The political situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki already stands accused of ordering the arrest and torture of aides to the Sunni vice president, Tariq al Hashimi. Now an arrest warrant has been issued for Hashimi himself based on the coerced confessions which were aired on television, in the best Stalinist show-trial tradition.
Hashimi is hiding out in the Kurdish region to avoid government security forces. Maliki has also asked the parliament to adopt a no-confidence motion in the Sunni deputy prime minister, Salah al Mutlaq, who has publicly accused Maliki of becoming a dictator.
In response, the Iraqiya bloc, the major secular party which includes many Sunnis, is boycotting parliament and threatening to quit the government. Two Sunni provinces, Salahuddin and Diyala, have declared their intention to form an autonomous region, a move Maliki vows to block. Most ominously of all, Sunnis are openly talking about re-starting armed resistance which most of them had given up in 2007-2008.
Is it just a coincidence that this–the worst crisis Iraq has seen since 2007–has unfolded just as U.S. troops have left the country? Hardly. U.S. forces performed a vital role as peacekeepers and stabilizers and honest brokers. With the Americans gone, a tenuous peace may not last much longer.
What we are seeing is a terrible tragedy: the Obama administration, by prematurely withdrawing, risks undoing all that U.S., Iraqi, and allied troops have fought so hard to achieve. Does President Obama care? Does he even notice what is happening as he continues to thump his chest about his success in “ending” the war? He should.
The polls may show wide approval of the withdrawal now, but if Iraq spins out of control, the verdict of voters–and historians–will not be so charitable. Indeed, history may conclude that the only blunder greater than the manner in which the U.S. entered Iraq was the manner in which we left it.