Maliki Arrests Potential Opposition

In the days surrounding President Barack Obama’s announcement on October 21 to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the year’s end, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki commenced in a wide-scale campaign to purge hundreds of former members of the Ba’ath party from Iraq’s security apparatus. The sacking and arrests of rivals and independent figures, and their subsequent replacement with loyalists, has become common practice pursued by Maliki to consolidate power and marginalize political opponents. However, in contrast to other initiatives pursued by the prime minister to centralize power and resources, the domestic fears and concerns toward this recent campaign are exacerbated by the certainty of a full withdrawal by the U.S. military.

The effects on Iraq’s political environment have proved to be unstable and worrisome, prompting domestic actors to push back against the central government. Today, multiple provinces are becoming more sympathetic toward embracing federalism as a safeguard from Baghdad’s authoritarian tendencies. In an attempt to assuage fears about the arrest campaign and retort accusations of holding sectarian motives, Maliki and his allies insist that their actions are defensive measures taken to thwart a Ba’athist plot to destabilize Iraq and overthrow the government.

However, when taking into consideration the government’s lack of transparency, its legal discrepancies, and questionable justifications, the arrest campaign loses credibility. Given that Iraq has entered into its post-occupation electoral season, with provincial elections scheduled for early 2013, the U.S. withdrawal has further given pretext for Maliki to capitalize on promoting party loyalty in Iraq’s security apparatus. Instead of securing Iraq’s democratic path and stability, Maliki’s overbearing actions have perpetuated sectarian fragmentation and placed Iraq’s unity at risk.