Is Iraq on Its Way to a Civil War?
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In recent weeks, large and frequent demonstrations across the Sunni areas of Baghdad and in the cities of Ramadi, Mosul, Samara and Tikrit, have demanded improved living conditions, an end to government discrimination against former Baathists, and a nullification of the de-Baathification laws. Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni deputy prime minister echoing others, has demanded the resignation of the Nuri al-Maliki’s government. And the Sunni speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, in January called for an amnesty law to free Sunnis detained on what Sunnis say are discriminatory charges of terrorism.
The prime minister, while releasing some female prisoners, has called for the demonstrations to cease in the interest of national security. He is bolstered by counter-demonstrations demanding the maintenance of the status quo, and rightfully expressed fears of any Baathist return to power.
Mr. al-Maliki has had an historic opportunity to unify Iraq and move it forward economically. He may still have time, but he must start by ending the violence and changing his own policies, including the use of authoritarian and undemocratic methods to govern. Iraqis have suffered too much.
But one man alone cannot transform the entire landscape. First, Mr. Allawi needs to suspend his burning desire to become a prime minister. Others - from the Kurds, and Sunni and Shia leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr - need to cooperate in earnest with the government for the sake of national unity. It will take such herculean efforts to stop Iraq from sliding into a civil war.