Inclusive political dialogue needed

Updated: 2014-06-23 07:31

(China Daily)

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In less than two weeks, armed rebels led by an al-Qaida splinter group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, have taken over a large part of northern Iraq.

Although it seems to have been unexpected to the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the international community, what is happening in Iraq is a natural outcome of years of poor handling of relations between the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds, the untimely withdrawal of United States forces, as well as the ongoing three-year-old Syrian civil war that is serving as the breeding ground for the militants.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the once delicate balance of the country's political structure and further amplified the hostility between the sectarian groups, making it even harder for the ensuing Iraqi governments to achieve national reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the hasty withdrawal of US forces, a promise US President Barack Obama made when running for president, came at a time when it was still debatable whether the Iraqi security forces were ready to take on the responsibilities of maintaining peace and stability against the threats the country faced, both internal and external.

Now the crumbling security situation in Iraq, is pushing the country ever closer to splitting up, and put the security and stability of the entire Middle East on the line.

Therefore, it is strongly advised the Obama administration and his national security team be as prudent and realistic as they can when they are weighing options, especially military ones, to help Baghdad end the crisis, which they are partially responsible for.

As for the Iraqi government, while it is crucial to defeat the terrorists and restore peace and tranquility to the country militarily, it is even more important to restart healing the wounds of the past through political dialogue among all factions, and to ensure opportunities for all Iraqis.

No matter how difficult the work is, it has to be done if the Iraqi government intends to end the vicious cycle of sectarian conflicts and move toward a country that enjoys religious harmony, political unity and economic well-being.

The international community should rally behind the government as it clamps down on the growing terrorism and religious extremism inside Iraq, and help the Iraqis rebuild their country.