THE HUFFINGTON POST- Struan Stevenson- MEP, President of European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq
The current uprising in Iraq has come as no surprise to those of us who have watched the deteriorating situation over the past 18 months. Residents of six Sunni provinces of Iraq staged sit-ins in December 2012 to protest against widespread repression and executions by the government of Nouri-al-Maliki.
The Shiite Prime Minister completely reneged on all of his commitments and agreements after assuming the US-brokered Premiership in 2010, thus fuelling sectarian strife by purging and marginalizing Sunnis and Kurds. The peaceful protests in Sunni provinces and in parts of Baghdad were confronted by suppression and lethal attacks by the Iraqi military under direct orders from Maliki. If the early warnings were not enough for the West, they were enough for people and tribes in these provinces, especially al-Anbar, who have been forced to defend themselves.
Many of Iraq's wounds are self-inflicted, resulting from failed political leadership. The World Bank lists Iraq as having one of the worst qualities of governance in the world. 'Transparency International' lists Iraq as one of the world's most corrupt countries. It has a dreadful human rights record and now is in third place after only China and neighbouring Iran in the number of people it executes. In spite of vast oil revenues, per capita income is only $1,000 per year, making it one of the world's poorest countries.
Nouri al-Maliki has focused all of his efforts on remaining in power, steadily becoming more authoritarian and repressive and implementing sectarian policies that led directly to ethnic polarisation. By tightly controlling the military and security forces from his own office, he has ensured that the very forces that could have guaranteed stability and an end to conflict have contributed to the exact opposite.
He has used those forces, with direct assistance from the fascist Iranian regime, repeatedly to attack, kidnap and murder the innocent and defenceless minorities in some of Iraq's major provinces. The predictable result has been a violent reaction by these citizens, notably the Sunnis and the alienation and growing disillusion of the Kurds. Maliki's genocidal campaign against the Sunni population of al-Anbar province has raged on for many months, inevitably sucking in spillover elements from the Syrian civil war, including factions of Al Qaeda and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Greater Syria), who have capitalized on the fear and loathing of Maliki by the Sunni population.
Neither is it surprising that the popular uprising of the Sunnis followed immediately after the Iraqi elections, which were held on 30th April. It is widely believed that the results of the election are a sham. Few people accept that Maliki's 'State of Law' Party could have won 92 seats - three more than last time - following years of violence, venal corruption, repression and economic failure. There is also considerable skepticism about the alleged 62% turnout at the elections. With vicious shelling and barrel bomb attacks on schools, hospitals and civilian targets in Fallujah and Ramadi and more than 4,000 deaths so far this year in Iraq, many political leaders think that such a large voter turnout was a fiction.
Political leaders in Iraq have also expressed their dismay at widespread vote rigging during the elections. Ayad Allawi, leader of al Iraqiya, claimed that two million ballot papers were missing, raising deep suspicions that major electoral fraud took place. News that all Iraqi police and army personnel were issued with two ballot papers each, one in their camps and the other sent to their homes, compounded fears that the election was rigged.
The tribes-people of al-Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin decided enough was enough! They rose up in anger and frustration against Maliki's military forces whose troops quickly threw down their weapons, tore off their uniforms and fled. In a panic, Maliki claimed that terrorists had taken over Iraq's second largest city Mosul, pleading with the US for military intervention. He even invited Iran to send additional aid to bolster their elite Revolutionary guards Corps (IRGC) and terrorist QUDS force who are already on the ground in Iraq.
For the mullahs in Tehran, the fall of Maliki and his replacement with a non-sectarian, fully democratic government in Baghdad would be anathema and the Iranian President Rouhani has already stated that he will intervene in Iraq to stop the terrorists.
There is no doubt that the disruption and mistakes made by the US and UK following the 2003 invasion have contributed to Iraq's current predicament and its years of failed governance. Constant interference and manipulation by Iran has exacerbated this situation and helped to divide the nation further.
The US, UN and the EU must now face up to their responsibilities. Instead of helping Maliki, they should insist on his replacement by a non-sectarian Prime Minister who can lead a government of all the Iraqi people. Iraq's survival depends on the willingness of its leaders to turn away from a narrow focus on their own power, wealth, ethnicity and faction.