Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | MidPoint | prime minister | ally

Bernard Kerik: US 'Can Only Hope' New Iraqi PM Is Ally

By    |   Friday, 03 Oct 2014 06:50 PM

The new prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, will have to resist the culture of corruption, cronyism and sectarian animosity that has defined Iraqi politics for years and made the country a doubtful ally against radical Islam, says global security consultant Bernard Kerik.

Recent history is not encouraging, Kerik told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Friday.

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Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner who served as Iraq's interim interior minister for security during the U.S. occupation in 2003, said the bad precedents stretch from that time through the tenure of the country's last prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

When Kerik handed over his post to an Iraqi, Nouri Badran, in September 2003, "the first thing he wanted to know was where was the money? Who controlled the money? How could he have access to the money?" said Kerik. "And that’s what a lot of these guys are looking for, to get in there and pilfer."

Maliki, the Shia prime minister who gladly waved goodbye to U.S. troops in 2011, went on to persecute Iraq's Sunni Muslims and, in Kerik's words, "ostracize" the country's Kurdish population — in part by sitting on billions of dollars designated for the country's oil-rich Kurdish region.

Newcomer Abadi, also a Shia, will have to do better, and work with both Sunnis and Kurds to create a more stable and secure Iraq, he said.

"And we can only hope that gets done," said Kerik, "but for the last few years that has not been the case."

Iraq's woes — including a bloody Sunni insurgency led by the barbaric Islamic State — were compounded by the absence of U.S. troops after 2011, an exit Kerik ascribed not to actual conditions on the ground but to domestic U.S. politics.

"The president campaigned on getting out of Iraq," Kerik said of then-candidate Barack Obama. "If you look over the last few years, everything he focused on was getting out of Iraq … and rightfully so, I guess, in many ways. You know a big part of his constituency wanted us out of Iraq.

"But I don’t think the general American public understood — and possibly many people in the White House did not understand — that pulling out of Iraq completely was going to be a bad move," he said.

Critics of the withdrawal, including several former high-level Obama administration officials, have argued that a residual U.S. force might have deterred the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from crossing into Iraq from its spawning grounds in Syria.

Going forward, said Kerik, the joint American-Iraqi project faces two big challenges: the stability of Iraq itself; and the violent Islamists who are now a target of U.S. airstrikes that may or may not precede another U.S. ground war.

He said the U.S., and other countries must help Iraq manage a tri-partite political system — Sunnis, Shias and Kurds — without sliding into civil war.

The larger fight against radical Islam will last "for decades … whether it’s in Iraq or Syria or wherever," said Kerik. "That fight is going to continue, and if we don’t fight it over there we’re going to fight it here in a big, big way."

"At the end of the day, we’re going to put boots on the ground," Kerik said of combat troops returning to the region. "Whether it’s our military or whether we bring in civilian contractors — which I would strongly recommend — it’s going to happen."

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The new prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, will have to resist the culture of corruption, cronyism and sectarian animosity that has defined Iraqi politics for years and made the country a doubtful ally against radical Islam, says global security consultant Bernard Kerik.
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2014-50-03
Friday, 03 Oct 2014 06:50 PM
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