Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Amid War and Beheadings, Iraq's Fresh Start

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Amid War and Beheadings, Iraq's Fresh Start

Article excerpt

The gruesome news from Iraq - a terrorist invasion, beheadings, airstrikes - may suggest the country's future depends on which side is the most effective at violence. Yet the real struggle is more hidden, even peaceful.

It lies in a contest to persuade Iraqis of all faiths that they should be united around civic ideals, such as the right of individuals to self-government, that rely on reason and inclusion.

Iraq took a big step in that direction last week when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was forced to relinquish power, marking the country's first peaceful transition of power in more than a decade. His tyrannical, violent rule had not only set the majority Shiites against minority Sunnis, it had also set Shiite against Shiite. His own ruling Islamic coalition had come to realize that sectarian- based politics had failed, threatening not only Iraqi democracy but the country itself. A political vacuum had left Iraq open to attack by the militants of Islamic State (IS), the group previously known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIS.

A newly designated prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, was chosen to counter the threat from IS - precisely because of his ability to work with disaffected Sunnis as well as ethnic Kurds. "The country is in your hands," whispered Iraq's president, Fuad Masum, as he charged Mr. Abadi with the task of forming a new government.

The charming, British-trained electrical engineer knows he must find a firm ground for Iraq's supercharged identity politics. His first words to the nation were in a Twitter message: "I will stand with the persecuted against oppressors & be the voice of the weak & destitute. Lord take us not to task should we forget or err."

He was backed by Iraq's powerful Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, who called on a new government to "give all Iraqis from different sects and components their rights" and "adopt a different vision to save the country from the dangers of terrorism, civil war, and division. …

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