There is a sharp counterpoint to the happy talk between President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Malaki at the White House. It comes from Deputy Prime Minister Salah al-Mutlaq, a leading Sunni politician who was part of the Iraqiya party which won more votes than al-Maliki’s Dawa party in the last election. In an interview with CNN, he warns that al-Maliki is becoming a new “dictator”:
“The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship,” he said. “People are not going to accept that, and most likely they are going to ask for the division of the country. And this is going to be a disaster. Dividing the country isn’t going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that”….
He said U.S. officials, who brokered the power-sharing deal, either “don’t know anything in Iraq and they don’t know what is happening in Iraq, or because they don’t want to admit the reality in Iraq, the failure in Iraq, the failure of this political process that they set in Iraq.”
Perhaps Mutlaq is being hyperbolic; but his words carry weight because of his considerable influence and standing in Iraqi politics. And they reflect the views of other Sunni leaders. Whether they are over-reacting or not doesn’t matter: Their words can become a self-fulfilling prophecy if Sunnis decide to once again take up arms against the government. They also serve as a harsh indictment of the Obama administration, which is taking a “see no evil” attitude toward this strategically important country.