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The Lost Potential of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 1:47pm

By: Nick Stumo-Langer ’15

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Malaki is, seemingly, on his way out of the Iraqi political scene. With damaged credibility and a startlingly stratified country, Maliki’s third bid for Prime Minister was ill-advised at best. Many blame him for the Iraqi army’s dismal response to the enormous threat ISIS has posed to the region, resulting in a vast takeover of land from the Syrian border to past Mosul in the north and as far east as Fallujah.

1 Credit: Outside the Beltway (6/30/14)

Al-Malaki is being replaced by the newly elected President Fuad Masum, however, more than an unfortunate story for Malaki personally; this defeat is a defeat for the entire region.

Nouri al-Malaki, the first nationally elected leader of post-war Iraq, is the leader of the Shia Dawa Party and could have proved to be a uniting figure, flying in the face of Iranian intemperance. Between former Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khamenei and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the modern Middle East has not experienced a moderate, peaceful Shia leader.

What is needed and what Malaki potentially could have been for the world’s population of Shia Muslims, could be a moderate voice in the “perpetual” conflict between Islam’s most populous sects.

Iraqi political leadership is ripe for a moderate voice, post-Saddam Hussein the mosaic population of Kurds, Sunnis and Shias could have produced a successful pluralistic society. For now, the opportunity is lost; Malaki has shored up support from regional leader Iran to the detriment of relations with Saudi Arabia and their allies in the region (including the United States). One side isn’t necessarily better than the other, however, and by steering a middle path Malaki’s Iraq could have been better served.

Now, with the threat of ISIS looming large over the region, the autonomous Kurdish region taking on a bigger role to defend their territory, and the Shia-led government in Baghdad fumbling through a new Prime Minister appointment, the time has passed for a strong national coalition, the fight is at the front door.

Why “Breaking” the Middle East is Simultaneously Disingenuous and Condescending

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 12:22pm

By Nick Stumo-Langer ’15

Last month, Politico Magazine released a magazine article titled “The Man Who Broke the Middle East.” It was written by former Bush national security advisor, Elliot Abrams. In it, Abrams details why the Middle East is much worse off than it was before President Obama took office. He provides evidence by explaining the new conflict in Iraq under the onslaught of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq & Syria), Afghanistan’s “rigged” elections, Arab Spring Revolutions all throughout the region (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain), and the continual failure of peace negotiations between Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine.

The article supports the perception that every one of these problems has, seemingly, been subject to Mr. Obama’s failure of a foreign policy doctrine – which is simultaneously why and how they came about.

I find this belief is unbelievably arrogant, but not for the reason you might think.

President Obama has had significant failings in his foreign policy – the Syrian “red line” and the insistence to neglect the reality of coups in Egypt are two examples. Obama has not, however, “broken” the Middle East. This implication is disturbing because it assumes a Western leader can single-handedly ruin the entire region of the Middle East.

The author’s mindset assumes that the governments and people in the Middle East are not self-determining and are only subject to whatever policies Western countries decide for them, bent askew to the will of the President of the United States and leaders of the European Union.

This jingoistic mentality cannot, for example, begin to comprehend the types of social, economic, technological and political trends that contributed to the outbreak of revolution across the Middle East in the spring of 2011. Abrams uses the Arab Spring as a talking point, blaming Obama for the instability and violence it has fashioned.

In Egypt, for example, decades under the brutal dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, sparked by the ambivalence of the traditionally supportive military and fanned with the self-immolation of Muhamed Bouazizi in Tunisia led to the abdication of President Mubarak. The United States was reluctant to recognize the transformation as legitimate and, especially in context of the events now occurring in Egypt, has been attempting to “keep up” with the shifting political situation there.

In many places of the Middle East, turmoil and fear rules the regional outlook. The United States is not blameless in this worldview and, as any powerful nation in this interconnected world, has contributed to the development of the modern Middle East. There is a significant amount to be fearful of in the region these days and the political responsibility lies on national and regional leaders.

Saudi Arabia, the Sunni-led monarchy which is generally thought to hold significant sway over the Sunni sect of Islam and Iran, the Shi’ite-led republic which claims sway over the regions Shi’ites hold a responsibility to all members of the region. This is due to the fact that if the region does better economically and politically, both Saudi Arabia and Iran will do better economically and politically.

Realistically, regional development is the most self-centered and viable option for improvement in the Middle East. The most pertinent example of this would be the current crisis in Iraq.

ISIS and their leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, are Sunni Islamist militants and, therefore, Saudi Arabia has an obligation to intervene in the interest of the economic and political well-being of the entire region.

It is necessary to recognize that these issues do not have easy answers and things will often not work out as planned, that is just the honest and simple truth. The stripping away of the possibility of self-determination is bigoted and paternalistic and a Western leader cannot just “break” the Middle East on its own.

While the region is under the influence of multiple, foreign forces, it still has autonomy and the ability to change its own situation.


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