The fight against ISIS takes a back seat to squabbles in Baghdad

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Audio Transcript: Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and you're listening to The World. It was not supposed to be this way. When the US left Iraq, the idea was that Iraqis would elect their own leaders and create a stable democratic country. No ISIS, no fighting, no sectarianism. But the past few months have seen that dream unravel in pretty dramatic fashion thanks in part to Iraq's dysfunctional government, led, until this week, by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He's been criticized as tyrannical and wildly sectarian and even members of his own party apparently want him gone. Jane Arraf is the Baghdad correspondent for Al Jazeera America, I asked her where things stand today. Jane Arraf: The way they stand is that Prime Minister Maliki is saying that he has a constitutional right to form the next government and that's his stand and he's sticking to it. He says he's going to the federal courts. The courts have indicated that they don't believe that he has a case but he is still very much acting as if he is prime minister. Despite that, all of the support that has been pouring in is for the prime minister designate, Haider al-Abadi, from the same party as Prime Minister Maliki but a compromise choice essentially who is seen as having a better shot of pulling all of the divided factions together. Werman: In the meantime, by Maliki's defiance to remain in office, what attention is he taking away from the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north to battle ISIS? Arraf: It has made everything pretty much harder. One of the effects on the ground here has been that because of the bitterness between the Kurdish Regional Government and Prime Minister Maliki's government, there hasn't been money flowing to the Kurdish forces here. The Kurdish Peshmerga have not been paid, public servants haven't been paid, there really hasn't been a lot of coordination, there hasn't been a lot of talk. That's improved lately. The Iraqi Air Force came in to support the Kurdish forces, for the first time really, a few days ago. They feel that they would have done better had they had more support from Baghdad. Werman: How do you see this playing out now? Will this give ISIS a chance to take advantage of internal political troubles in Baghdad? Arraf: Yes, ISIS is definitely slipping in between those cracks. We've seen that with car bombings today in Baghdad. The Sunni regions are basically where ISIS, the self-declared Islamic state, has taken hold. I spoke with the governor of Nineveh and he represents a large Sunni community. He said that it's because of the policies of the Iraqi government that there has been fertile ground to actually support the Islamic State and that has been a huge problem. Werman: Many Iraqis were glad when US troops left the country in 2011. I'm just wondering, have any Iraqis you've spoken with wish US troops were still there? Arraf: Certainly people who feel they're in danger as a community, as a religion, wish there was someone to protect them. One of the things that's different about this conflict - we've now seen Christians, the Yazidis who have been displaced from their homes multiple times, and a lot of them are saying they will never feel safe again. They actually want to leave. They obviously can't all leave but some solution has to be found and people are struggling. They're struggling in terms of not just for food and water, they're struggling with "Do they have a future in this country? Does this country have a future?" Werman: Journalist Jane Arraf in Baghdad. Thank you very much. Arraf: Thank you.