Abadi can still assume the role of national leader in Iraq
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has started cashing in politically on the victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul even though he knows very well, just as everyone else does, that the terrorist organisation is alive and well in alternative forms and sizes within Mosul’s flanks in Tal Afar and in al-Hawija at Kirkuk and in western Anbar.
As he sees members of his party and friends from outside his party frantically trying to benefit politically from the victory at Mosul, it is perfectly legitimate for Abadi to use all means at his disposal to pursue the same objective. The state has tremendous political, military and security capabilities that he can harness to convince the Iraqi public that he is the right man to lead the country after the next elections.
Abadi, however, knows very well that he cannot use the victory at Mosul as a springboard to jump over the tremendous challenges ahead. These are many. Mosul’s inhabitants have a tonne of demands. They want to retrieve their children held under the suspicion of belonging to ISIS in internment camps very much like camps during the Nazi period. They want to go back to their homes, even though the homes are in ruins because of the bombardment by Iraqi and coalition forces. They want the government to account for the 40,000 dead and thousands of injured from these bombardments. Abadi must deal with accusations of human rights violations committed by members of the Iraqi armed forces and related militias in Mosul and the other liberated zones.
Abadi is under pressure while leaders of the other Shia parties have it easy. Fortunately, the Iraqi military redeemed itself in Mosul and recaptured the former glory and fighting spirit of the Iraqi soldier. Still, Abadi seems to think that his party is his private hunting ground and that he is the best qualified politically to lead Iraq.
The victory in Mosul is going to have ground-shaking reverberations inside Iraq and in the region. It is not surprising therefore to witness the preparation frenzy that has gripped the local political forces. Some have skipped the current stage and jumped to the next. For example, Ammar al-Hakim’s initiative of forming a new political party was not enthusiastically welcomed by Shia groups that have seen their military might increase in the last three years.
Not to be outdone, the Sunni camp went, without great conviction, through the motions of preparing for the post-ISIS phase. They had meetings in Turkey and Baghdad with circles from the Arab world concerned about the fate of the Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
Old habits die hard, however, and the Sunni political forces reverted to protecting their own petty interests and had no solutions to offer to the myriad of problems plaguing the Sunni community in Iraq.
The Shia political leadership seems confident that the main power principle giving full control to the Shia circles will remain intact. The fierce battle on the horizon is for the leadership of the “Shia Power.”
Abadi might see himself the best fit for this role. The war against ISIS is unfinished and, the coalition leadership warned, will require a long time. For this reason, Abadi said that the objective of “military victory” should take precedence over all other considerations, demands and political needs. He goes as far as questioning the legitimacy of Iraqi circles and individuals demanding an end to all abuses and more protection for the Sunnis.
Abadi seems more intent than his colleagues on preserving sectarianism in Iraq. He seems to have forgotten that he can no longer postpone his responsibilities towards the urgent problems of the Iraqi people.
What does he intend to do about the rampant dangerous criminality in Baghdad? Is he going to do something to alleviate the frequent power outages in Baghdad? Does he have a project for stamping out the real causes behind the rise of ISIS?
The usual litany of blaming everything on former members of the Ba’ath Party simply will not do anymore. What has Abadi done to guard against ISIS’s return in other forms?
The window of opportunity is there for Abadi to assume the role of a truly nationalistic leader genuinely concerned about Iraq’s future. Iraq needs fewer political auctions and settlements and more sacrifices and non-sectarian fairness.