Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 11

Diyala Governor Reportedly Resigns

Diyala Governor Abdul Nasser al-Mahdawi resigned on February 27 due to political pressure, according to his press secretary. The Sunni Tawafuq bloc, which Mahdawi is from, has reportedly nominated several candidates for the governorship. The candidates include Deputy Governor for Budget Affairs Talal al-Jabouri, Chairman of the Energy Committee Ismael al-Jabouri, and senior Tawafuq politician Hashem al-Hayali. Azzawi stated that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi did not respond to the conditions Mahdawi gave in order to return to the provincial capital of Baquba. Mahdawi fled to the city of Khanaqin in December after hostile protests erupted following the provincial council’s announcement to grant Diyala the status of federal region. Some of Mahdawi’s demands included providing security forces to safeguard the provincial council building and investigating and prosecuting the demonstrators who attacked the building. Last week, Maliki reportedly gave Mahdawi a 72-hour ultimatum to return to Baquba and resume his duties as governor or face being replaced.

Postponing National Conference After Summit

Members of the Shi’a National Alliance bloc are supporting postponing the National Conference until after the Arab League Summit takes place, which is currently scheduled to take place on March 29 in Baghdad. The National Conference is an initiative that seeks to resolve the political crisis between Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the rival Iraqiyya bloc. An Iraqiyya MP suggested on Thursday that if the National Conference is postponed until after the Arab Summit, Iraqiyya may pursue several other options to try to remove Maliki, including voting to withdraw confidence in the prime minister. Iraqiyya lawmaker Salman al-Jumaili, the parliamentary leader of the bloc, came out strongly against delaying the conference as suggested by members of the National Alliance. Warning that the delay would “lead to greater problems,” Jumaili argued it would also compel his bloc to refer to the Arab League, as well as including human rights organization, to resolve the internal disputes. The next preparatory meeting, which will aim to work out the parameters of the conference, was postponed to next Tuesday.

Hashemi and Maliki Reportedly Exchange Letters

Though they are in a bitter face-off over accusations of terrorism charges, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and Maliki have reportedly exchanged letters. Hashemi delivered a letter last Sunday to the prime minister through a member of his Tajdeed Party, conveying his willingness to appear for his court trial on condition that it is a fair and apolitical process. Maliki responded by sending a letter to Hashemi through Iraqiyya MP Alaa Makki, insisting that the judiciary is already independent and free of political interference. Yesterday, Hashemi stated that he is willing to cooperate with Maliki if he changes his ways and argued that he is not competing against the prime minister. The vice president reiterated his innocence and pointed to the fact that Baghdad has denied his request to be tried in the city of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, the Iraqiyya bloc is suggesting resolving Hashemi’s case by internationalizing it and placing the issue on the agenda of the upcoming Arab Summit at the end of March. The Supreme Judicial Council has scheduled Hashemi’s trial to convene on May 3 in Baghdad.  

Saudi-Iraq Relations Improve

Two weeks after Saudi Arabia appointed an ambassador to Iraq for the first time in more than two decades, bilateral relations between Riyadh and Baghdad continued to thaw. After receiving an invitation from Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, Iraq’s Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi and National Security Advisor Falah al-Fayadh traveled to Riyadh to meet with Intelligence Chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz and Assistant Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to discuss greater cooperation between the two countries through security. Prior to the visit, Asadi stated that Baghdad and Riyadh had already discussed working together on measures against terrorism, illegal narcotics, organized crime and cross-border smuggling. They will also hold talks on prisoner exchanges when Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari visits Riyadh next week. In addition, Asadi stated that he was “very optimistic that this cooperation will be the beginning of a new phase of openness between the two countries on political, economic and security issues.” Commenting on the marked warming of relations, Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman stated that the Saudis “want to be nice to Iraq to pull it towards its position against Iran and Syria.” Meanwhile, Maliki is reportedly scheduled to visit Kuwait in mid-March to discuss all outstanding disputes between the two countries, including the construction of the Mubarak port, which Baghdad views as undermining its economic interests.

For a comprehensive look at the first two months since U.S. troops left Iraq, read Ramzy Mardini's backgrounder, " Iraq's Recurring Political Crisis."  To read a transcript from the Feb. 29 event "Policing Iraq," click here, and to read a transcript from the Feb. 16 event "Iraq After the U.S. Withdrawal," click here. To read past and future weekly updates, click here.