Golden opportunity for Iraqi liberal project

Sunday 26/03/2017

Barack Obama’s administration refrained from intervening in Iraq and remained watchful of the heavy Iranian presence there within the context of the dismal failure of the adopted power-sharing scheme based on sectarian affiliation.
Many people have been wonder­ing what the Americans want from Iraq. Will the new US president, Donald Trump, make good on his campaign promises to stand up to political Islam? And what has all of that got to do with the recent attacks in the media exchanged between Tehran and Washington?
Trump’s promises of military assistance in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) should not lull Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government and the parties in power in Iraq into a state of euphoria and false assurance.
Contrary to what is expected by some, it is unlikely that Trump will bring about a dramatic change in Iraq. It is very likely, however, that he will resort to intelligence ser­vices and diplomacy to encourage the liberal current in Iraq to stand as an alternative to political Islam. It is not likely that he will back just one liberal spectrum or the major one and exclude the others. The Trump administration will not re­sort to using those who have failed politically and those who were involved in corruption.
The biggest obstacle facing this new political project in Iraq would be the refusal by some parties or people to let go of what they con­sider rightful gains as well as their denial of the damage done to the lives of Iraqi citizens by disastrous policies, rampant and flagrant cor­ruption at all levels of the admin­istration.
Leaders of the major political parties might feel that, unlike Ab­adi, they enjoy wider latitude for manoeuvring. But when the reck­oning hour arrives, they’re happy to pin all the ills of the country on his back. If Abadi wants to save himself and save Iraq before it is too late, he must be firm and use all of his legal prerogatives to wipe out corruption and organised crime and uphold the law.
He must reverse the widespread impression among Iraqis that there is no state or rule of law in Iraq. But once the euphoria of the vic­tory over ISIS is gone, Abadi will not be given the chance to quickly respond to people’s expectations. Even in the Shia camp, there are people who think that Abadi doesn’t have what it takes to per­form a miracle.
The major political parties in Iraq are still caught in the old political games. There are no signs that they have elaborated a clear political project to deal with the likely changes. They believe that they have accumulated enough experience since the days of Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Pro­visional Authority, to enable them to deal with the American side. For them, the eventual victory over ISIS is no more than a passport to remain in power.
Such attitudes are completely off target because in the final analy­sis Iraqi citizens will continue to insist on answers to their daily concerns and will eventually hold these parties accountable for their plight. There are tough hawks in the Trump administration who will not hesitate to opt for military solutions.
The political situation in Iraq becomes murkier when we know that the Sunni leadership has given up on the power game in Iraq. Following assurances from the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they are rather supportive of American plans and believe that it will help them implement on the ground their project for a Sunni territory.
The stage is set and the oppor­tunity is golden for independent clean intellectuals and activists from small but promising par­ties who believe in an Iraqi liberal national project to step forward and meet head-on the real needs of Iraqi citizens.