For many in the U.S., the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq has been an occasion forsettling scores and playing “what-if” games with history. Iraqis don’t have that luxury — as evidenced by the day’s wave of bombings and assassinations that left at least 50 dead.
For Iraq, this anniversary underscores the need for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to find a new sense of responsibility and engagement. Otherwise, the country’s future may be as dark as its recent past.
The latest political crisis in Baghdad stems from the resignation of Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi at a March 1 rally of fellow members of Iraq’s Sunni minority. They were protesting what they view as efforts by Maliki, a Shiite, to trample their rights.
Many Iraqis think Maliki’s strong-arm moves in recent months — detaining thousands of Sunnis on terrorism-related charges, arresting Issawi’s bodyguards in December and forcing through a 2013 budget that shortchanged Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on oil revenue — were designed to consolidate his support among Shiite hardliners. If so, the strategy doesn’t seem to have worked: The charismatic Shiite cleric Moqtada al- Sadr has begun holding his own anti-government rallies. The favorite guessing game in Baghdad these days is whether Sadr will join with the pan-sectarian Iraqiya Bloc to try to force Maliki from power now, or bide his time until next year’s parliamentary elections.