Al Maliki steps into Al Hashemi’s shoes

Iraqi Prime Minister Al Abadi still has a long way to go, but he is on the right track

It is a curious twist of irony that the man who pursued the now-fugitive former Iraqi vice-president Tariq Al Hashemi may suffer a similar fate. Iraq’s former premier, and former vice-president Nouri Al Maliki is currently in Iran, where some have suggested that he may never come back from as Baghdad seeks to investigate his role in the fall of Mosul to Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) last year. The move was a milestone for the terror group that allowed it to gain much support among radicals around the globe, as well as territory in Iraq and Syria.

Al Maliki may soon become the very fugitive that he turned Al Hashemi into. Al Hashemi faces an arrest warrant in Iraq for terrorist acts from December 2011, right after US forces withdrew. He denounced the arrest warrant as a politically motivated conspiracy. Al Maliki has similarly dismissed the investigations into his conduct as a conspiracy cooked in Ankara and Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. Incidentally, those are the two cities that hosted Al Hashemi when he fled Baghdad.

While the implication of Al Maliki shows a changing Iraq that is committed to hold officials to account no matter how prominent they are, it may also show a change of heart among Baghdad’s more hawkish backers within its borders and beyond. Al Maliki had long been seen as Iran’s man in Baghdad, but few in Iraq believe that his removal would have been possible without an Iranian nod.

Credit should be given where it is due. While Prime Minister Haidar Al Abadi has a long way to go to repair the damage done by his predecessor, he certainly is on the right track. A next step to build the confidence of Iraq’s public and its neighbours will be to end the marginalisation of those communities that complain of discrimination, bolster a national identity beyond narrow sectarian lines and focus on fighting the real enemy of all of Iraq’s people: Daesh.

This is understandably an ambitious job, but if Al Abadi is serious about it then he will have the support of Iraq’s people, and crucially, its neighbours.