Uniting against a common enemy

14 August 2014

Nouri al-Maliki’s position became untenable as allies lost patience with reaction to Islamist advance

With Al-Maliki ousted from power by members of his own parliamentary coalition, his eight-year tenure as prime minister will not be looked at favourably by those pushing for a unified, stable Iraq.

After the State of Law coalition’s victory in the April parliamentary elections, it appeared Al-Maliki would lead Iraq for another four years, pushing the same sectarian policies that had marginalised Sunni and Kurdish politicians from government in his previous two terms.

However, the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis) militants in northern Iraq from late June created a situation where his claim to the premiership appeared untenable to both the incumbent’s allies in government and external powers.

Critics of Al-Maliki have argued that his alienation of the country’s large Sunni minority created enough resentment in western and northern Iraq to create a groundswell of support for the Islamist militants.

Whatever Al-Maliki’s role in the spread of Isis, it soon became clear that he was unable to counter the military threat just two and a half years after the exit of US forces.

The agreement of the US and bitter regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia on his removal shows the extent of mistrust that has grown between the former prime minister and his erstwhile backers in Washington and Tehran.

Prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi appears, initially at least, to have support from some Sunni politicians in addition to widespread support from Shia and Kurdish parties.

The move has coincided with a thaw in relations between Baghdad and Erbil, with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) under pressure from the US and Iran to work more closely with the central government to combat Isis.

The militant group has inadvertently created such a large threat to the stability of Iraq that all major actors in the conflict have, for the moment, united against the common enemy.

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