• Iraqi Politicians Pass Around Blame For Rise Of ISIS

    Iraqi lawmakers’ plan to prosecute their ex-leader for the rise of Islamic State has shaken up Baghdad’s political scene.

    Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepped down last year after criticism that his government did too little to prevent the jihadi group from gaining territory in Iraq. Now, with a parliamentary investigation claiming it has grounds to prosecute him, Maliki has dismissed the accusation as “worthless.”

    When Islamic State entered Iraq in the summer of 2014 and seized the city of Mosul, Iraqi soldiers infamously dropped their weapons and fled instead of fighting. Analysts said their unwillingness to fight was due to Sunni Muslim soldiers’ distrust of Maliki, a Shiite they saw as an antagonist.

    Recent weeks have seen widespread street protests in Iraq, demanding reliable public services and a solution to the corruption that pervades Iraqi politics.

    In response, current prime minister Haidar al-Abadi is pushing for new reforms to Iraq’s military. This week, he ordered a group of commanders to face court-martial for abandoning their posts on the front lines against ISIS. He also disposed of 11 cabinet-level jobs — including Maliki himself, who was serving as one of Iraq’s three vice presidents.

    The latest moves are a follow-up to an initial probe late last year, in which Abadi fired 24 Defense Ministry officials after discovering the army was paying salaries to 50,000 nonexistent “ghost soldiers.” (RELATED: Iraq’s Prime Minister Exposes Vast Corruption)

    In the absence of an effective military, Iraq’s fight against Islamic State has relied on hard-to-control militias. On one side, armed factions backed by Iran are making progress, but reportedly alienating Sunnis and training child soldiers as young as 12.

    On the other, Kurds from Iraq’s north are receiving limited support from the United States, but are being bombed by Turkey. Iraq’s central government also fears the Kurds’ ambitions of independence from a federal Iraq.

    While Islamic State’s terrorists remain a threat to Iraq, the country’s people will continue to demand an appropriate response from their government. The challenge for Abadi is whether his reforms will be enough to win over an increasingly divided population.

    Follow Ivan Plis on Twitter

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