At the beginning of February 2013, the Accountability and Justice Commission, which replaced the deBaathification Commission, announced the removal of Chief Justice Medhat Mahmoud from office for his ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki immediately retaliated by firing the head of the Commission Falah Hassan Shanshal. Since Shanshal is from the Sadr Trend, various commentators argued that the move against Judge Mahmoud must have been orchestrated by that list. Sadr’s followers didn’t have the votes on the Commission to act alone however, so other political parties had to have voted on the matter as well. It was later announced that the Sadrists and the premier minister cut a deal to give the Trend another commission head in return for replacing Shanshal. That showed that Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr are still allied with each other despite various claims to the contrary.
Sadr and Maliki have since made up over the head of the Accountability & Justice Commission (AIN)
On February 22, 2013, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reconciled with the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr over the head of the Accountability and Justice Commission. It was reported in the press that the prime minister was going to give the Sadr Trend the head of another commission to make up for the fact that he fired the Accountability chief Falah Hassan Shanshal. On February 18, Shanshal was dismissed from office by the premier for the Commission’s decision to remove Chief Justice Medhat Mahmoud on February 12. Judge Mahmoud was an ally of Maliki having made a series of decisions that favored him, including one that said that all the independent commissions including the Accountability one were under the cabinet not the parliament as is expressed stated in the constitution. Maliki then had the cabinet issue an order cancelling all the decisions made by the Commission under Shanshal, named his replacement Mohammed Badri, who then had a special session of the Commission to expel Shanshal. This series of events came as a surprise to many. Judge Mahmoud had worked under Saddam for his entire reign as a leading judge. Holding such a high position is grounds for dismissal under the deBaathification law. He therefore could have been dismissed years ago. The timing of his removal seemed to be linked to the upcoming April provincial elections as the various political parties are trying to position themselves, especially as opponents of the prime minister. Maliki’s response showed that he considered Judge Mahmoud an important ally. His attack upon Shanshal also changed the debate from being about the Chief Justice to about who would be the head of the Accountability and Justice Commission. Now even that issue seems to have been solved as Maliki and the Sadrists have cut a deal over the matter.
An increasing number of reporters and commentators have claimed that Moqtada al-Sadr has come out against Premier Maliki. They use Sadr’s meetings with other parties over the no confidence vote in 2012, and his verbal support for the on-going protests in Sunni regions as proof. The Sadr Trend has actually taken few substantive actions against the prime minister. Rather they are acting opportunistically in criticizing Maliki when circumstances arise, while rarely ever going beyond just words. The Sadr Trend is preparing for the April provincial vote, and the 2014 parliamentary elections, so these actions help Sadr portray himself as an independent, and a statesman rather than the militia leader he was once known for. At the same time, the deal between Maliki and the Sadrists over the Accountability and Justice Commission show that the two sides are still allied. The Trend for example, holds the most ministries in the government as a result of their support for Maliki’s second term in office. Sadr therefore has more to gain right now by standing with the prime minister than splitting with him, which is why arguments like the one over the Accountability Commission are so easily resolved.
AIN, “Maliki, Sadr Trend reach settlement over issue of J&A Commission,” 2/22/13
- “Sadrist MP elected as head of Justice & Accountability Committee,” 10/8/12
National Iraqi News Agency, “Maliki assigns Bakhtiar Omar instead of Shanshal,” 2/18/13
- “Maliki cancels all decisions taken by the Accountability Commission during Shanshal’s presidency,” 2/18/13
Shafaq News, “Shanshal’s nomination withdrawn from Justice and Accountability Commission,” 2/19/13
Sowell, Kirk, “Inside Iraqi Politics No. 48,” 10/16/12
Visser, Reidar, “Iraq Gets A New De-Baathification Board but the Supreme Court Becomes a Parody,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 5/7/12