affairs but only urging Baghdad to refrain from steps that could damage democracy. But the point in case and a subject of discussion is not whether or not Turkey is interfering into Iraq's domestic affairs -- and it is -- the primary cause of concern is Iraq is sliding back from democracy, which would mostly damage Turkey.

Freedom House released a report this week and ranked Iraq in a list of "not free" countries, based on measurements of civil liberties and political rights.

Maliki's outrage against Turkey illustrated a prevailing sense of fear that reigns in Baghdad as the instability following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq turned the country into a regional bear pit, where Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran are jostling for influence.

When Syria imposed sanctions on Turkey's goods and raised taxes on Turkish trucks trading with Gulf nations as retaliation against Ankara for its critical position as a result of a brutal military crackdown, Turkey said it would change its trade routes from Syria to Iraq. The current bilateral trade between Iraq and Turkey now stands at $12 billion and is rapidly growing.

Iraq's veneer of stoicism toward Turkey's warnings showed some new strains this week as unidentified assailants launched three rockets at Turkey's Embassy in Baghdad, hitting its outer wall. Turkey mostly claims it is not supporting only Sunni blocs and favors a broad-based and inclusive government in which all political factions are fairly represented. But instead of bridging deepening political fissures in Baghdad, Turkey and Iraq's Shiite rulers are inching closer to confrontation with an unpredictable trajectory.

The Iraqi government has demonstrated little political strategy in coping with the political crisis so far, instead advancing Maliki's assails against Sunni politicians in various ways, deepening opposition and provoking sectarian violence across the country. In a sign of Maliki's uncompromising stance, his cabinet suspended eight Sunni ministers who refused to attend the cabinet meetings in protest.

"Maliki is playing a game in Iraq that has clear international repercussions, so his accusations [against Turkey] of interference in internal affairs are disingenuous," Marina Ottaway from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said.

She said she doubts Maliki's primary goal is that of furthering Iran's goals in the region, and he is trying to strengthen his position internally, but as a result, he has isolated himself from all neighbors except Iran, and close ties between Iran and Iraq have implications that other countries cannot ignore.

According to Ottaway, the only way to rebalance Iraq's foreign relations is to help the leader of cross-sectarian Iraqiya bloc Iyad Allawi and Maliki reach a new agreement. "So I think other countries are right to get involved," she said, adding that if Maliki is not amenable to a new compromise, violence will escalate, and this time the country may split.

She warned that the Sunni provinces are already seeking to become regions with the same degree of autonomy as the Kurdish region in the north, and the Gulf countries will support them.

