First Published: 2017-01-12

Is the tide turning against Iraq’s Nuri al-Maliki?
Former Iraqi PM is widely remembered for crushing Iraq’s 'Arab spring' in 2012 after raid was ordered on Ministry of Finance headed by Rafi al-Issawi.
Middle East Online

By Nazli Tarzi - LONDON

Maliki

As Iraq gears up for provincial elections, the floor under the ruling Shia alliance is cracking. Anger is mounting among a population that says its demands have not been met, as shown during recent protests against Iraqi Vice- President Nuri al-Maliki in southern Iraq.

Maliki’s unsolicited, self-funded political tour to several southern cities in December drew crowds of enraged protesters demanding the departure of a man they blame for Iraq’s current situation. Dissatisfied masses scolded Maliki — as their placards read — for plundering Iraq’s oil wealth and allowing one-third of the country to slip into the grasp of the Islamic State (ISIS).

“The aim of Maliki’s tour,” Amman-based activist Marjan al-Hilali explained in a telephone interview, “is to nurture the loyalty of certain segments of society through hollow promises and cash.”

Hilali said money was the order of the day in the “new Iraq”. The highest bidder, he said, “is he who solidifies his power over ministries of state”. Maliki’s promises of reform and sweeping changes have come to mean very little. Suspicion and distrust of his motives are grounded in a history of his repressive and sectarian rule.

Iraqi-based activist Uday al-Zaidi said, “Maliki and his State of Law Party have lost the popular vote”, especially among Shias in Iraq. Any legitimacy he had was extracted under electoral fraud and vote rigging. Even this was lost the moment protesters took to the streets during February uprisings in 2010”.

“He cannot defy his fate by walking over the cracks in the floor beneath him,” Zaidi said. “Power is no longer narrowly concentrated around him or his allies.”

Maliki denounced the protests, labelling the participants as outlaws belonging to the Sadrist political movement. Days earlier, Islamic Dawa Party leader Ammar al-Kuzai was attacked by armed groups in Basra. The Sadrists released a statement three days following Maliki’s eviction from Basra’s oil cultural centre denying responsibility and involvement. Wathiq al-Battat, leader of Iraq’s Hezbollah, stereotyped demonstrators as “baltajiyya” — “thugs” — and defended Maliki “as not the only man responsible for the blood Iraq has shed”.

Maliki is widely remembered for crushing Iraq’s “Arab spring” in 2012 after a raid was ordered on the Ministry of Finance headed by Rafi al-Issawi, a Sunni. His guards were arrested under terrorism charges and another Sunni MP, Ahmad al- Alwani, was imprisoned.

Starting in Falluja, thousands of Iraqis rallied to condemn Maliki’s sectarian governance. The popular uprising lasted more than a year but its “leaders were incarcerated, forced into exile, and many of them killed”, Ahmad Mahmoud, an organiser of the 2010 uprisings, now based in London, explained.

“The same approach was used the subsequent years as protests continued,” he said. Those who marched, Mahmoud added, “whether in Falluja, Ramadi or Basra were conceptualised by Maliki and his henchman as seditionists and criminals”, allegations Maliki returned to after the demonstrations against him in southern Iraq.

Zaidi said that, while political groups joined the protests, “Maliki’s projection of what really happened is a mere illusion that Iraqis can no longer be fed”. His reception suggests his popularity is waning.

Though rifts between Maliki and the Sadrist movement are not new, they have intensified in recent months. Both blocs, on paper, are partners in the ruling national alliance criticised by Zaidi “as a house that is divided” along religious lines.

In late December, Muqtada al Sadr met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss the war against ISIS, reform plans and the elevation of moderate voices within the establishment reportedly without mentioning names.

“Lest we forget, the political system in Iraq was essentially founded upon injustices and the existing alliances that form the political process lack popular support,” Zaidi said. “Whether it is Sunni or Shia or Kurdish, these are all political blocs moulded by the hands of US occupiers.”

With only a few months before Iraqi elections, Zaidi maintained that Iraq is witnessing the “rise of a new popular movement… the biggest threat to those in power”.

He said that April’s vote “will give birth to new political parties and trends with old faces”. He added that observers should expect several delays under “invented pretences” of the ruling national Shia alliance to postpone the results.

Growing friction between Maliki’s State of Law Coalition and the Sadrist movement are expected and alliances will likely shift as political blocs try to consolidate power. These agendas, Zaidi said, “will not go undetected by the Iraqi people”.

Nazli Tarzi is an independent journalist, whose writings and films focus on Iraq’s ancient history and contemporary political scene.

Copyright ©2017 The Arab Weekly

 

Britain probes jihadist network amid row with US intelligence

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Faz3a, a local NGO mobilising young people to help Mosul refugees

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Egypt blocks several media websites including Jazeera

IS suicide bomber kills five in Somalia

Israel uneasy over 'crazy' regional arms race

Algeria president replaces Prime Minister

16 civilians dead in coalition strikes near Raqa

4 arrested in Tunisia anti-corruption drive

German MPs call off Turkey visit as tensions fester

Palestinian hunger strike row draws solidarity, controversy

Britain raises terror alert, deploys troops after concert massacre

Qatar probes state news agency hack

At least 20 migrants killed in Mediterranean

Israeli joy at Trump visit lacks substance

Oman evacuates Australian man from Yemen

Bahrain police open fire on Shiite protest, kill five

Turkey arrests hunger strikers on terror charges

Jewish extremists ejected from Aqsa mosque compound

Prominent Egypt rights lawyer detained

Oil producers to extend output curbs at OPEC meeting

NATO aims to break Turkey-Austria partnership deadlock

Tunisia tensions simmer after protester's death

Terrorist bomb attack kills 22 at UK pop concert

Bahrain police raid Shiite sit-in killing one protester

Trump says Israelis, Palestinians ‘can make a deal’

Five dead in Syria car bomb attacks

Syria civilians suffer deadliest month of US-led strikes

US forces raid Al-Qaeda in Yemen, kill seven jihadists

Islamists to join Algeria cabinet despite poor results

Tunisia's 2.1% GDP growth marks economic upturn

Trump meets Palestinian leader in Bethlehem

Istanbul demolishes nightclub targeted in New Year attack

WHO says 315 cholera deaths in Yemen in under one month

Trump seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace, lashes out at Iran again