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Political Crisis in Iraq Deepens Amid Maliki Threats

As the Iraqi situation worsens in multiple regions — including the provinces of Anbar, Wasit and Kirkuk, among others — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is threatening to quell these protests and warning of a possible civil war, in light of the Kurdistan Regional Government's multiple threats to secede from the motherland.

Salah al-Obeidi, a Sadrist movement leader and spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr, announced that the movement will continue to defend all oppressed detainees in Iraq without discrimination, be they Sunni or Shiite. This may complicate the Iraqi political situation, after demonstrators in Anbar took to the streets over the past two weeks and blocked the road linking Iraq to Jordan and Syria, demanding the ousting of the regime and the release of female detainees.

Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is now part of the conflict against Maliki. He convened parliament, but there was no quorum due to the absence of Maliki's bloc and some supporting parliamentary blocs, such as the Islamic Virtue Party. That has increased tension between Maliki and some of his opponents during this sensitive stage.

The relations between Iraq and Turkey are undoubtedly worsening after Maliki accused Turkey of trying to divide Iraq by supporting Kurdistan. According to Maliki, Turkish intervention would open the door for other interventions, especially since the Turkish prime minister has embraced the fugitive vice president of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashimi, who is accused of leading terrorist operations in Iraq through his companions, a charge he denies.

These disputes between the Iraqi prime minister and a number of Iraqi communities, particularly Sunnis and Kurds from the north, will escalate tensions in Iraq and dramatically increase defections. This will lead to the unfortunate establishment of Sunni and Shiite cantons in Iraq, based on Maliki's recent positions and threats to impose the state's authority on Anbar, Kirkuk and other regions by force.

According to political observers, US President Barack Obama's support for Maliki is the major reason behind the prime minister's refusal to comply with the wishes of the Iraqi people. The observers believe that this explains why Maliki has resumed his cooperation with Iran in the face of the Sunni demands — especially considering that Maliki had already labelled the disputed areas as mixed areas that contain a mixture of Kurds and Shiites, in a bid to strip the Kurds of their right to claim these areas.

Foreign newspapers have analyzed and remarked on the seriousness of Maliki’s actions. The British Financial Times recently said that the Iraqi prime minister has been busy centralizing power in the country to such a degree that it has begun to resemble the situation under the late President Saddam Hussein.

Add to this that pro-Maliki members of parliament have held meetings in various regions without inviting Nujaifi to cooperate and come to an understanding. They are even distributing pictures of Maliki in some provinces, which confirms that Maliki prefers to support his list at the expense of others. But he still claims to be a man of all Iraqis.

These crises plaguing Iraq will cost the state dearly. They disrupt the economy, security and public order and fragment Iraq’s social fabric. This current crisis has undermined the democratic system and has reduced chances for stability, development and investment. It should be noted that many Iraqis had high hopes in this regard.

This crisis is detrimental to Iraqi politicians' reputations, especially those who stick to power despite their rivals' victory in the election. This weakens their popularity and reveals that Iraqi politicians are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Popular resentment toward the performance of the government is increasing by the day, and people are calling for a radical change in the Iraqi political system. The partisan law must prevent the establishment of political parties based on religious, sectarian, zonal or ethnic factors. It should contribute to preventing the use of religion and doctrine for political reasons, which requires amending the constitution, particularly the clauses that address sectarianism and factionalism. The constitution should be for all Iraqis and should seek to provide them with services without any discrimination in the laws and regulations.

Maliki places full responsibility on the parliament and Nujaifi for cancelling the laws of legal accountability, justice and the fight against terrorism. He has pointed out more than once that his government has abided by the Constitution and its legislative power. He says that the security forces should prevent the enemies of the political process, such as armed and terrorist groups, from infiltrating demonstrations and should disrupt their attempts to spread chaos and unrest, threaten national unity and civil peace and drag Iraq into sectarian fighting.

Maliki should consider the developments in Syria and other Arab countries in order to avoid a new Arab spring in Iraq, especially considering that Iraq has incurred major losses in the Syrian uprising's aftermath. The Iranian role was clearly undermined by events, disturbances, scenes of death and destruction in Syria, thus increasing the Sunni-Shiite sensitivities in the region.

Maliki must move as soon as possible to achieve a clear settlement with his Iraqi partners. He should offer concessions regarding the amendment of the Constitution and some laws and regulations from a position of strength, with a goal of protecting Iraq from the specter of division, fragmentation and disintegration that comes from Syria as a result of the Arab revolutions. Maliki should prevent the establishment of new Iraqi entities that would lead to such a division. He should address the situation with the Kurds in the north and resolve the issue of Hashimi in order to reach an understanding and consensus among Sunnis and Shiites. Maliki's actions and practices indicate the further exacerbation of an already mounting crisis.

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