THINGS are happening too fast in Iraq. The fall of Mosul, the second largest Iraqi city, to the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) only demonstrates that the central government in Baghdad has failed to unify and lead the Iraqis. Otherwise, how could the large 30,000-strong heavily armed Iraqi army stationed there be completely routed by the 800-strong ragtag jihadi fighters in a matter of three days? It could never have happened, had the Sunni population of the city not welcomed the jihadists. And the Sunnis, long alienated by the divisive leadership of central government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, did not feel like resisting ISIS extremists taking over Mosul. So, the Jihadists did not have to wait long after December 2013 when they took control of Falluja and part of nearby Ramadi from the government forces.
But what is the Maliki government's response to this mortal crisis it is now faced with? Shouldn't it have been able to declare national emergency and call upon every Iraqi irrespective of her/his faith, ethnicity or political allegiance to join hands to save the integrity of Iraqi state? But no, the Sunni and Kurdish legislators, now staying away from the parliament session, are not willing to put more power into the hands of Maliki under any pretext whatsoever. And he has again gone for what he has been doing so far, dividing the Iraqi society further along the sectarian line.
With Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's call to arms on Friday and with his (Maliki's) open support to it, Iraq may again revisit 2006-07's bloodbath amid sectarian violence that had torn apart its once secular society into a fractured one. The ISIS militants will only be too happy to see a further fragmentation of Iraqi society that promises them a fertile ground for fresh recruitment of jihadis to swell their ranks.
When Iraq is on the brink of Balkanisation, thanks to its inept, corrupt and divisive leadership, on the one hand, and the gains being made by the extremist ISIS insurgents, on the other, former prime minister of the UK, Tony Blair, the old sinner in Iraq has again started talking when US President Obama is sending warships to the Persian Gulf to protect what the latter called American citizens and interests in Iraq. Interestingly, refusing to accept responsibility for what has been happening in Iraq since its mindless invasion by US-led multi-national forces in 2003 on the baseless logic of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), he said: "We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that 'we' have caused this. We haven't." But in the same breath, looking for further excuses to get in on the ongoing Iraq crisis, he hastened to add: "We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force."
But what future of Iraq or of the entire Middle East, for that matter, is he talking about? However much he may try to pass the buck to the Syrian civil war or to the 'region' itself, he cannot just wish away the fact it was their (his and President Bush's) misadventure that has destabilised balance of Iraqi society and with it of the entire region. It is due to US and its other Western allies' mishandling of the situation has polarised the region from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Iran to Syria. Are not the jihadists also a by-product of the fragmentation of these societies along sectarian lines? Blair or his partner, former US President George W. Bush, cannot wash his hands of this original sin in Iraq.
Now that Iraq is again sinking into a fresh spiral of chaos, violence, even disintegration, Blair should prevail upon his US and other Western friends to face facts, and accept responsibility. They must not engage in any kind of proxy war either for the Baghdad government or against the jihadists. Iraqis must be able to resolve their own disputes.
US and its Western allies must not make things worse by supporting and arming the corrupt and divisive leadership of Iraq. US President Obama, in particular, should make any military or financial assistance to the Baghdad government conditional upon its reaching out to Sunnis, Kurds and other minorities for broader national unity in Iraq.
The writer is Editor, Science & Life, The Daily Star.