NEWS

Iraqi government falling apart after US departure

BAGHDAD — Faster than anyone expected, barely a month after the last U.S. troops left, Iraq’s government appears to be coming apart.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, is driving to consolidate control and sideline more secular politicians in a battle that increasingly appears to be a fight in which there can be no compromise.

Barham Salih, the widely admired prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, said the infighting is “tearing the country apart.”

Responding to a boycott by his Sunni partners in the power-sharing government, Maliki last week locked them out of their jobs, ordering ministries to bar their doors to Cabinet officers, even though they still have a mandate from the Iraqi parliament.

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

A day later, the Iraqiya bloc headed by secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, which has 94 seats in the 325-seat parliament, said that if Maliki did not agree to curbs on his power, he should be replaced, either in new elections or by a vote of Maliki’s Shiite backers in parliament.

The country’s vice-president, a Sunni, fled last month to Kurdistan, where he’s safe from Iraqi justice authorities seeking his arrest on allegations that he directed hit squads against prominent Shiites. Maliki has attempted to oust the deputy prime minister, also a Sunni, but Sunni and Kurdish legislators refuse to hold a vote, paralyzing the Parliament.

Maliki has sent troops into the streets of the Green Zone, where most prominent politicians live, and warned top leaders that he is keeping “files” on them.

Allawi, who has been a no-show at Parliament and seems to be abroad more often than in Iraq, says that Maliki has arrested more than 1,000 political opponents on the pretext of preventing a coup by members and supporters of the Baath party of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

All is not well within Maliki’s bloc, either, which is able to control the Parliament with 159 votes.

Supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who hold 40 of those seats, abstained in protest when they were asked to remove Sunni ministers from their jobs, and they’re outraged by Maliki’s courting of Shiite extremists who are rivals to the Sadrists.

President Barack Obama may have made things worse last month when he hosted Maliki in Washington and hailed him as the leader of “Iraq’s most inclusive government yet.”

The speech enraged Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni who is a deputy prime minister.

“What I heard from Obama was deceiving both for Americans and Iraqis,” Mutlak said. “Obama is telling Americans that they were victorious in Iraq, they liberated the country and Iraqis are now very well situated, and the hero of Iraq, the prime minister, has made an inclusive government in Iraq. But it is the opposite.”

So he gave an interview to CNN in which he denounced Maliki as a “dictator.” Mutlak’s comments angered Maliki, who announced that he would depose Mutlak and sent a request to Parliament to oust him. But Kurds refused to take part in the vote and together with Sunni delegates deprived the Parliament of a quorum.

Mutlak said an all-party study commission had concluded that under Maliki, 86 percent of the military’s top command posts were filled by Shiites and 14 percent by members of all other sects and nationalities, well more than the 60 to 65 percent that Shiites represent in the population.

Mutlak said Maliki’s response was “I don’t believe in that,” meaning striving for ethnic and sectarian balance. And then Maliki issued a veiled threat. “We are coming after you, sooner or later,” Mutlak quoted him as saying.

“Just imagine when a prime minister talks to me and says ‘we are coming after you.’”


Share this article