A new war in Iraq would be a massive crime

On the surface, some improvements can be noted in daily security in Iraq.

By Hazem Saghieh

Published: Mon 19 Aug 2019, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 19 Aug 2019, 11:43 PM

Adel Abdul Mahdi is a politician for stable countries: He is calm, open and pragmatic. The problem is that Iraq is unlike stable countries. Mahdi plays in the middle while the country is being stretched to extremes.
On the surface, some improvements can be noted in daily security in Iraq. Some varying achievements have been made in the agriculture and electricity sectors. However, the volcanoes under the surface are much too powerful to be snuffed out by the good intentions of the prime minister. They include the vast and deep Iranian presence, coupled with the parallel state imposed by the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Add to this the small American presence and the remnants of Daesh. We must not forget that a full government has not been formed after elections in 2018.
The situation in Iraq therefore appears similar to the one in Lebanon where the foundations of the country, namely the state and army appear powerless against a militia.
As in Lebanon, so-called "moral" issues are brought up in Iraq to fill the political vacuum. The PMF plays an influential role in this regard. This was demonstrated in the outrage over a female violinist who played at a football game in Karbala or the questionable "inappropriate" attire of some people in Kirkuk.
Abdul Mahdi is good at dialogue. Much of politics, however, is imposed through stubbornness rather than dialogue. To make matters worse, Abdel Mahdi uses the stairs and not the escalator in his bid to resolve Iraq's problems. If we believe the Israeli story, Iran is dragging Baghdad by the hair to a war through its rocket factories and military bases in Iraq. It is no longer a secret that the Israelis are following the same approach they adopted in Syria where they targeted militias affiliated to Tehran. A new war in Iraq would be a massive crime. The country had to contend with a history of strife and military coups, the massacre of Assyrians and the ongoing assault against the Kurds. It also had to deal with Daesh. Iraq in the last 25 years has witnessed the highest levels of violence in the world.
 This has resulted in a country that has very little consensus. This was the case before, during and after the American invasion. King Faisal I once famously said: "There is still - and I say this with a heart full of sorrow - no Iraqi people but unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic idea." Since 1958, and especially after 1963, the reasons for division increased. Saddam Hussein ultimately suppressed these movements.
They came out into the open when his regime collapsed. Given these challenges, toning down ideological rhetoric is key to peace in Iraq. It should not be pushed to the extreme, which is war. This suffering country needs an authority that can bar violence in all of its forms. Abdul Mahdi or any other well-intentioned politician is not up to this task.
 - Hazem Saghieh is a political analyst

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