Every time there is a synchronised series of blasts in Baghdad or other governorates around Iraq, I dread picking up the telephone to ask about the safety of friends and acquaintances there.
Last month, there were huge blasts in Diala, operated by Al Qaida, and sure enough one young man whom I had interviewed while he was working in Diala’s SWAT team against Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI) in 2006 was found slaughtered with his young wife and four very small children in his house by the terrorists. The irony is that Colonel Mohammad was pleading with everyone in the Ministry of Interior to be given a guard and a special bullet-proof vehicle for so long because he knew he was a sitting duck. As a matter of fact, a very easy and ready defenceless target for terrorists whom he had dealt with severely in the 2006-2008 period when Iraq was progressing towards a full-fledged civil war.
Did he know that he would be beheaded along with his whole family? I don’t know, but what I know is that no one answered his pleas. And the government of Iraq is not ashamed to organise an anti-terrorist convention in Baghdad. It is a government that is riddled with corruption which, in my opinion, is a major cause leading to the dominance of terrorists and their freely movement in the country.
It has been four years since the Nouri Al Maliki government was put together. And after these four blood-drenched years, Iraq still does not have a minister of defence, a minister of interior or a minister of national security. All these “security ministries” are headed primarily by Al Maliki himself and are run by deputy ministers with limited powers, which is very clearly reflected in their extremely poor performance.
The military and police are both supplied with huge budgets, but the corruption rate is so high that all the finances are pilfered.
In the ongoing Ramadi clashes between the army and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), soldiers are known to be defecting — not because they are cowards or unpatriotic, but because of the ridiculous measures followed by the army top brass in not knowing how to deal with the other side, which is armed with guerrilla war tactics and a huge weapon arsenal.
To protect themselves from Isil terrorists at night, who attack Iraqi army camps with suicide bombers and vehicles packed with explosives, Iraqi soldiers resort to opening fire throughout the night to drive the terrorists away. In the morning, ministry committees pay visits to these camps and inspect the ammunition used for protection. The poor Iraqi soldiers then have to pay from their meagre salaries for the bullets used in self-defence!
One army commander once told me: “If our dilapidated for-wheel drives collapse, we round up five officers, give them leave for 10 days on condition that they will fix the vehicle on their own expense.” Puzzled, I asked the man if these tactics that were used in Saddam Hussain’s days were still in use today, he said, yes, the very same tactics were being used by the same ex-Baathist commanders in high places, appointed by none other than the current General Commander of the Iraqi Army — Al Maliki!
The bad news is that Al Maliki wants to run for office for a third term.
True, Iraq has been plagued with violence for years. However, 2013 was the bloodiest year since the sectarian violence began to decrease in 2008, with a total of 8,868 Iraqis killed in 2013.
Among the recommendations adopted by the anti-terrorism conference is one regarding international exchange of expertise and information related to money laundering and financing terrorism. This move, coming from Iraq, seems unconvincing. The Iraqi government was not able to make use of even one single bit of information coming from East or West to prevent a bomb blast because as long as the current political process is on and different political parties and blocs have their share of Iraq’s oil wealth, nothing else will matter.
And up till this very day, bomb detectors that were imported by Iraq from the West, and that have proved to be total flops, are still in use, leading to the death of tens of Iraqis every day in car bomb blasts.
Video footage from the anti-terrorism conference showed Al Maliki chewing his nails, even as a female member of parliament from his political bloc was busy fishing out a pastry from inside her LV handbag. In fact, the only thing that was a success at the conference was the more than $100,000 (Dh367,800) buffet for the participants.
Fingernails and soggy home-made pastries prevailed over a well-set plan, simply because Iraq has become the biggest failed state since the warring African states of the 20th Century.