Iraq crisis: William Hague flies in to Baghdad with an appeal for unity – but it’s a bit late for that

The country has already divided into three regions with Shia, Sunni and Kurds exchanging little more between them than gunfire

baghdad

William Hague has told Iraqi leaders in Baghdad that national unity was needed to overcome the present crisis, but gave a sense of speaking of an Iraq which has already passed away. In the past month, Iraq has divided into three regions – Shia, Sunni and Kurdish; little is exchanged between them except gunfire.

Mr Hague said at a press conference in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry that “the single most important factor is political unity”, but few Iraqis now see this as more than a pious aspiration. It is only 200 miles from the Kurdish capital Erbil to Baghdad but to hire a truck to travel this distance currently costs $10,000 (£6,000) for a single journey compared to $500 a month ago.

The message Mr Hague was bringing, other than a show of solidarity, was that international support for the government in Baghdad depended on it being inclusive of the three main communities. This is similar to what John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has been saying, but Iraqis have few motives for believing they belong to the same nation. Such bonds as  have remained have snapped since the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) captured Mosul on 10 June.

After meeting the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, Mr Hague said: “we believe the urgent priority must be to form an inclusive government ... that can command the support of all Iraqis and work to stop terrorists and their terrible crimes.” Like Mr Kerry, Mr Hague said that it was not the business of the outside world to determine who should be the leader of Iraq but the repetition of this denial so often simply reinforces the message that Mr Maliki must go.

There is no doubt he has become a hate figure for the Sunni community. But blaming everything on him avoids the fact that Isis wants to kill all Shia, not just Mr Maliki. It is also unclear where the moderate Sunnis representing their community, who are to be leveraged into power, are to come from. The gang of Sunni politicians who have held office in the recent past are widely considered as crooked and devoted to their personal interests by the Sunni in general.

The fact that the Sunni community has been unable to find a standard-bearer and general staff for their revolt other than Isis, a group that believes that it is its divine duty to kill Shia and Christians, shows how far the Iraqi Sunni have retreated from Iraqi nationalism.

Mr Hague spoke of stopping the flow of extremists, money and weapons to Isis, as if Isis did not control the oil wells of north-east Syria and have a new tax base in northern Iraq. Their recent victories have led to euphoria in Sunni countries neighbouring Iraq, meaning that Isis will find it easy to get recruits among Sunni youth. As for stopping jihadists reaching Iraq and Syria, the days when this might have had some benefit were in 2012 and 2013, when Turkey was allowing busloads of them to cross its 510-mile-long border with Syria.

Mr Hague pointed out the usefulness of reopening the British Embassy in Tehran to further bilateral contacts, but again there seemed a lack of urgency or much idea of cooperating effectively with Iran to stop Isis. As for Syria, President Bashar al-Assad was blamed for providing the conditions in which Isis thrived, with an implicit hint that the British Foreign Office bought into the Middle East conspiracy theory that Mr Assad was the hidden hand behind the sudden rise of Isis.

The best question at the press conference came from an Iraqi journalist who asked Mr Hague if he was aware that weapons supplied to the Syrian opposition often ended up being used in Iraq against the Iraqi army. Mr Hague gave the standard Foreign Office reply that Britain is not supplying arms, because they might fall into the wrong hands, but gave other useful items to the moderate Syrian opposition. In fact, Iraqi security officials go further and say that Isis prisoners say they are always glad when the so-called moderate Syrian opposition gets weapons bought by its supporters in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, because they go straight into Isis’s armoury.

Iraqi journalists at the press conference privately expressed the cynical conviction that Britain and America back Isis in Syria and oppose it in Iraq.

Since Western diplomats express their conviction that Mr Assad has deliberately avoided combat with Isis (though he had lost control of north-east Syria before Isis appeared), this puts them in a difficult position if the Syrian air force attacks Isis forces inside Iraq. The Iraqi PM had at first appeared to confirm that Syrian planes had struck at al-Qaim, but later appeared to retract the claim.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering