Maliki: Political Reconciliation Has Already Happened
Marc Lynch, writing over at Abu Aardvark, reports on a recent interview with the Iraqi prime minister:
Last week Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki mocked Iraqis calling for national reconciliation and dismissing them as self-interested conspirators. On Friday, he elaborated on his views of the current Iraqi political scene in a very intriguing, and frankly troubling, interview with al-Arabiya.
…[In the interview, Maliki argued] that Iraqi national reconciliation has not only already been achieved, it is “strong and stable and not fragile”. There is no civil war in Iraq, or even any real sectarian conflict anymore – the sectarian hatreds incited by “some” in the past have been overcome. He made clear that he does not equate national reconciliation with political progress at the national level: “I think that national reconciliation will come about not as some understand it, as a reconciliation with this political party governed by an ideology or a specific mentality.” Real national reconciliation, to Maliki, takes place at the local level, when “you can go into the street and meet with a Sunni in Shia areas or with a Shia in Sunni areas, where they live together once again.” That, he suggests, has happened.
The various Sunni awakenings demonstrate reconciliation at the local level, and their support for his national government. He claims that people who fled mixed Sunni-Shia areas are now returning (or are welcome to do so), and that the people now reject sectarianism in favor of national unity and his government. True, some politicians are still demanding reconciliation, but he dismisses them as “minor political parties” whose tiresome complaints now fall on deaf ears with the people.
…this amounts to a public declaration by Maliki that there will be no further efforts to achieve political reconciliation. Don’t expect any more national reconciliation in the form of “legislation” or “benchmarks”, Maliki is signaling.
At the risk of being too obvious, the implications of Maliki’s shift could be devastating. With not even a show of reconciliation on the national level, Sunnis will feel increasingly marginalized and hopeless. A more vicious civil war would seem inevitable.
Maliki is undoubtedly aware of such consequences, which suggests that a broader sectarian war is a conflict that he’s expecting…and that he thinks the Shiites will win. Disturbingly, if you read the statements of various Sunni militant groups, they don’t agree with this assessment; particularly now that they’ve seen an influx in American weaponry and training (as part of Petraeus’ plan to encourage “Sunni awakenings”), key figures have declared that it is their side that will be victorious if a major struggle for power ensues. What is now clear is that the leadership on both sides of the sectarian divide are blatantly gearing up for a fight once the Americans leave, and they both seem confident of victory.