Iraqis are faced with the terrible choice of terrorism or sectarianism

Arabic-language writers reflect on the situation in Iraq following the ISIL attack on Mosul.

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Is there some sort of a competition for “least fortunate Arab people” going on? If so, Iraqis are surely the winners, as the only options available to them are either a sectarian government or erratic, brutal terrorism, said the columnist Jihad Al Khazen in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat on Sunday.

It is mayhem everywhere in the Arab world, but nowhere more so than in Iraq where prime minister Nouri Al Maliki’s sectarian government doesn’t do much. The counterbalance is a group of imported terrorists who represent nothing but death and devastation.

“A government with a 300,000-strong army and half a million reserve troops should have been capable of vanquishing a few thousand terrorists. But, strangely, its troops didn’t fight; many of them escaped, leaving innocent civilians at the mercy of criminals,” the writer noted.

“There’s talk that the Americans will intervene, but I don’t see it happening, unless by intervention they mean drone raids and more weapons to government forces. They deliberately destroyed Iraq and it isn’t in their interests to fix what they have wrecked.”

For his part, the columnist Mashari Al Thaidy wrote in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat that the disintegration of Mr Al Maliki’s stubborn rule in Iraq is the result of a number of factors, not least of which is blind partisanship, personal greed and sectarian tendencies that took hold of the prime minister and significantly impaired his ability to rule fairly over the whole of Iraq.

The lack of political harmony and mutual trust among Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds didn’t help either and, to top it all, weak US policies towards Iraq during the post-Saddam Hassan transitional phase only added to the calamity by handing the country over to Iran. Hence, the outrage that has been brewing under the surface for some years has reached the point of explosion, leading to the turmoil in parts of the country in recent days, the writer said.

“These factors, among others, culminated in a political gridlock where Sunnis, despite all their efforts to ward-off extremist and Al Qaeda-affiliated movements, felt trapped and ostracised,” he said.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is an armed extremist group that has surpassed even Al Qaeda to become the symbol of outraged radical Islam.

“ISIL is attempting to ride the wave of the Sunni anger in Iraq,” he said. But, he added, a future alliance with Iraqi Sunnis remains unlikely.

“It is clear that the era of Iranian unilateral control over Iraq is on its way to ebb. Henceforth, Iraq will either be rebuilt on a nonsectarian basis or will be segmented to three parts: Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds,” said Al Thaidy.

“As for Mr Al Maliki, he had the opportunity to come out of the hole of narrow partisanship and sectarianism and into the vast expanses of the greater Iraq, but he lost it and with it, Iraq was lost.”

In the Abu Dhabi-based daily Al Ittihad, Dr Shamlan Yussuf Al Issa asked: what effect will the accelerating events in Iraq have on regional countries and the Arab region as a whole? Until this moment, there has been no reasonable justification for the Iraqi army’s withdrawal from Mosul.

“How is it possible that a gang like ISIL was able to occupy a territory three times the size of Lebanon?” he asked.

“Although I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, it does seem that the Iraqi prime minister has plans to assemble his forces and declare general mobilisation before attacking ISIL forces and liberating recently-occupied territories. This means he will have absolute control over Sunni regions – the same regions to which he forbade basic services and banned from participating in elections – paving the way for ISIL forces,” the writer suggested.

Mr Al Maliki’s objective is to mobilise Iraqi public opinion to support his plans to impose control over Sunni regions and the whole of the country.

“Sectarianism is the core of the problem and the main cause of Iraq’s fragmentation. This is how ISIL found a host environment for itself and other Jihadist movements in these areas where Iraqi Sunnis have been marginalised,” the writer added.

Turkey and Iran have already declared that they will not allow further collapse in Iraq. This would entail direct or indirect intervention.

Therefore, it is essential that Gulf Cooperation Council states convene an emergency session to look into the repercussions of this civil war in Iraq and find ways to confront the new challenges that will come with it, the writer concluded.

Translated by ­Racha Makarem