Iraq crisis escalates with calls for PM
Maliki to go
June 2, 2012
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malik delivers a speech
during a ceremony at Al-Shaab stadium complex in
Baghdad, December 31, 2011. Photo: Reuters
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BAGHDAD,— A series of intertwined
political crises that began with accusations that
Iraq's prime minister was consolidating power have
escalated into calls to unseat him, and paralyzed
the country's government.
"The political crisis has reached its highest level
since its beginning, but it is still running within
the framework of the democratic game," Iraqi
political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said.
"The country is paralyzed on all levels; there is a
clear political paralysis paralleled by governmental
negligence and a failure of the legislative
authority, while the people are disappointed and
afraid of the security consequences," Shammari
The trouble began in earnest in mid-December, when
the secular Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc began a
boycott of parliament and the cabinet over what it
said was Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's
centralisation of power.
For his part, Maliki sought to sack Sunni Deputy
Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, an Iraqiya member
who had labeled the premier "worse than Saddam
That month, an arrest warrant was issued for Sunni
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also of Iraqiya,
for allegedly running a death squad.
Hashemi fled to the autonomous Kurdistan region in
north Iraq, which declined to hand him over to
Baghdad and then permitted him to leave on a
regional tour that took him to Qatar, Saudi Arabia
He is now being tried in absentia in Iraq.
Kurdistan further entered the fray when its chief,
Massoud Barzani, launched a series of attacks
In April, the region stopped oil exports, claiming
Baghdad has allegedly withheld more than $1.5
billion that Kurdish officials say is owed to
foreign oil companies working in the region.
And powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose
parliamentary bloc is part of the national unity
government along with Iraqiya and the Kurdish
referred to the premier as a "dictator" hungry for
acclaim, and accused him of wanting to postpone or
But Maliki opponents have now moved from merely
criticizing the premier to talk of actually removing
him from office.
Iraqiya, which eventually returned to parliament and
the cabinet, has sought to convince President Jalal
Talabani to initiate a vote of no confidence in the
premier in parliament, while Barzani has said he
cannot work with Maliki.
"Maliki must change his policy or he will be
replaced," Barzani's chief of staff Fuad Hussein
said in an interview with the Rudaw news site posted
on the Kurdistan region presidency's website.
"The message to Maliki is that if he can change his
policy, he is welcome to do so; otherwise, he will
be changed," Hussein said.
The months of acrimony have taken a toll on the
functioning of the government.
Parliament has not passed significant legislation
except for the budget, while other important
measures such as a hydrocarbons law regulating the
country's oil sector have been delayed.
And a national meeting of political leaders
originally scheduled for December that was aimed at
defusing the tension has yet to be held.
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