Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 8

Iraqiyya Ends Boycott of Council of Ministers

The Iraqiyya bloc returned to the Council of Ministers on February 7, ending its nearly two-month boycott of the government. All Iraqiyya ministers were present except Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, whose position is disputed due to critical remarks he made against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last December. Iraqiyya MP Nada al-Juboori characterized the end of the bloc’s boycott as a “good step toward holding the national conference,” an initiative under the auspices of President Jalal Talabani to resolve the ongoing political crisis in Baghdad. 

National Conference Picks Up Momentum

Momentum continued to build this week for holding the National Conference as Iraqiyya ended their boycott of the Council of Ministers. A preparatory committee met for the second time on February 6 to lay out the parameters of the National Conference. The meeting included leaders from the National Alliance, Iraqiyya, and the Kurdish Alliance. Ali al-Musawi, an advisor to Maliki, announced that the political blocs agreed to change the name of the National Conference to the “National Meeting.” The attendees also decided to hold the conference in two weeks and agreed on four basic principles: (1) All blocs will adhere to the political process and stand together against terrorism; (2) The Constitution is the basis for settling all disputes; (3) It is necessary that all communities of Iraqi society be represented in the political process; and (4) The Iraqi judiciary is an independent body and should not be subject to political interference. Talabani also requested that the preparatory committee create a “road map” that incorporates principles of the Constitution and the Arbil Agreement, the power-sharing settlement brokered in late 2010 to form the current government. According to reports in the Iraqi press, the dispute between Iraqiyya and State of Law over the portfolios of Iraq’s security ministries will also be on the table at the conference. That includes the controversial creation of the National Council for Higher Policies, a product of the Arbil Agreement that was intended to give Iraqiyya leader Ayad Allawi a position in the government. The date for holding the National Conference reportedly will be decided in a February 12 meeting involving the preparatory committee, which will include fifteen representatives (seven from the National Alliance bloc, five from Iraqiyya, and three from the Kurdish Alliance).

Judiciary Issues Warrants for Parliamentarians

Iraq’s judiciary has issued arrest warrants for three MPs. Iraqiyya MPs Haider al-Mullah and Salim al-Jabouri and independent MP Sabah al-Saadi, who left Maliki’s State of Law coalition last year, were recently notified that the judiciary had requested parliament to remove their immunities. Saadi is accused of corruption, Jabouri is accused of terrorism, and Mullah is accused of contempt of court. All three have been vocal in criticizing Maliki’s dictatorial tendencies. According to a spokesman of the Higher Judiciary Council, Mullah was accused of having offended Judge Saad al-Lami in a late November interview. Lami filed a complaint, and after review, a court had handed down an arrest warrant against Mullah and requested the Iraqi parliament to remove Mullah’s immunity. “I am accused of offending the judiciary and saying that the judicial system is politicized,” Mullah said. “This is a new attack against Iraqiyya and part of the continuous attacks against us.”

Maliki Asks Iraqiyya to Replace Mutlaq

Maliki’s State of Law coalition reportedly announced on February 9 that negotiations with Iraqiyya to resolve the dispute regarding the status of Mutlaq’s position have failed and that Maliki is now asking Iraqiyya to replace Mutlaq with another politician from the bloc. Last week, Talabani told Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi that he was mediating the conflict between Maliki and Mutlaq. On January 31, Maliki reportedly offered three options to Iraqiyya: (1) Mutlaq must resign his post; (2) Iraqiyya must fire Mutlaq and replace him with another politician from their bloc; or (3) Mutlaq must apologize to Maliki. As Iraqiyya made its decision to return to the Council of Ministers earlier this week, the Iraqi press reported that Mutlaq was considering apologizing to Maliki for his earlier remarks that characterized the prime minister as a “dictator.” Party members, however, deny Mutlaq intended to make an apology.  

Maliki Makes Appeal to East Asia

Maliki has made appeals toward East Asian countries on developing relations with Iraq, calling on South Korea to cooperate on armaments, Japan on economic involvement, and China on “strategic projects,” such as infrastructure, energy, and armaments. This week, Maliki met with the South Korean State Minister for Military Industries and the Japanese and Chinese ambassadors in an effort to expand Iraq’s bilateral relations. Chinese Ambassador Ni Hian stated, “China strives to achieve the same goal, and to expand those relations on all fields, especially the political, military and economic fields.” The meetings come days after news broke that the U.S. would be cutting its embassy staff by at least half.

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.