January 16, 2014

In Late October Iraqi PM Maliki Asked D.C. For Help To Fight Al-Qaeda; Former Sec. of Defense Gates Says In A BBC Interview Washington Will Give It On The Condition That Maliki Reaches Out To Sunnis

Photo of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shaking hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki in 2011.

In late October, Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki visited Washington to meet with President Obama. He also used the occasion to attend a talk at the U.S. Institute of Peace where he discussed the reasons for Iraq's current problems, the regional effects of the ongoing war in Syria, and the future of Iraq and the region as a whole.

At the time, Maliki asked Washington for help to fight al-Qaeda, specifically in terms of giving his government military hardware. You can watch the whole video here, it was published by the U.S. Institute of Peace on November 5, 2013. An excerpt from the talk is provided below.

In a recent interview with BBC, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that Washington would consider helping Maliki's government fight al-Qaeda after their takeover of Anbar province on the condition that he reaches out to Sunni tribal leaders and the Sunni community more generally. Gates said Maliki's alienation of Sunnis and the spillover effects of the war in Syria have both contributed to al-Qaeda re-ascendancy in Fallujah and other cities in western Iraq.

In the interview, Gates said: "In the last couple of years, Prime Minister Maliki has been as antagonistic to the Sunnis in Iraq as he could be. He's tried to arrest his Sunni Vice President Hashemi, he's tried to arrest other Sunni officials, he's not done anything to help the Sunnis in Anbar province. . . The question is whether what has happened in Fallujah and Ramadi has served as a wake-up call to Maliki that he has to reach out to the Sunnis. There are some signs that he is beginning to do that. . . But the other factor has been the civil war in Syria, and the spillover of that conflict into Iraq and into western Iraq. Maliki couldn't do much about that." He added that the U.S. should arm Maliki's government but, "it needs to be conditioned on Maliki reaching out to the Sunnis and trying much harder to make them an integral part of the Iraqi government and Iraqi society." Watch a clip from the interview below.

For more information about Iraq's current state, read "Iraq: Moderates are hard to find as 'bad old days' return in Baghdad" by Michael Holmes, CNN, January 15. An excerpt:
Dr. Ayad Allawi was Iraq's first post-Saddam head of government, serving as interim Prime Minister in 2004 and 2005. Tough as nails, but a committed secularist, he looks at his country today with more than a dose of pessimism.

"Unfortunately the country is moving on a sectarian road now," he tells me as we sit in his office, hidden behind blast walls and protected by government and private security.

"It was very dangerous to start with, and I warned leaders in the region. (Now) Iraq has started a civil war -- it hasn't reached the point of no return, but if it does then the whole region will burn up."

He points the finger of blame in many directions, from Syria to the U.S. to Iran, but mainly at the man who now holds his old job -- Prime Minister al-Maliki.

"He doesn't believe in power sharing, he doesn't believe in reconciliation," Allawi says. "He promised to do these things once he became Prime Minister, but in effect he talks against this -- accusing everyone else of being a terrorist, or corrupt, or extremist and so on.

"Authoritarian regimes don't work in this country -- we tried this before and it didn't work. No one sect can rule, no one party can rule, no one man can rule -- we want a democratic country but this is not, unfortunately, what this government wants."

Iraq's Maliki Asks for Help

Robert Gates 'Iraq PM Maliki Antagonizing Sunnis.' Source: BBC News. Date Published: January 16.