Is Iraq’s Haidar al-Abadi another sectarian leader?
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed
This is what many social media posts claimed as they dug into Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi’s past, posting videos, statements and photos of him claiming they represent his orientations and ideas and calling on many to stand against him. I have reviewed many of these posts and while I cannot confirm what they imply about Abadi, I can say that the man deserves to be given a chance as he’s the choice of the Iraqi people’s representatives and he’s also supported by Sunni, Arab and Kurdish parliamentarians and politicians.
Indeed, past experiences with Twitter, Facebook and untrusted websites have taught us that news reports carried on these sites are not always credible. They are also full of intentionally forged information. Where they do contain factual information, it is often fragmented or introduced in a manner that prevents readers from reaching objective conclusions.
We all hope that the new prime minister is a national leader for all Iraqis and that he builds a flourishing state that puts Iraq among the ranks of progressive countries and restores hope and trust in the political system.
Abadi is not known for being linked to any extremist political stance, unless we recall periods of disturbances and electoral controversies. Abadi succeeds Nouri al-Maliki, who has unfortunately belittled himself and his post. Maliki transformed from being a leader of all Iraqis into a mere politician seeking to dominate all establishments. He ended up a worse model than dictator Saddam Hussein.
Abadi’s nomination came with one condition – that he not be another Maliki
Ultimate political control
Despite this, the problem was not with Maliki, but with the political system which – after he became a prime minister appointed in an alliance with other parties – allowed him to seize all political, legislative and military jurisdictions. Those who at first supported Maliki for sectarian or partisan reasons have learnt that he, like any other dictator, will not stop until he seizes ultimate control. Shiite leaderships complained about his practices and that he would resort to security and intelligence apparatuses to threaten and blackmail them. He later dared to pursue his own allies and political comrades! In the end, everyone hated him and called for removing him although he managed, through exploitation and forgery, to attain enough votes – from Sunni as well as Shiite parliamentarians – to be re-elected.
Abadi’s nomination came with one condition – that he not be another Maliki. This is what local, tribal, partisan and sectarian powers agreed to, and this is what we hope. He was appointed by parties who fought each other in the past and who finally agreed on the concept of “an Iraqi state for all Iraqis” and in which the prime minister, speaker and president represent a political system that in turn represents everyone. This serves the interests of Shiites before the Sunnis and interests of the Arabs before the Kurds and the Turkmens.
The prime minister, if he wants, could choose to focus his job on serving only his sect. He could also choose to focus on his districts and rewrite the constitution with the aim of serving only one group. In this case, however, Iraq as we know it would be no more – it would become a smaller and weaker state in a sea of bigger and stronger regional countries.
The appointment Abadi as prime minister brought a wave of optimism because Maliki’s departure itself a victory for the political process and for the new Iraqi system. I am confident that if Maliki had managed to impose himself as a prime minister for a third term – as he tried to fight for until the last minute – he would have ended up hanged in one of Baghdad’s squares after four years. His end would have been the same as that of the dictators who preceded him. He was a horrific tyrant, and the whole world has seen how he exploited his personal forces and whatever he put his hands on to impose himself and obstruct the naming of Abadi.
We hope the Iraqis will be able to unite under Abadi’s administration and that Iraq can begin a new phase which the new prime minister can launch by taking measures that will restore confidence in the political system, the post of the prime minister as well as the trust of the countries’ components.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.