"And if Maliki continues to centralize power, the Kurds will not accept it. So I think Iraq is not only going toward more violence, but also toward disintegration," she concluded.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on December 7
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on December 7
Iran reaches increase in load/unloaded operations at Amirabad port
Iran reaches increase in load/unloaded operations at Amirabad port
Iran's Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise full speed
Iran's Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise full speed
Loading Bars
Israel lifts tariffs on dairy imports to cut prices
Young generation, who did not see Karabakh, grew up, liberated Karabakh by sacrificing their lives – President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sports talks about appointment of new deputy minister
Let Armenia give Azerbaijan date of opening of Zangazur corridor and in this case there will be no problems – President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijan discloses volume of oil exported to Turkey in 10M2021
Azerbaijani deputy defense minister leaves for Moscow
Forecast of Azerbaijani State Oil Fund’s total management costs for 2022 revealed
Turkmenistan approves anti-crisis program for 2022
Volume of cargo shipment via Turkish ports from Morocco for 10M2021 revealed
Ministry shares data on volume of cargo shipment via Turkish ports from Belgium for 10M2021
Volume of cargo shipment via Turkish ports from China for 10M2021 unveiled
Turkey discloses volume of cargo shipment via its ports from Germany for 10M2021
Cost of goods transported via sea up in Azerbaijan
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva visit monument to national leader Heydar Aliyev in Guba (PHOTO/VIDEO)
SOFAZ asset management revenue forecast for 2022 unveiled
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on December 7
Azerbaijan is creating social zone in industrial park of liberated Jabrayil district- ministry
Turkmenistan continues oil prospecting work on Cheleken peninsula
Uzbekistan shares data on import of potatoes in 10M2021
Price indexes of construction, trade sectors at Uzbek stock exchange fall
Galt & Taggart shares data on Georgia’s bonds on London Stock Exchange
Uzbekistan unveils volume of exports and imports
Georgia’s persimmon exports continue to increase
Russia remains main importer of Georgia’s tangerines
Uzbekistan reveals volume of tomato exports for 10M2021
Uzbek Statistics Committee shares data on foreign trade turnover
Kazakhstan’s oil and gas company opens tender to supply electric pump
Turkey discloses volume of cargo shipment via its ports from Albania for 10M2021
Eurostat reveals data on Czechia's import of petroleum oils from Azerbaijan
Vegetable pathogen detected in batch of pepper imported to Azerbaijan
Kazakhstan’s National Bank discloses inflation expectations
Turkmenistan talks demand on local aviation, lighting kerosene among foreign clients
Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences talks demographic indicators of Karabakh, East Zangazur
Kazakhstan talks forecasted growth level of GDP for late 2021
All 6 Israel policymakers voted to keep key rate at 0.1%
Iran reaches increase in load/unloaded operations at Amirabad port
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 585 more COVID-19 cases, 944 recoveries
Iran's Bahar Azadi gold coin price continues to rise full speed
Eni Turkmenistan Ltd to purchase spare parts for pumps via tender
Azerbaijan talks 4G network coverage in liberated territories
Iran’s Nakhlak Lead Mining Complex boosts production
Kazakh-Chinese bitumen plant opens tender for vehicles rent
Act of amnesty covers 16 foreign citizens in Azerbaijan
Tesla did not want to wait on EU aid - German economy minister
Austrian President swears in Karl Nehammer as new Chancellor
Iran’s CBI general director talks foreign currency exchange activity data
Unemployment in Israel fell sharply in November
Oil and gas production dep’t of Turkmenistan’s Turkmennebit SC exceeds production plan
Volume of natural gas transportation via Serbian-Hungarian interconnector revealed
Field rearranging underway on Serbian-Hungarian gas interconnector route
Iran not to follow 'plan B' while in Vienna nuclear talks - FM
Georgian business sector sees increase in turnover
Kazakh National Bank announces its decision for base rate
Kazakhstan reveals GDP growth in 10M2021
Azerbaijan working on flight recorder of crashed helicopter - Prosecutor General's Office
UK to block poor-performing companies from winning public work
Croatia confirms its first two cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant
Balacans Agro Food LLC, Azerbaijan Investment Company sign agreement (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan to consider joining int'l documents on intellectual property protection
Oil majors to mitigate demand fluctuation with digital twins
SOFAZ sees significant increase in Shah Deniz revenues
Azerbaijan shares data on number of freed convicts as part of act of amnesty
Annual inflation rate slightly slows down in Kazakhstan
SOFAZ discloses revenues from Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli
Azerbaijan shares data on number of people covered by Act of Amnesty so far
TBC Capital publishes Georgia’s weekly economic review
Oil rebounds above $71 on Omicron hopes, Iran talks
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva meet with residents of Gonagkand settlement (PHOTO)
Israeli firm to sell HSBC Tower in New York for $855 million
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for December 6
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva view conditions created at secondary school № 1 in Guba (PHOTO/VIDEO)
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attend opening of Guba Abad Factory enterprise (PHOTO/VIDEO)
President Ilham Aliyev inaugurates Guba-Gonagkand highway (PHOTO/VIDEO)
President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva view conditions created at Guba Olympic Sports Complex (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Crisis center discloses 32,136 new coronavirus cases in Russia over past 24 hours
Chevron to expand investments in Kazakhstan’s Tengiz field dev't
Famous scientist talks about significance of victory in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (PHOTO)
Iran shares data on cargo transportation
President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva arrive in Guba district for visit (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Azerbaijan prepares bill on repatriation of people to Karabakh – state committee
Azerbaijani State Oil Fund’s estimates on oil, gas transportation revenues for 2022 unveiled
Azerbaijan gives update on mine clearance work in liberated lands
Azerbaijan’s 10M2021 volume of goods exports via stationary vehicles increases
State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan forecasts revenues and expenditures for 2022
Azerbaijan’s forecast for oil production from Bahar field in 2022 revealed
Cargo movements in Iran’s Noshahr Port down
India, Russia to ink number of pacts during Modi-Putin summit on Dec 6
India clears plan to make AK-203 assault rifles with Russia
Georgia to reduce external debt and budget deficit in 2022 – PM
From buyer of military goods, India wants to become Russia’s ‘development & production’ partner
Georgia, US discuss wine exports potential
EU, UNDP to implement project for green economy transition in Uzbekistan
Imperial Springs Forum 2021 concluded (PHOTO)
Private investment to pick up: CEA Krishnamurthy V Subramanian
Bangladesh, India: Celebrating 50 years of friendship
Georgia's coal production up
Uzbekistan shares data on sales of oil and gas products in 11M2021
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan sign trade contracts and bilateral agreements
Azerbaijan shares forecast on volume of oil production from ACG field for 2022
All news