Iranian exile dissident Ghazal Omid’s recent Op-Ed of August 16, 2007, “Close the Iraq Chapter Before Opening Iran”, published on Omedia.org, presents a cogent argument for the United States to admit that it committed many errors in its handling of Iraq these last four plus years. As Ms. Omid points out, the U.S. has been remiss in understanding Iraqi culture and customs, part of our general poor knowledge of Islam, the Middle East, and anything beyond the shores of our own nation. Her essay was occasioned, at least in part, by her reaction to photographs of Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Nouri Kamal al-Maliki in his August 10th meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during his recent visit to Tehran. Like most opponents of the Tehran regime, Ms. Omid was disgusted by these photographs or others that showed Maliki walking hand in hand with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Ms. Omid indicates, these photographs demonstrate that al-Maliki feels close to the leadership of the Tehran regime.
In his recent commentary in the Chicago Tribune , Dr. Alireza Jafarzadeh points out that when President Bush saw these photographs he is reputed to have said: “if the signal [from al-Maliki] is that Iran is constructive, I will have a heart-to-heart with my friend the prime minister, because I don’t believe they [the Iranian leaders] are constructive.”  If we now look at Damien Cave’s report in the August 19, 2007 edition of The New York Times, entitled “Iraqi Premier Stirs Discontent, Yet Hangs On”, we will begin to realize that Nouri al-Maliki’s mismanagement of Iraq due to his allegiance to Tehran has made him and his radical Shi‘ite-dominated coalition government very unpopular with the Iraqi populace. The recent reshuffling of the al-Maliki government now leaves the Sunnis out of the governing cabinet  which not only alienates a large and key minority block but also allows al-Maliki to continue to stay close to his Iranian allies. Rather than moving towards reconciliation, al-Maliki has managed to avoid it.
It is time for Washington, DC, collectively—the White House and Congress together—to say: “Oops! We backed the wrong horse in Iraq.” Whereas it is not for us but rather the Iraqi people to say who should be the next leader of Iraq, it is time for our government to admit that the December 15, 2005 elections that brought al-Maliki’s government to power, as positive a step forward on the long road to genuine democracy as they were, were flawed and that al-Maliki no longer enjoys our confidence. (Given his al-Dawa Party affiliation and its radical Islamist politics—Moqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi militia is the al-Dawa Party militia—we should have been more suspect of his desire and ability to facilitate reconciliation among Iraq’s varied religious and ethnic communities.) With the ever increasing evidence that Iran is supplying the bulk of the weaponry and training the insurgents that kill our troops in Iraq, it is impossible to turn a blind eye to al-Maliki’s ties to the Tehran regime and its highest levels of leadership.
If we are to succeed in any measure in preventing the disintegration of Iraq and the internecine bloodbath that will accompany that process, we must stop backing the forces of radicalism and start supporting those who oppose fundamentalism. Dr. al-Maliki may wear a western style suit and tie, but his political affiliation as a member of al-Dawa means that he supports the Islamic fundamentalism of his Iranian mentors and supporters. Nouri Kamal al-Maliki does not believe in a western style democracy; he believes in an Islamist state where Sharia (Islamic law) is the law of the land. And he believes that his Shi‘ite sect should hold on to power at all costs. A compromise candidate between competing Shi‘ite parties, he has not worked to bring Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious groups together; rather he has done his best to preserve radical Shi‘ite power. Pledging to work hand in hand with America, he has sold us out to our enemies, including protecting Shi‘ite militiamen from capture by our troops. Accepting a cabinet that does not contain a single Sunni member finally shows how important Iraqi inter-communal solidarity isn’t to Prime Minister al-Maliki and his circle.
Given al-Maliki’s allegiance to Tehran, it is time for us to withdraw our support from him and give it to those who are looking to build a unified, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, tolerant, anti-fundamentalist Iraqi society. Although not well known in the West, the 5.2 million member anti-fundamentalist Solidarity Congress for Freedom and Democracy of the Iraqi People, led by Dr. Abdallah Hassan Rashid al-Jabouri, former governor of Diyala Province, is just such an anti-fundamentalist coalition of Shi‘ites, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians that have united in their desire to keep Iraq unified, secular, democratic, and without Iranian interference in Iraq’s internal affairs  The Solidarity Congress is comprised of the following list of Iraqi groups that share an aversion to Islamic fundamentalism: the Association of Friendship and Solidarity with the People of Iran, the National Association of Struggle Against Fundamentalism and Terrorism, the Association of Independent Jurists, the National Dialogue Front of Iraq-Diyala, the National Front of the Tribes of Iraq, the National Unity Front for a Free Iraq, the Christian Democratic Movement, the Islamic Party of Iraq, the Peace Party, Iraq’s Council for National Dialogue, the Congress of Natives of Iraq, and the Nationalist Elite of Independent Iraq.
When Washington finally signals that it is through with al-Maliki’s double dealing, and that it wants to help all Iraqis to enjoy freedom and liberty, no matter what their ethnicity or faith group, no matter what their prior political affiliations might have been, it will discover that Tehran’s allies will be very unhappy, but that all other Iraqis will rejoice. Here’s hoping that such a signal of political realignment is within Washington’s comprehension, and that Iraq’s good people demand the earliest opportunity to vote for the unity of their nation.
Professor Rabbi Daniel M. Zucker is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching our elected officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle-East as an antidote to the venom of fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.