Abadi’s dangerous steps
When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi decided to launch his reform campaign, he was cheered for his proposal as his words have become music to the ears of millions.
There is no doubt that he is a decent and smart man. However, being decent is not one of the requirements for leading a country. He picked, or was picked, to open friendly fire against three major Shia political parties: The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq led by Ammar al-Hakim, the Sadrist Movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr and his own Dawa Party. Surprisingly, Abadi’s first target was former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who inflicted great damage on the country.
Maliki has been trying to remain in any powerful position available, despite the detrimental consequences, as he knows he is fully supported by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei showed that support for Maliki at a meeting in Tehran in July.
However, the backlash hit Maliki on August 27th when National Alliance leaders refused his request to lead the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in exchange for an agreement with Hakim to take over leadership of the alliance.
Instead, a two-year rotation between Maliki and Hakim to lead the PMF was proposed. This was not enough for Maliki. News reports surfaced with alarming headlines: “Maliki leads a rebellion inside the Popular Mobilisation Forces”; “High-profile Iraqi security sources have obtained and revealed information regarding Maliki’s recent movements following the rejection of his request.”
Maliki clearly has become an enemy of the three Shia leaders: Abadi, Hakim and Sadr. The battle is no longer about reforms or public demonstrations.
The fight stemming from the Abadi-Maliki conflict involves Iranian and Iraqi disputes and reaches the ultimate challenge: the battle between the holy cities of Qom and Najaf for influence.
Security and military developments will most likely paralyse the Iraqi political process and trigger armed sectarian and political conflicts.
The alarming signs are there.
On September 10th, the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, US Marines Lieutenant- General Vincent Stewart said that Iraq may have been permanently torn asunder by war and sectarian tensions and might not survive as a state.
That put a strong pressure on Abadi, who should tiptoe very carefully in his next steps rather than make quick and hasty decisions. He needs to commit to a strategy that will ensure the future safety of the country and lift up the economy in order to provide public services to the Iraqi people.
If it weren’t for these issues, the public protests in most of the Iraqi provinces at the moment would not be happening.
The long-time “frenemies” are facing each other all over again but this time the stakes are extremely higher.