Ninewa’s Governor Atheel Nujafi was dismissed from office at the end of May 2015. Parliament voted him out using the provincial powers law over a number of issues including his recent trip to the United States, corruption, and alleged ties to the insurgency. Nujafi first came into office in 2009 when his al-Hadbaa party swept into power. Since then he has steadily lost support topped off by him having to flee Mosul in the face of the Islamic State’s 2014 onslaught. His fall from grave was due to his unpopular policies, opposition to Prime Minister Haider Abadi, and a declining base.
On May 28, 2015 the Iraqi parliament voted to dismiss Ninewa Governor Atheel Nujafi. That was approved by Prime Minister Haider Abadi who originally requested the move. The premier’s office gave several reasons why Nujafi was voted out. That included corruption charges, visiting the United States without telling the provincial council, telling the council to cut ties with Baghdad, threatening council members who did not agree with him, sectarian comments to the media, and advocating working with the insurgency. Nujafi’s main foreign patron Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talked with Speaker of Parliament Salim Jabouri and Vice President Osama Nujafi, while the governor responded by saying that he would not give up his post until he got an official letter announcing his removal. He added that State of Law plotted against him because he would not agree to allow the Hashd al-Shaabi join the plan to free Mosul, but also mentioned his trip to the United States was also a cause. Nujafi was right, it was Prime Minister Abadi from State of Law that pushed his dismissal, and his visit to America did play a major role along with other issues.
Governor Nujafi’s policies were the main reason for his fall. Earlier in May he went to Washington D.C. where he advocated for turning Ninewa into a region, and that the United States should directly arm Sunnis in the provinces. Back in Baghdad Atheel along with his brother Osama have been using their Mutahidun party to block passage of the National Guard and Accountability and Justice bills. On the former Mutahidun wants the new forces to be under local control rather than the prime minister and on the latter they claim the reforms to the deBaathification process do not go far enough. Finally, the governor is seen as being dependent upon Turkey and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which has cost it support in Baghdad and with other Sunni parties. President Erdogan was an opponent of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki leading Ankara to push Sunni federalism via Mutahidun and the KDP’s Kurdish independence drive both of which raised opposition from Shiite parties. Finally, Nujafi originally came to power in 2009 with his anti-Kurdish and Arab nationalist al-Hadbaa party. By 2013 his position within Ninewa had deteriorated so much that he was forced to cut a deal with the KDP to stay in office for a second term. This again angered many of the people he originally appealed to back in 2009. Finally, the governor’s brother Vice President Najafi talked about working with the Naqshibandi and Army of the Mujahedeen to help retake Mosul from the Islamic State back in 2014 giving rise to charges that the Nujafi’s had connections to the insurgency. All together the governor had become widely unpopular both within Ninewa and in Baghdad for the stances that he took and the alliances that he made. That increasingly raised the ire of the prime minister with the visit to America probably being the last straw leading to the dismissal request.
Governor Nujafi’s faltering standing in Iraq was what led to him losing his position. At one time the governor appeared to be a rising star as a new Sunni leader after this 2009 victory in Ninewa. Since then he has become increasingly marginalized due to his policies. Going to the United States sealed Nujafi’s fate. There was no way that Abadi was going to allow a governor to go to one of Iraq’s prime allies to lobby for policies that undercut Baghdad’s. Nujafi has not stepped down yet so this drama may drag on for a while, but his time appears to be up.
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