Author Topic: Senior Sunni: Iraq Teetering on ‘Something Similar to the Syrian Situation’  (Read 148 times)

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John T. Bennett

It’s safe to say the Syrian model is not what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had in mind. Yet, one senior Iraqi lawmaker is warning that is the path his nation is headed down.

Iraq Council of Representatives Speaker Usama Al-Nujayfi, a Sunni, told a Washington audience Thursday his troubled nation stands at a “crossroads.” Down one bend is something resembling a democracy — Iraq style. But down a much darker one, he warned, is “something similar to the Syrian situation.”

“Iraq, at this point, is on a crossroads. Either it will move toward success and enhance democracy and give a successful example of a democratic system in a troubled Iraq, or God forbid, we will move into something similar to the Syrian situation,” Al-Nujayfi said through a translator at the Brookings Institute. “And this is to be expected if the problems are not faced in the right way.

The speaker said Iraq, set off on its current volatile and uncertain path by the 2003 US invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein and his strong-arm regime, “needs national reconciliation, wisdom, understanding and partnership between the Iraqis instead of the marginalization that we are seeing in Iraq.”

To Al-Nujayfi and other Sunnis, that “marginalization” is being conducted — oftentimes with lethal force — by the central Iraqi government, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shia. He claims Sunnis are being kept out of key military command and other influential government positions.

Al-Nujayfi: “On the issue of justice and accountability, the law says that people who reached some levels in the [once Saddam-led] Ba’ath Party should not be nominated at certain high levels in the government or the armed forces, and so on. But when we move to what’s happening on the ground, many of the military commanders that are in charge of very important units in the army, in charge of many military operations and have high-ranking posts in the federal police or the Ministry of Interior were previously members of the Ba’ath Party and were also at that time in high-standing positions.

“But this was simply put aside and ignored, and they remain in their job, while counterparts, officers from other provinces — and I have to say it from a confessional perspective — are being ignored, are being marginalized, are almost pushed into the arms of the terrorists.”

He also addressed the resurgence of al-Qaida affiliated groups there, which have wrestled from Iraqi forces control of Fallujah and has had success in other areas. To hear the speaker tell it, the Iraqi military devolved into an utter mess that simply was unable to push back against al-Qaida groups’ gains.

Al-Nujayfi: “But after this [2007] victory, there was no follow-up on the promises that were given to them, and they did not get in their rights, as promises to integrate the armed forces, to get the salaries that they need, to protect them from being targeted by the terrorists. A very few of them got salaries that were very, very low. Some of them were expelled from their jobs. Many of them were arrested because of systemic relations by confessional or even by al-Qaida because they wanted to undermine the role of the clan.

“So from 2009 until a few months ago, these forces were almost completely destroyed, and al-Qaida came back stronger than before.”

From Al-Nujayfi’s perspective, many of Iraq’s biggest problems are big disconnects among its ethnic groups. Here in Washington, most of the focus is on whether — and how many — Apache helicopters and other weapon systems to ship to the Iraqi military.

Speaking of big disconnects…

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