- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2014

There is a growing sentiment in Washington that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is part of the problem, not the solution, when it comes to unifying the Middle Eastern nation and leading its response to the Islamic militants threatening to spin Iraq into chaos.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Jack Reed said he agrees with Gen. David Petraeus, who served as the top commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and warned this week that Mr. al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government has undermined efforts for political reconciliation with Sunni Arabs and Kurds.

“What [Mr. al-Maliki] has done is he has politicized the military and militarized the politics,” Mr. Reed said. “Maliki has to reform to become an effective leader and if not … the Iraqi people have to ask themselves will they continue to tie their fate to this one individual.

“He has to understand that only his country, but his own political longevity is threatened, and he has to begin to be more pragmatic, more practical and more inclusive,” the Rhode Island Democrat said.

Mr. al-Maliki has asked the United States to launch airstrikes against the al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] that has gained a foothold in northern Iraq.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, also said Thursday that Mr. al-Maliki’s approach has exacerbated the Sunni extremism.

“We shouldn’t be coming in to back up Maliki unless he shows that he is very committed to reforming his country,” Mr. Kaine said on “The John Fredericks Show.” “Malicki ignored all advice that you have to govern Iraq in a way that brings Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites together. Instead, he has governed as a Shiite strongman, he has marginalized and oppressed the Sunni and Kurdish populations, [and] he has been backed up by Iran in doing so.

“This has created the conditions where this Sunni extremism … has been allowed to flourish,” Mr. Kaine said.

Speaking at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty this week, Gen. Petraeus warned against the United States becoming a de facto air force for Shia militias fighting against the Sunni extremists.

“This cannot be the United States being the air force for Shia militias, or a Shia on Sunni Arab fight,” Gen. Petraeus said. “It has to be a fight of all of Iraq against extremists, who happen to be Sunni Arabs, but extremists that are wreaking havoc on a country.”

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