Iraq's Deputy PM: Maliki is acting like "a
By Dahr Jamail - Al Jazeera
Nouri al-Maliki: A Shia Saddam? Iraq's Deputy Prime
Minister accuses Nouri al-Maliki of acting like "a
dictator" amid fears of "chaos and civil war".
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a
prominent Sunni politician, has been placed on
'extended leave' Photo: EPA
December 28, 2011
BAGHDAD, — Less than 24 hours after
the US military withdrew the last of its occupation
forces from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
issued an arrest warrant for Vice-President Tariq
al-Hashimi, charging him with terrorism.
Maliki, a Shia, levelled the charges against the
highest ranking Sunni in the government - a move
that threatens to drag the country back into
sectarian bloodletting like the one which occurred
in 2006-2007 that led to tens of thousands of Iraqis
The move is particularly dangerous at this time,
given the power vacuum created by the US withdrawal.
Just three days after US forces withdrew from Iraq,
on December 21, Maliki placed his Deputy Prime
Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician who is
the head of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, on
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Mutlaq
called on Maliki to step down, and accused the prime
minister of acting like a dictator and leading the
country into chaos, and possibly civil war.
"My advice to him [Maliki] is that he should leave
his chair because he is the reason behind all that
is happening in Iraq because he turned into being a
real dictator in this country", Mutlaq told Al
Mutlaq said this is the most dangerous stage Iraq
has been in since the occupation, and said the way
Maliki is running the country "will lead to chaos
and a civil war".
"He [Maliki] is a dictator without wisdom," Mutlaq
said, and called for Maliki to step down
immediately. "He should leave his position for
somebody else and [we should] form a new government
until we reach the election."
Maliki has defended his moves by claiming to adhere
to both the power-sharing agreement and the Iraqi
Further complicating matters, the political bloc
loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for
the parliament to be dissolved and new elections to
be held, as has Massoud Barzani, the president of
the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Barzani said
there should be early elections if the political
leaders fail to resolve the crisis, that Iraq is
facing the most dangerous crisis since the Americans
entered the country,www.ekurd.net
and that Iraq's constitution allows for federalism
and Maliki has no right to object to it or to the
creation of federal regions, which more Iraqi
provincial leaders are aiming to do.
Baha al-Araji, the head of Sadr's al-Ahrar bloc
which holds 39 seats of the 325-member parliament,
told Al Jazeera that the existing political partners
are unable to reach solutions because there are
blocs of politicians among them carrying out foreign
agendas "while others work with terror".
Maliki's move against Hashimi has caused several of
Iraq's Sunni-Arab majority provinces to renew their
call for their own federal region, a move that would
further divide the country, as the arrest warrant
against Hashimi threatens to further aggravate
Iraq's sectarian fault lines that are already being
widened by the crisis.
A Shia Saddam?
Hashimi and Mutlaq's Iraqiya bloc, led by former
Iraqi interim Prime Minnister Iyad Allawi, announced
on December 17 it had suspended participation in
parliament in protest of ongoing arrests of its
On December 18, the remaining US forces withdrew
from Iraq, and on December 19, Maliki issued the
arrest warrant for Hashimi.
More than 10 bombings wracked Baghdad on December
22, killing at least 70 and wounding more than 200.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq recently claimed responsibility for
Hashimi, who fled to the Kurdistan region of
northern Iraq, has denied all of Maliki's charges
and has questioned the motivation behind the
accusations. Hashimi also said that he believes
Maliki's case against him was intentionally timed to
happen immediately upon the withdrawal of US forces.
Meanwhile, leaders of some of the predominantly
Sunni provinces have renewed their calls for
federalism in order to obtain greater autonomy from
Predominately Sunni provinces like Anbar, Salahedin,
Diyala and Nineveh have demanded greater autonomy
Maliki has warned that Iraq is not yet ready for
federalism, and stated that he would reject anything
that would lead to a division of Iraq.
He recently told a group of tribal sheiks from
Iraq's Salahedin province that if federalism were to
come to Iraq "by unnatural means" it would
"transform into rivers of blood".
Al Jazeera spoke with several Iraqis inside the
Shabender Café, a famous teashop near Baghdad's
Mutanabi Street, which hosts a Friday book market
Iraqi intellectuals and artists regularly meet at
the café to discuss art, politics and literature,
and have done so for many centuries.
Retired teacher Naji Salman, who was arrested in
1970 by the regime of Saddam Hussein and accused of
being a political dissident, told Al Jazeera he
feels that Maliki is leading "in a balanced way",
and that Hashimi should be tried in Baghdad.
"Tariq al-Hashimi should have stayed in Baghdad and
he should be tried here, because his fleeing to
Kurdistan has allowed Maliki to tarnish Hashimi's
reputation," Salman, who used to be in former Prime
Minister Iyad Allawi's party, said. "And I think
Hashimi is pushing things politically out of
Aymen Kareem, who owns a mobile phone shop, says he
is angered by the political crisis, because no
matter what happens, the Iraqi people will pay the
highest price as the politicians argue.
"Insh'allah [God willing] the sectarian violence
will not return," he told Al Jazeera. "While they
fight amongst themselves, it is the Iraqi people who
Ahmed Sabah, a barber, felt similarly.
"The only victims of the political crisis are the
Iraqi people", he said. "We hope the situation will
not be like it was before, but there are signs it
will return to that if things do not change soon."
Sabah added that he felt the only solution is to get
rid of the current politicians and "find better
people to work together to serve our country".
Faisal Mahmoud, who owns and operates the teashop,
was blunt about his opinion of the crisis.
"We are in a political crisis and the politicians
only care about themselves and not the country."
Other Iraqis Al Jazeera spoke with feel that the
current political crisis is little more than
"This political crisis, as all Iraqis know, is
political theatre", Muhamed Abid, a day labourer,
said. "The politicians are fighting with each other
in the media, yet behind closed doors they are
shaking hands and getting rich. But it's always the
less financially advantaged Iraqis who suffer."
Nonetheless, Abid fears that the crisis to drag Iraq
back into sectarian violence if it continues much
Mustafa Ahmed, a taxi driver, had an equally bleak
outlook on the situation.
"All our politicians represent the political aims of
foreign countries. I don't know if the sectarian
violence will return, but the Iraqi people
understand the situation and the biggest loser is
the Iraqi citizen."
Mowathiq al-Hashemi with the Iraqi Centre for
Strategic Studies in Baghdad told Bloomberg news
that he believes Iraq's issues will not be resolved
without the house's dissolution, and in a statement
similar to Ahmed's, added, "I believe this is
nothing but an attempt to impose pressure. Many of
the lawmakers are certain that they would not keep
their seats if elections take place amidst such poor
Ahmed believes the possibility of holding new
elections scares most of the current politicians
"since they aim to maintain their interests and
positions, and each one of them are holding files
against the others".
Unlike Abid and Ahmed, however, Mahmoud believes the
government will be able to solve the crisis, but
added, "They have to sit together and work things
out", a suggestion that, at least for now, Iraqi
politicians appear unable to accomplish.
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