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Now it is time for Al-Maliki to go.

Arab News

The moment that Nuri Al-Maliki begged the Americans for airstrikes against resurgent militants who now threaten Baghdad after sweeping aside the Iraqi Army, he was effectively admitting his total failure to discharge his duty to the entire Iraqi nation.

The man who was elected to lead a national unity government pursued policies that could not have been better designed to produce national disunity. Al-Maliki sowed the wind. Now he and the unfortunate people of Iraq are reaping the whirlwind.

The advance of the terrorist fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) would not have been possible without the support of local tribes, now deeply alienated and indeed effectively excluded from the political process in Baghdad.

The well-equipped and supposedly highly-trained Iraqi Army abandoned masses of equipment and fled, often seemingly without firing a shot.

It may well be that they were incompetently led. Al-Maliki has fired four top commanders.

But to lose first the cities of Mosul and Tikrit to a rapid ISIL advance and then Tal Afar, suggests that the problems with the security forces go far deeper than a few useless generals.

Who, after all, appointed these commanders, if it was not the Al-Maliki government itself?

The insurgents seem to have been halted at the city of Baquba just 60 kilometers north of Baghdad. They took part of the northern suburbs in a night attack but were driven out in what appears to have been the first real counter-attack mounted by government forces.

The terrorist commanders probably never dreamed that their advance would be so rapid. Therefore their supply lines are likely to be stretched. They will need to regroup and replenish before renewing their announced drive on Baghdad.

That a battle for the capital will be bloody is assured. Thousands of volunteers from the Shiite community have flocked to enlist and fight alongside the Iraqi Army. How useful these people will be against ISIL gunmen remains to be seen.

Pictures of government supporters merely poking weapons around a corner and firing off a full clip without having any idea of aiming, do not inspire confidence.

But in the end the sheer weight of numbers could still tell against ISIL, however sickeningly they execute captured opponents.

Nevertheless, mass panic could lead to a collapse of confidence in the capital and see a headlong flight to the Shiite heartland in the south.

There is already a mass exodus taking place of Sunnis trying to get out of Baghdad before the current random attacks on their community turn into a larger and more organized pogrom.

This epitomizes the tragedy into which Al-Maliki has plunged his country. Most of the Baghdadi Sunnis who are now booking any place they can find to get out of the city are no supporters of ISIL.

They were once proud to be part of a cosmopolitan capital in which different communities intermingled and tolerated each other. Now, that amity is in ruins and fear and suspicion stalk their neighborhoods.

In Washington there is general despair that the immense American investment of blood and coin appears to have been a complete waste. There is no indication that the US recognizes its own responsibility for the disaster that is now unfolding.

And the level of understanding seems little improved. There is unease at proposing that, to make way for a new government, Al-Maliki stands down.

This is because his party won the largest share of the vote in the recent elections. And until the storm of the ISIL assault broke, Al-Maliki was busy bargaining with other political parties for the formation of a new coalition.

The negotiations are less about finding a competent minister fit to take on a portfolio but more about who can get the ministry with the biggest budget which can be plundered at will.

The talk on Capitol Hill is that even though only a minority of Iraqis voted for Maliki's party, their democratic choice should be honored. This is interesting.

George W. Bush rejected the Palestinians' overwhelming choice of Hamas in the 2006 election. It may be wondered why Washington should not now also ignore the far smaller mandate given to Al-Maliki.

Bush destroyed Iraq to make it safe for democracy. And in any event now is the time for the bickering politicians in Baghdad's Green Zone to put down their coffee cups, do something positive for a change and pull together an emergency government that genuinely represents all Iraqis.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 20, 2014
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