The recent killings of tribal leaders has to be firmly dealt with by Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s government. His predecessor Nouri Al Maliki did grave damage to the Iraqi army by merging all sorts of sectarian forces into the regular units, and Al Abadi has at least started to reverse that disastrous policy. He has also imposed government control on the militias that sprung up in response to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani’s call to defend Iraq against the first wave of attacks from Daesh when the Iraqi army stood unable to defend Mosul last summer.
Nonetheless, the killing this week of an important tribal leader and his son shows how fragile this new sense of peace in Iraq still is. Sunni politicians have had a sharp reminder that even if Al Abadi is more secular in spirit, many of the forces in Iraq remain firmly sectarian and are willing to go to any length to wreck any reconciliation. The way forward is for Al Abadi to disband and disarm the militias and show that the government is in charge. Al Abadi has to stop these vicious killings and make sure that all Iraqis have to obey the law. This is not only vital for the success of Iraq as a country, but it is also essential so that after the eventual assault on Daesh-held territory in the west, the government will be able to offer the liberated Sunni populations of the west a more inclusive polity which they will want to rejoin.