Iraq’s Maliki, an established dictator?
By: Raed Omari
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, it seems, has never been a national figure nor even a pragmatic politician but a sectarian leader who has been faithful only to Tehran and upheld its domination over Iraq.
However, Maliki has grown ultra-aggressive lately – now a dictator, there is no doubt in my mind – insisting on a third term even if the price is a prolonged civil war in a country that has not had a short-lived moment of peace and tranquility in decades.
Maliki’s recent warning that any unconstitutional attempt to form a new government would open the “gates of hell” on Iraq is a testimony of his dictatorial attitude. While writing this, I wondered what Maliki had meant by “unconstitutional”? Did he mean any endeavor seeking his replacement or any attempt aiming at weakening the influence of his Dawa party over the Iraqi parliament? Surely both.
With Maliki’s claimed keenness on the constitution, I wonder if the embattled prime minister’s supporters are aware of his violation of the constitution by allowing the formation of militias outside the framework of the national army. Paragraph B of article 9 of Iraq’s constitution prohibits the formation of militias outside the framework of the armed forces.
It seems as though every religious, tribal and political leader in Iraq now has his own militias, performing executions and carrying out assaults when ordered against people, political parties’ headquarters and national institutions under the pretext of protecting shrines or other allegations. Militias in Iraq have been formed on sectarian basis and this should come as little surprise given that Maliki had reportedly once divided the Iraqi people into Hussein’s army and Yazid’s army in reference to the 7th century battle in Islamic history.
In fact, Maliki has been enforcing the “weird” governing system of Iraq put in place after the 2003 U.S. invasion. Under that formula, which is certainly a recipe for sectarianism, the post of prime minister is reserved for a Shiite; the president a Kurd and the parliament speaker a Sunni. Although not stipulated in the Iraqi constitution, this governing system has become “untouchable” to the point that it would be “unconstitutional” for a Sunni or Kurdish figure to form a cabinet.
Despite the chorus of criticism over his sectarian-based domestic policies, Maliki never suggested that he would step down
Maliki transcended this unconstitutional governing system when he made it a de-facto precondition for an Iraqi prime minister to be not only a Shiite but a die-hard ally of Iran. Maliki has forged a strong alliance with Shiite leaders affiliated in one way or another with Tehran, including Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Dawa Party leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari. His relationship with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and cleric and politician Ammar al-Hakim seems to have long been on shaky ground simply because the two belong to Arab tribes which beleive Iraq’s Najaf to be the seat of Shiite learning and not Iran’s Qum.
Despite the chorus of criticism over his sectarian-based domestic policies, Maliki never suggested that he would step down. It is this totalitarian attitude that has created the conditions leading a large portion of the country to fall into the hands of the insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which the embattled premier is now pleading to fight against.
It does seem, however, that Maliki has benefited from ISIS in many ways. His alleged fight against the Islamist group has been a means more than end. In order to divert the world’s attention from the Anbar uprising against his sectarian policies, Maliki sent his forces to fight alongside the Sunni insurgents who put on hold temporarily their rebellion against Baghdad’s Shiite-led government until they removed ISIS from their Sunni stronghold. And they succeeded in that mission. The same applies to Maliki’s force’s engagement in the Kurds’ war with ISIS. The abrupt move is no more than political maneuvering meant by Maliki to please the Kurds who called for his departure.
All in all, Maliki’s story with ISIS is not that difficult to analyze. It’s either that the embattled premier’s sectarian policies have led to ISIS’ dominance over western Iraq or that he has been using the Islamist militia as a scarecrow to add legitimacy to his wars here and there as being part of the U.S.-led “war on terror,” exactly as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has done.
An Iranian province?
Iran’s policies in Iraq and its unaltered support of Maliki have had an immense impact on Maliki’s growing totalitarianism.
Under Maliki’s rule, Iraq seems to have turned into an Iranian province. Now, the Iraqis’ demand that Maliki be replaced has to be approved by Iran which has been said to be working with Iraqi factions for a suitable candidate. Of course, it could be that this alternative will have to be as loyal to Tehran as Maliki was in order to get Iran’s approval.
Although in itself it is a proof of Tehran’s mandate over Iraq, Iran’s statement on Maliki’s replacement cannot be that genuine and serious anyway. Tehran is now managing the growing pressure on Maliki in general statements carrying intentions and promises, resembling those statements it used to make on Assad’s regime.
What is Maliki’s post now? He is not a real prime minister, not an acting prime minister, not even a premier-elect nor a premier-designate. He is simply an embattled premier whose term has expired and who is insisting on a third term even if that may lead to bloodshed and a sectarian war.
I sometimes wonder: Is there not a man among the 30 million Iraqis who can replace Maliki? Why this insistence on power from Maliki at a time of public abhorrence to his rule? I have no clues in mind except that either Maliki is governed by a dictatorship mentality, or he is “drunk with power” indeed, or that he has an agenda to achieve.
If Iraq’s Maliki was once described as a dictator in the making, I would say he is an established dictator now whose persistence on a third term will send Iraq toward a new stage of hostility and insecurity.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2