Iraq’s Speaker Salim Jabouri is facing heavy criticism from the Shiite lists for participating in a conference in Qatar that included insurgents and members of the Baath Party. Jabouri claimed he didn’t go to the conference, and tried to cover his attendance by visiting Tehran immediately afterward, but that has not gotten him out of the hot seat. He is being accused of treason, and the State of Law list threatened to dismiss him. This was another major misstep by the Sunni leadership of Iraq.
On September 2, 2015 a conference convened in Qatar’s Doha that included Sunni politicians, the Islamic Army insurgent group, and representatives from the Baath Party. The Iraqi papers named at least ten Sunni members of parliament that attended, along with Farhan Hassan the leader of the Islamic Army, former Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi who has a death sentence against him in Iraq, ex-Finance Minister Rafi Issawi who also has arrest warrants out for him, and a delegation from the Baath. The Baath Party claimed that Qatar’s Foreign Minister and some ambassadors from Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait were there as well. Speaker Salim Jabouri attended, but then denied it. He claimed that he was only in Qatar to meet the country’s premier. Probably knowing how controversial a move this would be considered back in Iraq with the Shiite parties the speaker then went to Tehran immediately afterward. Jabouri was helped by the fact that the Baath denied that it met with any Iraqi politicians.
The meeting was supposed to be about reconciliation and was hosted by the Qatari authorities, but it was considered anti-government back in Baghdad. Some Iraqi politicians said that Jabouri was a traitor for going, and Premier Haider Abadi’s State of Law list told the press that it had collected over one hundred signatures on a petition calling for the dismissal of the speaker. The National Alliance, which is a collection of the largest Shiite parties compared the Doha meeting with the Anbar sit in movement that it connected with the insurgency and the Islamic State. Individual Shiite politicians condemned the conference as a threat to the country’s security and interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.
There’s no way that Speaker Jabouri could not have seen the criticism that he would face for going to Qatar. Similar meetings have been roundly condemned as well by Iraq’s Shiite political establishment, and the inclusion of the Baath at Doha only pushed it over the edge. Jabouri surely should have predicted the same reception. While it was not pro-Islamic State as some have said, it obviously included insurgent elements. Aron Lund wrote for Syria Comment that the get together might have been an opportunity for the Sunnis to form an anti-IS political front. While both the Islamic Army and the Baath cooperated with IS during the summer 2014 offensive they have since been pushed out of their strongholds by the Islamists and barely operate as fighting forces anymore. While the idea of taking an enemy of my enemy is a friend approach might seem appealing there is no way that the Shiite parties are willing to do that especially with the hated Baath, which is still considered a threat to the new Iraq. Instead, the Qatar conference might be seen as another sign of political dysfunction within Iraq’s Sunni parties. The Sunni lists barely represent their constituencies anymore since so much of their home provinces are under militant control. They still have not agreed to any of Abadi’s reform program that might actually help their community like the National Guard Bill. Instead they go to these conferences that only cause more distrust and dissension. Jabouri has been an exception because he has been willing to work with Abadi and has attempted to push parliament towards greater action. Now he has undermined his reputation by making the mistake of going to Qatar.
AIN, “Parliamentary Law: Qatar conference yesterday was a threat to the security of the state and the judiciary should take action against those who participated in it,” 9/6/15
Lund, Aron, “The Doha Congress: Negotiating a Return of the Iraqi Baath Party?” Syria Comment, 9/5/15
Al Mada, “State of Law calls for sacking of al-Jubouri legal committee stresses requires the approval of 175 deputies,” 9/7/15
Al Masalah, “Who are the Iraqi politicians who attended the Doha conference?” 9/6/15