By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
13 April 2014
Extremists like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, have taken it upon themselves to support Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s project of remaining premier for another term. The answer to how a Sunni terrorist organization supports a rival Shiite leader lies in the rivals’ alliances. Chaos in the Anbar governorate and terrorism in Baghdad serve only one party in the elections - Maliki’s bloc.
He aims to win the elections by pushing Shiite voters to stand by him against Sunni extremists and by benefiting from the ISIS’ operations and from the rebels who are in solidarity with the ISIS. Either that, or the lack of security will justify the declaration of a state of emergency and the extending of his term for another two years. This would happen thanks to Sunni extremists and fools among them.
There are groups worse than the ISIS, such as Sunni clerics like Sheikh Abdelmalek al-Saadi and others who issued fatwas (religious edicts) that prohibit participating in the elections. Such people have been responsible for the bad situation of Iraq’s Sunnis for the past ten years as they urged political boycotts due to their political ignorance: they thought they were marginalizing the regime when in fact they were marginalizing Sunnis. They have previously refused to participate in the constitutional referendum. As a result, the constitution was unfairly formulated.
Then, they incited a boycott of the elections so they lost their governmental and parliamentarian share of the seats. Participating in governance and working with other sects to establish a new Iraq is the best guarantee for them and for their sons in the future.
What is outrageous is that Iran and the Syrian regime used Sunni terrorists to destabilize Iraq for seven years, once under the pretext of resisting occupation and now under the pretext of standing against Maliki’s government.
It was later proven that those who ran terrorist operations in Iraq during that period were Baathist groups based in Damascus - groups linked to the Syrian regime which thought that expelling American troops from Iraq was crucial for its security. Meanwhile, Iran was bargaining with the Americans offering to curb Sunni and Shiite groups’ terrorist operations in exchange for security and political influence in Iraq. This is what Iran attained later.
Why are a number of Anbar-based clerics committing such fatal mistakes? How can they be driven by allegations of a terrorist group like the ISIS? How can they be driven by the calls of clerics who live outside Iraq - clerics who enjoy a luxurious life with their children in the Jordan or Qatar?
Maliki wants them to boycott the elections like they did twice before; this would be perfect for him. Terrorism is his card to frighten Shiites with Sunnis and urge them to vote for him instead of voting for his rival Shiite politicians. If he thinks he’s losing the elections, he’ll declare a state of emergency under the excuse of fighting the ISIS and the Anbar rebels. He will be the ruler by God’s command in Baghdad for at least two more years. He would have no partners in government and there will be no parliament holding him accountable since deputies’ terms end this summer and no elections will be held if a state of emergency is in place.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.