Are we leaving Iraq on schedule?

Scott Sadler Contributor
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Instead of bringing reconciliation to his country, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is throwing up barrier after barrier.  On Friday, he became incensed over former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s call for further international involvement stemming from the March 7 elections.  This, despite the fact, that Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, suggested intervention by the international community may be needed.  “We will not allow any foreign interference in our internal affairs that will breach our sovereignty,” Mr. Maliki said.  Breach our sovereignty?  It appears the Prime Minister is well on his way to accomplishing this himself.

Mr. Maliki continues to defend his call for a recount that is scheduled to start today and suggested any thinking to the contrary is tantamount to a coup.  “Why this big fuss and weeping in the world over the recount issue,” he asks.  His non-acceptance of the vote is beginning to make clear that this is all about Mr. Maliki rather than the future of Iraq.

It is past time for President Obama and other world leaders to speak up at this attempt to hijack Iraq’s future.  According to Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy, “the White House maintains that this is exactly what it is doing, even if the public can’t see it.” Tell that to Mr. Zebari who says the U.S. and Great Britain have been “absent in this election, and this has made matters more difficult.” In an Op-Ed in Friday’s Washington Post, Frederick W. and Kimberly Kagan were right to say that “the United States must protect the electoral process from politicians (and external actors) seeking to manipulate its outcome.”

All of this as Mr. Zebari suggests that President Obama curtail the August deadline for sending home all but 50,000 U.S. Soldiers from Iraq.  Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said repeatedly that the withdrawal is on schedule.

Meanwhile, life goes on in much of the country while the Prime Minister continues his efforts at a power grab.  Despite the occasional attacks, there are positive developments taking place.  On Friday, graduates at The University of Technology, in downtown Baghdad, threw one of their biggest shindigs since the early days of the war.  Leena Muthanna, a metallurgy engineering graduate, told the New York Times she would rather go to work in the private sector than the government.  That’s understandable given the current upheaval.  She is, however, one of many optimistic Iraqis.  “The days when militias used to control our lives inside the universities are gone.  We play tennis with our female colleagues, go on picnics and behave normally as friends and classmates. We are free now.”

Tell that one to the Prime Minister. Unless he is unsuccessful in his attempts to hold power then you have to ask yourself, what does “free” mean these days in Iraq?

Scott Sadler is an experienced communicator with an in-depth expertise with crisis communications who has served in senior level positions in the federal government, Capitol Hill, and in a military theater of operation.