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Dr Musa A Keilani: Facing premier challenges
June 06, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is facing an alliance of four major political blocs in a confrontation that could bring down his government and produce a new interim prime minister.

The four leaders – Iraqiya List leader Ayad Allawi, leader of the Sadrist Movement Moqtada Al Sadr, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani and speaker of the Iraqi parliament Osama Al Nujaifi – have sent a request to the National Alliance (NA) calling for the replacement of Maliki by another candidate chosen by the alliance.

The four represent the largest groups in Iraq. Allawi is a Shiite and his Iraqiya List is supported by the Sunnis, including Nujaifi. Sadr is a Shiite close to the Iranian theocratic regime. Barzani represents the Kurds of the North.

The NA reportedly had one week to comply with the request, which was dated April 28 and set a 15-day deadline for the implementation of the demand. The deadline has ended, with no action by the NA.

The National Accord Movement of Allawi said the political blocs have decided to postpone withdrawing confidence from Maliki till all of them agree on what would happen in different scenarios and what would be the reaction in each case.

That is indeed a smart decision, because Maliki, a Shiite who became prime minister backed by Tehran and pro-Iranian elements in Iraq, could hit back hard at his adversaries.

Maliki seems to have adopted the same iron-fist policies of the late Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, in order to crush dissent. He has adopted actions that challenge the very concept of democracy that the US had claimed it had introduced to post-Saddam Iraq.

Massoud Barzani and Sadr have accused Maliki of moving towards dictatorship by consolidating his power by keeping control of the interior and defence ministries – which control the country’s security forces. Maliki is also accused of trying to exercise control of the electoral system by removing the current head of the election commission who had earlier refused to act as the prime minister ordered during the last elections years ago.

In technical terms set by the new Iraqi constitution, a request for a withdrawal of confidence from the government could be made either by the president, or from one-fifth of the members of parliament.

President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, is reported to have sent his resignation letter in an effort to stepping up pressure on Maliki.

According to Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Talabani supports Kurdistan’s position in its disputes with Baghdad.

Apparently, the letter will be used merely as a pressure card against Maliki.

Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are strategic allies as ruling parties in the Kurdish autonomous region. Talabani’s decision to send his letter to the Kurdistan Democratic Party should bring the two parties closer.

Maliki convened a cabinet meeting in Mosul last week attended by over 100 political and tribal leaders, but Kurdish leaders stayed away.

The Kurds also complain that Maliki’s security forces are making mass arrests in the Nineveh province and moving the detainees to Baghdad where they are systematically tortured.

There are several bones of contention between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds. These include rights over oil in Kurdistan and a Kurdish push to expand the autonomous territory in what many see as a prelude to setting an independent Kurdistan.

These differences burst into the open when, early this year, the Maliki government launched a crackdown against the Sunni leadership, starting with charges that Vice-President Tareq Al Hashemi was running a death squad against Shiites. Hashemi fled to Kurdistan in December and stayed there for some time before flying out of the country.

A court in Baghdad is trying Hashemi in absentia.

The level of tensions between the two sides was highlighted by a comment by Massoud Barzani that he opposes the sale by the United States of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Maliki is premier because he fears they would be used against Kurdistan.

In the meantime, the tug-of-war continues between Maliki and Sunnis, Kurds and secularists on the other side. There will be no clear winners until Tehran makes up its mind whether to continue to back Maliki or have another pro-Iranian prime minister in Iraq.
The author a former jordanian ambassador, is the chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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