One of the major reasons why it has taken over eight months now to form a new Iraqi government is because most of the country’s major political parties have been weary of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki returning for a second term. After he launched his operations against the Sadrists and other Shiite militias in 2008, he increasingly concentrated power in his own hands, and became something of an autocrat. There were plenty of articles written in the West that warned of the premier becoming another Arab strongman. The leaked State Department cables from Wikileaks now show that Iraq’s politicians were not the only ones afraid of Maliki staying in power. Two separate American papers showed that Turkey was apprehensive as well about the prime minister.
The Wikileaks documents recorded two conversations between American and Turkish officials about their opposition to Maliki. One memo was after former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill met with his Turkish counterpart in Baghdad on January 31, 2010. The Turkish ambassador said that his country had backed Maliki before, but this time they were going to support his opponents in the national elections. Their reason was because they felt Maliki, “Would focus on increasing his own power and would not be cooperative in resolving outstanding issues.” A second document came from current U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey when he was stationed in Turkey in February 2010. He wrote that the Turkish Foreign Minister said that they were dissatisfied with Maliki, and was afraid that he was getting “out of control.” For those reasons Ankara put its weight behind Iyad Allawi and his Iraqi National Movement in the 2010 parliamentary elections.
Turkey’s bet in the Iraqi balloting failed, but their worries about Maliki may come true. The premier outmaneuvered Iyad Allawi to stay in power. While his National Movement and the Kurds have put forward concrete demands that Maliki must follower in order to maintain their support, there’s no telling whether he will abide by them, and what they will do if he doesn’t. One thing is for sure, the prime minister will continue to try to place his Dawa members in every facet of the Iraqi bureaucracy as he can to try to control the government. That won’t lesson Turkey’s current good relations with Iraq, but it may lead Ankara to re-think their position on certain issues given Maliki’s stance.
Gordon, Michael, “Meddling by Neighbors Adds to Iraq’s Woes,” New York Times, 12/5/10
Jeffrey, James, “U/S Burns’ February 18 Meetings With U/S,” U.S. Embassy, Ankara, 2/25/10
Parker, Ned, “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia,” World Policy Journal, Spring 2009
Xinhua, “Neighbors wrestle for sway over Iraq following U.S. pullout,” 8/17/10