Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 6
Iraqiyya Contemplates Next Move
After a meeting among Iraqiyya members on January 22, the issue of opting out of the government and becoming the parliamentary opposition received much attention. Recently, the Iraqi media reported disagreements among the bloc’s leadership on how to proceed with regards to pulling out from government: Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and party leader Jamal Karbouli were reportedly in favor of remaining in the government, Iraqiyya bloc leader Ayad Allawi and Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi were in favor of establishing a political opposition, while Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was torn in the middle. However, Iraqiyya claimed reports about division were false, and that the party will proceed on decisions with all leaders on board. Some Iraqiyya members have stated that the bloc would end its boycott of parliament should Maliki implement the Arbil Agreements and that Iraqiyya’s participation is not conditional on resolving the Hashemi and Mutlaq cases. Following a January 26 meeting, Iraqiyya members decided to continue party discussions on their next move on January 28. The bloc is considering returning to the Council of Ministers and/or parliament under some conditions.
Turkey-Iraq Rift Continues
On January 25, a number of statements continued to inflame the current rift between Ankara and Baghdad. Tribal leaders in Najaf province issued a joint statement that called for Baghdad to stop the export of oil through Turkish territory until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized for his criticism of Maliki’s recent behavior. In addition, Iraqi Vice President Khudhair Khuza’i told the Turkish ambassador that his leader’s comments were “inciting” and “not constituting a friendship” or “brotherly relations” between the two countries. Meanwhile, Erdogan refused to apologize and continued to express his concerns about Iraq’s direction, saying, “We can’t remain silent, if you [Maliki] start a process of sectarian conflict.” But as government officials on both sides continue to exacerbate the situation, some have sought to mend relations. ISCI leader and Shi’a religious cleric Ammar al-Hakim visited Turkey on January 26, meeting with President Abdullah Gul, Erdogan, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Hakim stated that both sides are in need of efforts to “strengthen our bonds of friendship.”
National Conference Initiative Loses Momentum
Efforts for convening the National Conference lost momentum this week as President Jalal Talabani was in Germany to receive medical treatment. Maliki’s State of Law coalition stated that Hashemi’s case and the arrest warrant filed against him would not be a part of the National Conference’s agenda should it occur. In addition, other State of Law members argued that there was no need for the National Conference because a national political crisis did not exist. Instead, the bloc reportedly supports a series of meetings between political leaders to resolve what they are characterizing as personal disagreements. To further complicate matters, firebrand Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr issued a statement citing his refusal to participate in the National Conference because he is a religious figure, not a politician, and that it is not his business to be involved in politics. This bodes poorly for the National Conference as Allawi has conditioned his participation on the attendance of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani and Sadr. Iraqi leaders are now waiting until Talabani’s return from Germany, reportedly scheduled for January 28.
Iraqi Politicians Respond to Suleimani Statement
Many Iraqi politicians were outraged following a statement by Iranian Al-Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani in which he reportedly stated that Iraq was in “one way or another” under Iranian influence and “subject to the control” of Iran. Though the comment was quickly denied by the Iranian government, saying that Suleimani’s statement was misquoted in the Arabic translation, it has triggered a violent reaction from all sides of the Iraqi political spectrum. Immediately following news of Suleimani’s statement, a Sadrist Trend MP rejected the statement and called it “unacceptable.” However, despite the fury coming from parliament, a harsh response from the Iraqi government has been noticeably absent. While the Iraqi Foreign Ministry posted a statement on its website criticizing neighboring countries for trying to intervene in Iraqi affairs and showing a “lack of respect for Iraqi sovereignty,” Maliki has made no official comment regarding the statement and has remained silent on the issue. Iraqiyya spokesman Haider al-Mullah denounced the Iraqi government for its “double standard” in dealing with neighboring countries, pointing out Maliki’s hard-line attitude towards Turkey’s recent comments.
Committees Established to Investigate Hashemi Case
The Iraqi parliament approved the formation of a seven-member parliamentary committee to investigate the case of Vice President Hashemi. Iraqiyya MP Khalid al-Alwani stated that the committee would investigate whether or not the case has been politicized, and would follow up on detainee abuse accusations and the Supreme Judicial Court’s reluctance to transfer the case to the Kirkuk province. Also, the KRG established a nine-member committee that visited the detained bodyguards on January 24, and is also preparing a report to be submitted to parliament.
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.