Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) took over a whole city of several hundred thousand people last week and hard as it may be to believe, that’s not even the worst news for the Maliki government.
The Sunni Arab dominated Anbar Province was already in crisis before AQI snuck in and conquered Fallujah, and while losing a city like that is a really high-profile defeat, the Anbar problem is much bigger than just Fallujah’s temporary loss.
The province is largely in revolt already, because of ill-conceived government policies that have been getting worst for years. They came to a head in December, when Maliki ordered the arrest of a Sunni MP as a “terrorist.”
Maliki has used the “terrorism” excuse to weaken Sunni political parties, and the nation’s sitting Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is still in exile because of similar charges.
The arrest sparked protests, and Maliki, again using terrorism as an excuse, attacked the protesters, killing 17. 44 more MPs resigned that evening to protest the killings, and riots began breaking out across the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
It was those riots, and the efforts to crack down against them, that gave AQI the opening to take Fallujah in the first place, and if anything the loss might’ve been a temporary blessing for Maliki, since it got everyone’s attention off the full scale revolt that was brewing.
AQI is unlikely to be able to keep Fallujah in the long run, but the division in Anbar is a problem that’s been years in the making, and one which Maliki shows no ability to tackle.
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