The embattled Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki needs to find a new way to engage with its people. Al Maliki has to stop trying to impose security by force, even after this Sunday when Al Qaida affiliates exploded nine car bombs in Baghdad, taking the death toll to more than 5,300 Iraqis this year.
On the other side of the sectarian divide, several Shiite militias in the south have stepped up their operations with funding and strategic direction from Iran, as they have assassinated leading members of Sunni tribes.
It is a disaster that Al Maliki’s answer to all this is to use more force. He is heading to Washington in two days, and he is wrong to say that he hopes to prioritise getting more US military help to fight Al Qaida affiliates. Unfortunately, this is supported by the US ambassador in Baghdad, who has said that the US needs to “highlight the urgent need for the approval and quick delivery of military sales”.
Force is not the answer. A minimum of security is required, but Iraq’s widespread tribal and sectarian violence has to be tackled in a much more wide-ranging manner.
The people at large need to feel that they can trust their government and that their government has their best interests at heart. This is not the case at present.
Al Maliki needs to counter corruption amongst his own officials. He needs to stop allowing each ministry to act as a minister’s private power base. He needs to clean up the complicated and contradictory investment laws and allow foreign investment to come in easily. He must recognise that education needs special support after more than a decade of occupation, insurrection and civil war.
If he does something about these issues, he will find that people will no longer be willing to support the violent extremists with which Iraq is cursed, as they have shown in the past when the government had a more engaged policy and violence fell while people’s hopes rose.