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A padlock on Iraq’s politics

Filed on September 9, 2010

How long will the political deadlock in Iraq continue? Six months after elections, there is no government in Baghdad. The tussle for the prime minister’s slot between Nouri Al Maliki and Iyad Allawi has now reached the level of the absurd. It seems that the path to resolving the deadlock is blocked by the inability of both candidates to muster adequate support to form a government. While power wresting between the two may continue for some time Iraq faces a bigger challenge. That of security.

The political and security aspects being symbiotically intertwined cannot be separated. A vacuum in the political arena would naturally tilt the scale of security. It is a cold and hard fact that cannot be wished away. No wonder that a recent BBC report has noted the caretaker oil and electricity minister Hussein Al Shahristani saying that the failure to reach a political agreement to formulate a government was being exploited by the insurgents. The absence of a strong government at the helm of affairs has naturally given an opening to such elements that are bound to take advantage of the situation.

The large-scale terror attacks witnessed over the past many months have been gaining impetus, even as US troops left for home. Al Qaeda affiliated groups seemed to be having a field day staging attacks preceding and following the withdrawal. The point adequately driven home by these groups was that Iraq’s security remains vulnerable. Even as Iraqi politicians criticised the country’s army chief General Babakir Zebari for expressing a frank appraisal of the existing security situation, the violence witnessed first hand only confirms such doubts. His public proclamation of the opposition to the withdrawal at this juncture in lieu of the insufficient capability of Iraq’s security forces must have taken courage. Recently, an insurgent attack on an army base that killed 12 people resulted in Iraqi forces asking for help from US forces that are part of the 50,000-strong reserve contingent.

Worse is the growing fear that the security situation might relapse to that of 2005-2007 when insurgents wrecked havoc. The latest attacks while targeting security personnel, army and police recruits have also included civilians. The lethality of the attacks and modus operandi leave no doubt about Al Qaeda’s involvement.

Having enjoyed a brief respite from violence, the Iraqi people seem ill-equipped to deal with this fresh wave of terror. They expect their government to provide them security, if only there was one.

It is thus imperative that Iraq’s politicians get a grip on things and resolve this impasse at the earliest for the sake of the national interest. It may be prudent to rotate the office of the prime minister between the two or nominate a third candidate. Whatever needs to be done should be dealt with urgently lest others take the country over the brink.


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