Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

Iraq, the cradle of civilization, has been in the headlines for the past few decades for all the wrong reasons. The post-9/11 era has witnessed Iraq plunging into the abyss of unending chaos. The very mention of Iraq these days evokes images of war, killings, corruption and civil unrest.

Since the dawn of time, the region where today’s Iraq is situated has been blessed with immense natural resources. Ironically, this part of the world has experienced a number of ups and downs and revolutions that helped shape its social and psychological preferences. Iraq is home to the highest number of archaeological sites in the world. This area has seen the rise and fall of Sumerian, Akkadian, Ur, Assyrian, Babylonian and Abbasid rules. Many civilizations that existed in Iraq or Mesopotamia, as it was known in ancient times, contributed to the development of various branches of science and different forms of art.

 In the past, Iraq was a place for everyone from all faiths. Bagdad was the melting pot of different cultures and civilizations. People from all faiths were seen living and working in harmony. Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Jews, Ashorians, Kurds and many other communities lived together without any friction and worked together for the betterment of their country.

Iraqis have always been known for their hard work, intelligence and nationalist tendencies or unwavering patriotism. So, what exactly went wrong in Iraq? Why is there no letup in violence in this ancient land? Please don’t respond by blaming others hatching a conspiracy against Iraq. We need to look beyond these conspiracy theories for a better assessment of the situation and to come up with viable solutions to our problems. Passing the buck to others is the easiest way to shrug off one’s responsibilities.

Modern-day Iraq has been in a state of mourning since July 14, 1958. Truth be told, the wounds that continue to fester in Iraq are mostly self-inflicted. One wrong move after another rendered Iraq a defenseless and weak country open to foreign meddling. Anyway, we cannot blame any foreign force for the shortcomings. July 14, 1958 was the day when a coup d’etat resulted in the end of the monarchy and opened the floodgates for future chaos and since then violence became part of the Iraqi society. Of course, the situation has aggravated after 2003.

Since the massacre of Al Rehab Castle in 1958, Iraq has been trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and wars. Military coups resulted in the deaths of talented young Iraqis and forced many more to leave their homeland in search of greener pastures. Iraq saw hundreds of thousands of its young men die in the 8-year war with Iran and the Iraqi politicians didn’t learn anything from their war with Iran. Later, they invaded Kuwait and their army was humiliated and its infrastructure was destroyed. And worse, hundreds of thousands of the Iraqi finest brains simply moved to the West and left Iraq vulnerable in the hands of power-hungry and selfish politicians. Their actions left the Iraqi doors fully open to all radical and terrorist groups.

It is true that the United States and its western allies invaded Iraq but after the departure of the invaders, Iraqis started to fight each other. Instead of joining hands for the reconstruction of their country, they got involved in ethno-sectarian politics and started killing each other. One should ask Iraqi politicians why do they follow diktats from Tehran, which only wants to divide Iraqis along sectarian lines to establish its hegemony in the Middle East? As a matter of fact, elected Iraqi politicians are only working for their personal gains and they don’t care about their country and their countrymen.

Regardless of the events taking place in Fallujah and the efforts to eradicate Daesh, the Iraqis have no choice but to sit together. It is only the Iraqis who have the key to resolve all their issues by setting aside their ethnic and sectarian differences. They should say no to divisive politics and work together to exploit the true potential of the country.

All Iraqi communities should strive to work for a better system for their future generations. It is sad to see the young generation with no clear vision regarding their future. The Iraqis deserve a better present and an even brighter future. It is sad to see Iraq that was light years ahead of countries like South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan in 1958 becoming the most unstable, most violent and most fractured in 2016. Iraq was the most advanced Arab country just with the best education system. Iraq’s mathematics, physics and chemistry teachers are still in great demand in the Arab world. Gulf countries compete in hiring them to teach in their schools.

Iraq is at a crossroads. Iraqis should choose a path for themselves. Years of war and violence have destroyed the basic civic infrastructure of the country. Power outages in a country that has the second-largest oil reserves in the world or shortage of drinking water in a country that is known for its two rivers raises several questions over the intentions of its politicians and administrators. These officials should put the interest of Iraq and the Iraqis ahead of their own interests.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Iraq’s Self-Inflicted Wounds reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.