|Diyala Province (Wikimedia)
The problems between Maliki and Diyala started over the 2009 provincial elections. Back in 2007 the Iraqi Accordance Front, led by the Iraqi Islamic Party, began building up its popular base for the vote by brokering alliances with various Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups that were emerging in the governorate at that time. Maliki immediately attempted to intervene using a carrot and stick approach. He used the cover of anti-insurgent campaigns in the province to arrest members of the Islamic Party and their friends in the SOI, while at the same time attempting to pry away SOI units by offering them government jobs. In August 2008 for example, security forces from Baghdad arrested Hussein Zubeidi, the head of the security committee on the council, who was working with the SOI. The man who accused him ended up saying that he made up his charges, yet Zubeidi is still being held in a prison to this day.
Maliki’s plan failed as the Accordance Front and its allies ended up winning the 2009 balloting. The Front won nine seats out of 29 on the provincial council, followed by six by Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Project, six by the Kurdish Alliance made up of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), three by Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, two by Maliki’s State of Law, two by the Supreme Council’s Diyala Coalition, and one by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party. The Accordance Front, Supreme Council, and Kurdish Alliance quickly re-formed the ruling coalition in the council that took power in 2005, shut out Maliki’s list, and elected a council head and governor. That did little to end Maliki’s campaign against his political opponents in the governorate.
When the newly elected politicians met to select a governor in April 2009 they had a surprise waiting for them. Members of the Baghdad Brigade came into the meeting with arrest warrants for three Sunni politicians. A U.S. diplomat intervened, and the soldiers left. They returned the next month with warrants for council member Abdul Jabbar Ibrahim Khazraji of the Accordance Front and Abu Ali, an SOI leader in Diyala’s capital Baquba. The head of the council went to call the U.S. military for help, but when he returned Khazraji and Abu Ali had already been detained and were headed for a prison in Baghdad. The Americans got Abu Ali released, but Khazraji is still in jail to this day. The incident sent several other members of the governorate’s council into hiding afraid that they too would be arrested. Sure enough, in November, the second deputy governor and Accordance Front member Mohammed al-Jabouri was also picked up.
Maliki’s campaign against Diyala’s politicians continued into 2010. Before the March parliamentary election, a candidate for Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, Najm Abdullah Harbi was arrested for homicide. A judge ordered him released for lack of evidence, but then he was re-arrested for alleged ties to Al Qaeda. Harbi ended up winning 28,000 votes and a seat in parliament, but he is still in prison. Three other National Movement candidates went into hiding as a result, fearing that they too would be picked up. They didn’t re-emerge until all of them won seats, which gave them political immunity. After the election the deputy governor Furat Mohammed Hussein Jassim was also picked up, and is still being held.
Diyala is a perfect example of Prime Minister Maliki’s abuse of power. Again and again he intervened in the province’s politics, using the security forces. An American adviser to the governorate’s council from 2009 to early 2010 said that Maliki’s actions were threatening Sunnis’ belief in the political process. What they were learning was that Maliki would never allow them to have a real say in the local government, even if they played by the rules and got elected to office. The premier made all of them afraid that they could be arrested at any time, and even if they put up a legal defense after being detained they would be held indefinitely. It’s events like these that made negotiations over a new government so difficult. Political parties have little faith in Maliki, and they want concrete promises from State of Law in writing, top posts, and hopefully legislation. Until then they only have Maliki’s word that he is willing to share power. That’s not good enough for some such as Allawi, which is dragging out the process even more.
International Crisis Group, “Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces between U.S. Drawdown and Withdrawal,” 10/26/10
Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008
Parker, Ned, “Diyala struggles to overcome sectarian bad blood,” Los Angeles Times, 10/25/10
- “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia,” World Policy Journal, Spring 2009