Following the shock of dramatic changes that have taken place with lightening speed, a question keeps surfacing: Is what we are witnessing in Iraq an uprising by Iraqis or an attack by a terrorist group?
Maliki and his patrons in Tehran are insistent on the claim that regions of Iraq have fallen into the hands of extremist terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL). But this claim is ludicrous and defies logic. The liberation of approximately 100,000 square kilometers of Iraqi territory with a population of several million in a matter of a few days could not possibly be the work of an isolated extremist group with no more than several thousand, and probably no more than several hundred members. There are increasingly many indications that it is tribes and ordinary Iraqi citizens who have risen up in anger against Maliki.
The contrary claim is not the result of a simple misunderstanding of the situation, but has clear ulterior motives. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, Maliki and the Iranian regime are attempting to justify the interference of the Iranian terrorist Qods Force and the invasion of Iraq by the revolutionary guards. At the same time, they are trying to encourage the United States to militarily interfere in favor of Maliki, in an even more dangerous repeat of its previous blunder in Iraq.
This angle on the latest developments is very revealing. The Iranian regime is now poised to save Maliki. In a telephone conversation, President Hassan Rouhani has promised Maliki every kind of cooperation. Fox News wrote on June 13: "Some 150 fighters from the Revolutionary Guards elite Quds force have already been dispatched by Tehran, and the division's powerful commander, Qassem Suleimani, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday and pledged to send two notorious Iranian brigades to aid in the defense of Baghdad."
On June 12, the Wall Street Journal wrote: "At least three battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of the Guards, were dispatched to aid in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an offshoot of al Qaeda rapidly gaining territory across Iraq." The article went on: "One Guards unit that was already in Iraq fought alongside the Iraqi army, offering guerrilla warfare advice and tactics and helped reclaim most of the city of Tikrit on Thursday; two Guards' units, dispatched from Iran's western border provinces on Wednesday, were tasked with protecting Baghdad and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf."
One can safely assume that this is only a partial reflection of the reality regarding Tehran's direct involvement to save Maliki.
In addition to the IRGC, Maliki is using the paramilitary forces associated with the Iranian regime
such as Asai'b Ahl al-Haq and Kata'eb Hezbollah to suppress the popular uprising.
Reports on Nineveh and Salahaddin provinces filed by journalists from CNN, al-Jazeera and BBC, among others, supported the claim that no violence or aggression has been carried out against the indigenous population. This does not fit the pattern of random violence and spread of intimidation that is the trademark of terrorist groups. The residents of these areas are happy that Maliki's forces have fled and public and private properties now enjoy relative security. The mass exodus of refugees from these cities is due to the bombardment by Maliki's forces, although 48 hours after the liberation of Nineveh, the wave of refugees has markedly ebbed and some have already begun to return.
Yesterday, in its 12-article statement, the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, which plays an important role in developments in the country, called on the insurgents to treat people well, help solve their problems, treat the ethnic groups well, refrain from taking hostages, forgive and forget, and treat believers of all religions without prejudice. In this framework, the armed tribes refrained from entering Samarra in Salahaddin Province where the shrine of two Shiite Imams is located.
They are instead trying to gain control of the city through negotiations with the government forces in order to prevent any killings and bloodshed.
What we are witnessing in Iraq is the eruption of years of popular loathing and disillusionment brought on by Maliki and his clique. The West in general and the US in particular facilitated Maliki's ascent to power. So it is time for us to see the bitter reality as it is. Maliki has been a total failure, a disaster. The more he insists on staying in power, the more the Iraqi political system will become a quagmire.
In order to avert further bloodshed in Iraq, Maliki must be removed from power, Iranian meddling in the country must come to an end, and the international community must oversee the formation of a nationalist, democratic and non-sectarian government that encompasses all segments of Iraqi society. This solution is widely supported by Iraqi nationalistic and democratic forces. Instead of assisting Maliki, which would only lead to more blood being spilled, the United States and the European Union should force Maliki to accept the only viable solution and immediately step down from power.
Struan Stevenson MEP, is President of European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq