The last few weeks have shown an uptick in violence throughout Iraq in comparison to the relative calm the nation has experienced over the last few years. Iraq is in far better shape but the inability to form a government over two months after the March 7elections has given the insurgency another reason to strike. It’s also another reason that Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, could delay the start of the Aug. 31 “waterfall” drawdown of 46,000 U.S. Soldiers by one month to June. A senior official in Baghdad told the Associated Press that “from a military perspective, the best way for us to maintain security is to hold as many forces on the ground until we need to redeploy them. It’s really prudent, given the political conditions are unsettled, for (Odierno) to wait as long as he can.”
On Monday, over 100 people were killed in coordinated attacks around the country in what is being billed as “Iraq’s most lethal day of the year,” according to McClatchy Newspapers. “The violence added to fears that political uncertainty could further destabilize the country,” wrote the AP.
It’s obvious that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s election fight has fueled recent attacks. A member of the Iraqi Security Forces seems to agree. “This is a struggle for power—none of the citizens are blindfolded—we can all see and understand the situation. I blame the government for this,” the officer told the Christian Science Monitor. It doesn’t help that Mr. Maliki is still maneuvering to stay on as leader. “Unless the U.S. does more to address the Iraqi prime minister’s postelection moves, billions of dollars and thousands of lives could be for naught,” said Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations in a recent op-ed in The Los Angeles Times.
It isn’t like former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi hasn’t been willing to reach out. Mr. Allawi has been trying for weeks to meet with Mr. Maliki but he isn’t making himself available. Mr. Allawi remains defiant. “We won’t stand still if the harm against Iraqiya continues,” alluding to efforts to disqualify winning candidates of his coalition. That impasse seems over with the agreement this week that would end the barring of candidates from political life for ties to the Baath Party. The news would seem to put Mr. Allawi on track to form a government but the recount of votes is still underway in the capitol city.
Mr. Maliki is the man at the center of these troubling developments. Instead of showing real leadership to his fellow Iraqis, he has hidden behind court orders, ballot recounts, and a sustained effort to hijack a democracy that many Iraqis have come to embrace. Following the attacks, Gen. Ralph Baker, one of three deputy commanding generals for U.S. Soldiers in central Iraq, said the violence “won’t reignite sectarian violence, they won’t prevent the government from forming. And based on what we are seeing, al Qaeda is being rejected by the Iraqi population.” Mr. Allawi had stronger language if conditions continue to deteriorate: “This conflict will not remain within the borders of Iraq. It will spill over and it has the potential to reach the world at large, not just neighboring countries.”
I sincerely hope Gen. Baker is right and Mr. Allawi is wrong but it all goes back to Mr. Maliki. The Prime Minister would be wise to heed the words of our 16th president: “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”
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.