Pressure Mounts On Iraq PM To Resign As Terror Grows

Prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is under pressure. The as he is being accused of playing favourites and overseeing the rise of a terror group that is threatening to tear his country apart.

The calls for him to resign and make way for a more inclusive leader are now growing.

While the US originally backed al-Maliki, it now seems to believe a change of leader could be the key to halting the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which continues to take over territory in northern Iraq.

It has been quite a turnaround. Al-Maliki came to power in Iraq with the backing of the US and Iran after Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. But he has been unable to create a functional political system and there has been growing resentment among Iraq’s Sunni minority against his Shiite-led government.

Al-Maliki was a longtime opponent of Hussein, a Sunni, which is a branch of Islam and the world’s second largest religious body after Christianity.

Sunnis only make up one fifth of the population of Iraq but when Hussein was leader they held most of the positions of power in the country.

Al-Maliki, who is a member of the Shiite majority, was originally seen by the US as an even-handed and moderate leader but since the last of the US troops left in 2012, he has increasingly turned against the Sunnis and Kurds. This includes promoting Shiite officers in the Iraq military who did not deserve it and refusing to share power.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has tapped into discontent over the treatment of Sunnis and its growing influence has heightened pressure on al-Maliki to step aside.

If the Sunni insurgents succeed in their aim to create an Islamic state between Syria and Iraq, this could unsettle the volatile Middle East and serve as a magnet for Jihadists around the world – much like al-Qaeda attracted extremist in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Former US ambassador to Baghdad James Jeffrey said there had been a “definite uptick” in Washington’s criticism of Maliki.

“Everybody is a bit at fault in Iraq on the sectarian thing, but Maliki over time did become more” sectarian, said Jeffrey, who left the post in mid-2012.

“He just isn’t the solution to a unified Iraq.

Officials in the United States and the Middle East have suggested privately that al-Maliki must leave office before Iraq’s Sunnis will believe that their complaints of marginalisation by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad will be addressed.