Just months following Hashimi’s conviction, in December 2012, Maliki ordered the arrest of 10 bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi. Maliki then pushed back on criticism that he was targeting Sunnis. “Sunnis, Shiites and all the people must know that carrying out arrest warrants against suspects doesn’t mean targeting a specific sect,” he said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
But the arrests and political maneuvering continued. He soon began wielding the laws of “de-Baathification.” Intended to blot out the lingering power structure of Saddam Hussein, the policy was “used to exclude Sunnis from government jobs and election ballots,” Filkins wrote.
The outcome divided a country that needs unity to repel a surging Islamic State, which made significant gains last week before being targeted by U.S. airstrikes. In Sunni-dominated provinces, where the militants captured most of their territory, residents fed up with Maliki have supported the Islamic State. And in Baghdad, many Sunnis expressed similar resentment, reported The Post’s Abigail Hauslohner.
Maliki has chosen political opportunism over Iraq’s salvation, critics allege. “What comes next will be important, but what is clear now, is that Maliki has failed,” wrote Samuel Morris, a research fellow with the Middle East Research Institute.
“Every move that al-Maliki has made in the last month has been the wrong one, if the aim is to decrease tension and increase the chances that Iraq maintains its current tenuous makeup,” reported the Soufan Group. “He has chosen sectarianism over nationalism.”
Indeed, last month, CNN reported that Maliki removed Kurdish Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, further straining relations with the Kurds.
“Maliki could have been a historic figure,” Adil Abdul al-Mahdi, a former vice president of Iraq, told the New Yorker earlier this year. “The Shiites supported him; he had the support of the Sunnis and the Kurds. But he needed a real partnership. He needed to give some of his power to others…. We have a saying in Arabic: When you want everything, you lose everything.”