Looks like we’ll finally see the back of Nuri al-Maliki — One of the Wrongest Horses the U.S. Ever Backed. Haider al-Abadi may replace him if he can win a majority vote in Iraq’s parliament. At Politico Magazine, James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, writes:
This is an extraordinary turn of events for a leader who did better than ever in the March 2014 elections, garnering a personal vote tally of 700,000, far more than any rival.
“What happened?” asks Jeffrey.
The short answer is Mosul—the fall of Iraq’s second city and almost a third of Iraq’s territory, and much of its Sunni Arab minority, to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with tens of thousands of Iraqi troops melting in the face of a few thousand well-armed but ragtag ISIL fighters.
The long answer, according to Jeffrey:
The Sunni Arabs who joined the ISIL “surge” did so because Maliki had alienated them. The army that collapsed in Mosul was led by generals chosen for their loyalty to Maliki, not for their competence. His micromanaging of military decisions due to fear of a coup, his tolerance of corruption and relative indifference to a residual U.S. military presence to help train and assess the Iraqi military—all of it contributed to the dramatic failure that we see before us now. But the core reason was Maliki’s inability to trust, to reach out to other groups and share power even within his Shia community.
Earlier this year, in the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins filed an in-depth report on Maliki. He provided an example of the resurgence in violence and how Maliki resonded. In 2011, shortly after the Americans left, he sent in troops to clear protesters from Ramadi.
Anbar Province erupted, along with the rest of Sunni Iraq, and the violence has not ceased. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling.
An example from Filkins of how Maliki has dealt with dissidents:
[Maliki’s] government responded savagely to the new round of protests. In April [of this year], after a soldier was killed in the Sunni town of Hawija, troops attacked an encampment of protesters there, killing at least forty-four people. In a televised speech, Maliki warned of a “sectarian war,” and blamed the violence on “remnants of the Baath Party.” Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Sunni civilians, were killed as the crackdown continued.
As I wrote in the post to which I linked in the first sentence, “Maliki may not be as bad as Saddam Hussein, but he can scarcely be viewed as an improvement, only slightly less worse.” So long, Nuri. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.