Monday, November 15, 2010

Why No One Trusts Maliki: The Example Of Diyala

Diyala Province (Wikimedia)

One of the reasons why it has taken so long to put together a new Iraqi government is because no one trusts Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. All of the major parties have accused him of autocratic tendencies and abusing his power. The premier’s use of the security forces for his own political ends in Diyala province is a perfect example.

The problems between Maliki and Diyala started over the 2009 provincial elections. Back in 2007 the Iraqi Accordance Front, led by the Iraqi Islamic Party, began building up its popular base for the vote by brokering alliances with various Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups that were emerging in the governorate at that time. Maliki immediately attempted to intervene using a carrot and stick approach. He used the cover of anti-insurgent campaigns in the province to arrest members of the Islamic Party and their friends in the SOI, while at the same time attempting to pry away SOI units by offering them government jobs. In August 2008 for example, security forces from Baghdad arrested Hussein Zubeidi, the head of the security committee on the council, who was working with the SOI. The man who accused him ended up saying that he made up his charges, yet Zubeidi is still being held in a prison to this day.

Maliki’s plan failed as the Accordance Front and its allies ended up winning the 2009 balloting. The Front won nine seats out of 29 on the provincial council, followed by six by Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Project, six by the Kurdish Alliance made up of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), three by Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, two by Maliki’s State of Law, two by the Supreme Council’s Diyala Coalition, and one by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party. The Accordance Front, Supreme Council, and Kurdish Alliance quickly re-formed the ruling coalition in the council that took power in 2005, shut out Maliki’s list, and elected a council head and governor. That did little to end Maliki’s campaign against his political opponents in the governorate.

When the newly elected politicians met to select a governor in April 2009 they had a surprise waiting for them. Members of the Baghdad Brigade came into the meeting with arrest warrants for three Sunni politicians. A U.S. diplomat intervened, and the soldiers left. They returned the next month with warrants for council member Abdul Jabbar Ibrahim Khazraji of the Accordance Front and Abu Ali, an SOI leader in Diyala’s capital Baquba. The head of the council went to call the U.S. military for help, but when he returned Khazraji and Abu Ali had already been detained and were headed for a prison in Baghdad. The Americans got Abu Ali released, but Khazraji is still in jail to this day. The incident sent several other members of the governorate’s council into hiding afraid that they too would be arrested. Sure enough, in November, the second deputy governor and Accordance Front member Mohammed al-Jabouri was also picked up.

Maliki’s campaign against Diyala’s politicians continued into 2010. Before the March parliamentary election, a candidate for Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, Najm Abdullah Harbi was arrested for homicide. A judge ordered him released for lack of evidence, but then he was re-arrested for alleged ties to Al Qaeda. Harbi ended up winning 28,000 votes and a seat in parliament, but he is still in prison. Three other National Movement candidates went into hiding as a result, fearing that they too would be picked up. They didn’t re-emerge until all of them won seats, which gave them political immunity. After the election the deputy governor Furat Mohammed Hussein Jassim was also picked up, and is still being held.

Diyala is a perfect example of Prime Minister Maliki’s abuse of power. Again and again he intervened in the province’s politics, using the security forces. An American adviser to the governorate’s council from 2009 to early 2010 said that Maliki’s actions were threatening Sunnis’ belief in the political process. What they were learning was that Maliki would never allow them to have a real say in the local government, even if they played by the rules and got elected to office. The premier made all of them afraid that they could be arrested at any time, and even if they put up a legal defense after being detained they would be held indefinitely. It’s events like these that made negotiations over a new government so difficult. Political parties have little faith in Maliki, and they want concrete promises from State of Law in writing, top posts, and hopefully legislation. Until then they only have Maliki’s word that he is willing to share power. That’s not good enough for some such as Allawi, which is dragging out the process even more.


International Crisis Group, “Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces between U.S. Drawdown and Withdrawal,” 10/26/10

Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008

Parker, Ned, “Diyala struggles to overcome sectarian bad blood,” Los Angeles Times, 10/25/10
- “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia,” World Policy Journal, Spring 2009


Maury said...

Allawi has the finesse of a bull in a china shop. If he was smart, he'd bide his time and build a coalition of disaffected lawmakers. If Maliki steps on too many toes, or breaks too many promises, Allawi could always form his own majority coalition.

Acting like a child who didn't get the tricycle he expected Christmas morning won't get him anywhere.

Anonymous said...

You got everythig completely wrong.

Yes these things happened, but because these politicians had shia blod on their hands,

In Dyla thousands of shia got killed and forced to leave. many had links to the sunni parties.

What Maliki was trying to do was not allow murderers and supporters of the old regime regain political legitimacy.

You have to come to Iraq and here the stories, you would be shocked.

My Sunni friends had to move out of Yarmouk (Baghdad) because the Islamic Party moved in, even though they were Sunnis.

In Adel another Baghdad neighbourhood, all shia were forced out when Tawafuq based its headquarters there.

The difference is, when shia politicians move to an area the hosue prices go up usually because security follows and 24hrs electricity but when sunni politicians move in the prices go down because of security.

These are the facts.

AndrewSshi said...

Well of course no one trusts Maliki not to abuse his power. The man is bound and determined to make State of Law into something like the PRI in Mexico or or whatever they're calling the Putin/Mevedev organ in Russia these days.

That's why Sadr's gambit is so interesting: "Yes, I'll support you, but only if you give me the army and police" is a way of supporting Maliki politically but blocking his aspirations to grab even more power.

Joel Wing said...


I would not doubt that there are plenty of politicians from all of the communities and parties that have blood on their hands. In this case however, it's only in Diyala that Maliki is sending in forces from Baghdad to arrest them. It's not happening in Salahaddin, it's not happening in Ninewa, etc. A few of the specific cases also seem to be very weak with people dropping charges, but the prisoners still being held, etc. Many U.S. officials in the province have also said that it appears to be a calculated political campaign by Maliki.

Joel Wing said...


I agree. I think Allawi has really played his hand badly. He could've used the mass distrust in Maliki and only ended up getting the Supreme Council to join him, and there was questions whether Badr even went with them. He also got Fadhila for about a month, and then they left.


Yes, the PRI is a good example. Nibras Kazimi use to write that Dawa reminded him of the communist party in that they were highly centralized, secretive, and determined to place their followers throughout the government to take it over. I think they'd love to become the institutional party in Iraq.

bb said...

In Australia we would say Allawi is a slack bastard. Where has he been between 2006 and 2010? Not much, if anything, was ever heard from him even though his party was supposed to be in the government. How much time back in London will he be spending now?

Allawi's just not interested in doing the hard yards and any govt led by him would have been as slack and corrupt as the last one.

Also, Joel, it's time to find some American journalists who have contacts and sources inside Dawa, rather than acting as mouthpieces for the former Sunni arab fronts and fellow travellers of the insurgency who were making war on the shia between 03 and 08 and regurgitating their complaints. Then we might get more accurate info about what is actually going on in the country. It's a great shame that Nibras has stopped posting on his blog.