John Kerry’s visit to Iraq has put the official ‘international crisis’ stamp on the situation in Iraq.
The collapse of the army, the loss of control of the western borders,the hegemony of ISIS extremists over swathes of Iraqi territory; all of these developments threaten regional stability.
One western diplomatic source we’ve heard from today spoke of the need to find a new word for crisis, because ‘crisis’ isn’t really enough to describe the number of problems posed by Iraq.
But sticking with crisis for the moment, there seems to be a diplomatic consensus on its most recent cause — years of failure by the Iraqi government to build national unity. Shia-led administrations in Baghdad have been responsible for the 'systematic alienation' of Iraq’s minority Sunni population, and caused sections of it to become radicalised.
The prescription from America’s secretary of state is that Iraq needs to recall parliament as soon as possible, and get on with forming a new government that’s going to govern for all Iraqis, and not according to sectarian division.
The mood music from Washington in recent weeks has been that Iraq’s current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, would need to step down in order to make such a government possible. But that tune has stopped now. As our diplomatic source put it, ‘we don’t have the leverage to decide on leadership, and it would be wrong for us to try’.
Kerry is convinced that the situation in Iraq can be resolved politically, and that another ghastly round of sectarian blood-letting is avoidable. He says that Iraq’s political leaders understand this. But they may be too divided, and too embittered, to do anything about it.