Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maliki Continues His Games To Control Iraq’s Defense Ministry

In December 2010, when Iraq’s partial cabinet was announced, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was named the acting Defense, Interior, and National Security ministers. These three important posts were to be divided between the Iraqi National Movement and the National Coalition of Maliki’s State of Law, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and the Sadrists later on with the National Movement getting Defense, and the National Coalition the other two. Eight months have passed since then and the prime minister has rejected every single candidate put forward by the National Movement, while recently naming his own acting Defense Minister. This has all been part of the premier’s ploy to maintain control of the security ministries, while wearing down his opponents until he can get his way.

Maliki seems content to rule alone
The day after Iraq was hit by a national wave of bombings that left 300 casualties on August15, 2011, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki named Culture Minister Sadoun Dulaimias the acting Defense Minister. This came after the country’s main political parties met at President Jalal Talabani’s home in Baghdad on August 2, and agreed to renew their commitment to the power sharing agreement that would give Defense to Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement. The National Movement immediately attacked Maliki for breaking his latest promise, and trying to monopolize power. A few days later it called on President Talabani to have another meeting to discuss the candidates for the security ministers. Dulaimi was the Defense Minister under Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari from 2005-2006. He fled Iraq in 1986, and was condemned to death in absentia in 1991 for plotting against Saddam Hussein. He is part of the Center Alliance, which joined with the National Movement on August 1, so technically the premier was naming someone from Allawi’s list. The problem was it had no say in the matter. Maliki originally brought up Dulaimi in May. In an added twist, a member of the National Coalition said that Dulaimi was forced upon them and that the list had not agreed upon him. This was just the latest example of how Maliki has tried to drag out the process by ignoring Allawi’s list, while putting out his own candidates in the hopes of eventually winning permanent control of all the security ministries. Not only that, but Maliki wanted to name the ministers himself, and even ignored his political allies in the National Coalition.

On December 21, 2010 Iraq’s new, partial cabinet was named. The ministers were split up between the winning lists in a power sharing agreement. The Defense, Interior, and National Security Ministries were left open with Maliki put in charge of all three until the National Movement and National Coalition could agree upon candidates for them. Allawi’s list was quick to put forward nominees, and named Falah al-Naqib that day, (1) who was the former Interior Minister under Allawi’s interim government in 2004. Maliki rejected him, and then the National Movement put forward Salim Dali. The prime minister said no to him as well, and the games were on. Maliki went on to turn down every single person the National Movement came up with, which by one count was at least 18 different people. Some were rejected out of hand with no explanation, showing that Maliki was just toying with Allawi and his followers to try their patience.

A perfect example of the games Prime Minister Maliki was playing was when he nominated Khalid Mutab Obeidi in March. Obeidi had originally been Allawi’s pick, but was allegedly dropped when Obeidi did not agree to withdraw from the government if he was asked. A few days later it didn’t seem to matter as the Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the old deBaathification Commission, said that Obeidi was ineligible because he was a general under Saddam. That led to him withdrawing in April. Despite that, State of Law brought him up again in July. Maliki was simply trying to manipulate the National Movement by picking a candidate they’d already dropped, probably knowing full well there was no way that he would be acceptable. The prime minister promoted him simply to wear down his opposition.

Naming Sadoun Dulaimi to the Defense Ministry post was the latest example of how Maliki has put people in charge of the security ministries without consulting with anyone else, so that he can maintain control over them. In June 2011, he placed his National Security Adviser Faleh al-Fayadh in charge of the National Security Ministry. A few days later, he had Adnan Asadi of his State of Law list return to his previous post as deputy Interior Minister, which he held from 2006-2010. Now he has Dulaimi as Defense Minister. This means he doesn’t have to handle the day-to-day duties of all those positions, and he has allies in each one. Allawi and his Iraqi National Movement can do nothing about this other than complain, which is what they have been doing since the parliamentary elections in March 2010. When they agreed to Maliki’s second term, they sealed their own fate. Some members received top posts like one vice presidency, a deputy premiership, the speaker of parliament, and several ministries. All the posts that they were promised, but not named however, were at the prime minister’s mercy, and he has not budged on a single one of them. Since he is already in office there is no reason for him to give any room. He therefore can continue to reject any candidates put forward by the National Movement, and keep Dulaimi at Defense for as long as he wants. This is just another example of how Maliki has increased his hold on the levers of power in the last several years, and is his latest step towards becoming an autocrat.


1. Omaima, Younis, “Iraqiya got 9 ministries and the Sadrists 8, and 6 for the Kurds, and only 4 of the State of Law,” Al-Aalem, 12/21/10


Alsumaria, “Iraq security ministries to further complication,” 5/6/11
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- “Al-Iraqiya Coalition’s threat to withdraw from government, aimed at rising its demands, MP says,” 5/12/11
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- “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 12,” 4/13/11
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Anonymous said...

Interesting assertion- viz., Maliki is one-step closer to autocratic rule- save for the fact that it likely is not true. Instead, it seems to be just another echo of the consensus view among the Iraqi opposition and Western elite. A few reasons why this is so.
Maliki is doing precisely what he is supposed to as a political creature. Within the framework of their ambiguous constitution, Maliki merely attempts to gain as much political power as the opposition cedes. Backstabbing, duplicity, and power grabs are inescapably part of democratic politics. Why should it be any different in Iraq? In the US, the political elite lie and cheat on all matters of national importance- as well they should, if they can get away with it within our constitutional framework. I suspect if a major US political figure reneged on a key deal with the opposition, you would hardly care. You certainly would not call it autocratic. Why on earth, then, is Maliki an autocrat for acting as all politicians do? It is nothing short of folly to suppose a politician- whether Iraqi, American, or Japanese- should sacrifice only for the benefit of the opposition.
The political reality is Iraq has a constitutional mechanism that allows parliament to sack the PM. If Maliki’s actions alienate his allies and foes alike, then an opposition should form and use that mechanism. If they are too weak and disorganized to remove the PM, then Maliki has every reason to continue pursuing self-interested policies. In any democratic system, altruism and good will are not what produce compromise; the strength of the opposition and the strength of the people must force it.

Joel Wing said...

I think there's a good argument that Maliki is becoming an autocrat. Besides his refusal to follow through with his repeated promises to the Iraqi National Movement, which I agree is weak and divided, he's also used the security forces against his political opponents, something that no democratic system should permit, he's covered up for his own party's duplicity in corruption, placed his followers throughout the bureaucracy, and tried to get control of the security forces and intelligence agencies. Its the weakness of Iraq's institutions which are allowing this, and I can't see how these are positive steps.

amagi said...

Furthermore, it is one thing to snark about duplicity, backstabbing and powergrabs among politicians in a developed democracy like America, quite another to snark about it in a country that was recently under decades long totalitarian rule.

The American public has no fear that presidential elections will occur every four years, regardless of how the president might behave. The Iraqi public (and those observing the post-Saddam political situation) have every right to be concerned with Maliki's increasingly authoritarian stances. Who would be surprised if Iraq stopped having elections, or held only bogus ones like its next door neighbor? I would think, sadly, very few people.