DAMASCUS - This Friday marks exactly the
150th day of Nuri al-Maliki's tenure as prime
minister of Iraq. Usually in democracies, the
performance of a prime minister and his government
is measured by the first 100 days in office. Even
with the extra 50 days, Maliki has failed
completely to bring security to Iraq.
has failed to disarm the militias. And he has
failed to bring about economic reforms, in
addition to being unable to combat unemployment or
prevent the immigration of Iraqi youth. The
Ministry of Interior under
Maliki is swarming with armed Shi'ite militias,
just as it was under his predecessor, Ibrahim
The Iraqi police have been
infiltrated by militiamen, who are using official
equipment and funds to kill other Iraqis in the
Iraqi Army, controlled by the Sunnis. Death squads
roam the streets, killing over 100 Iraqis per day.
Under Maliki, the death toll has risen to over
3,000 Iraqis killed per month. On the anniversary
of his 150th day in power, 50 people were killed
in Mosul, Kirkuk and Baquba, and another 100 were
wounded, while 33 unidentified bodies - all shot
in the head, were found in Baghdad. Earlier in the
week, 60 beheaded bodies were found.
Maliki, al-Qaeda has not been weakened by the
death of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. On the
contrary, this month the group declared an Islamic
republic in Iraq, proving that, if anything, it is
not weaker but more determined to seize power and
create a Taliban-like regime.
Maliki, according to a report in the London-based
daily Al-Hayat, Iraqi men are carving tattoos on
their bodies, with their home address and
telephone number. This is so that if they are
killed, mutilated or beheaded, police would be
able to identify their bodies and send them back
to their families for burial.
unconfirmed, some claim that the abundance of
suicide bombers in Iraq under Maliki is a result
of a trick carried out by the militias and the
Ministry of Interior on ordinary Iraqi citizens.
They offer young men well-paying, non-military
jobs, which are quickly snapped up due to the
terrible economic conditions, with no questions
asked. While on duty, they are sent in a car to a
certain location and told to call a certain person
when they get there. The employee does not realize
that his mobile phone is connected to a hidden car
bomb. When he makes the call, his car explodes.
Despite the horrendous state of the
country, US President George W Bush and Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice have been full of praise
for Maliki. For his part, Maliki has been busy
lately, making a high-profile visit to Najaf on
Wednesday and meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani and the young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Sistani, the wise man of Iraqi politics, had
distanced himself from the political arena earlier
last month, appalled by the fact that he was being
overshadowed by younger, radical, military
oriented leaders like Muqtada.
Sistani stepped in to end two confrontations
between Shi'ite insurgents and the Americans in
2004, he no longer can get the armed groups to lay
down their arms, or think twice before gunning
down an Iraqi Sunni. Civil war has erupted, and
men like Muqtada who offer arms, money and
protection gain larger audiences than Sistani, who
has nothing for his visitors except words of
wisdom on co-existence and phrases from the Holy
Sistani is greatly disturbed that
politicians do not call on him anymore, and when
they do, they no longer listen to what he has to
say. Maliki's meeting him for consultation, then
rushing out to meet Muqtada, only adds to
Sistani's belief that his word is no longer final
in Shi'ite politics.
It proves that to get
things done, the prime minister needs the consent
of Muqtada, the militia leader who helped bring
him to power in May. Muqtada, after all, shares
identical views with Maliki over the partitioning
of Iraq, which both oppose, as well as on
Iranian-Iraqi relations. Although Maliki has
pledged to clamp down on the militias, he has done
nothing to control, or even curb, the powers of
the Mehdi Army that is run by Muqtada.
Monday, government troops arrested one of
Muqtada's top aides, Sheikh Mazen al-Saadi. This
led to large demonstrations of 2,000 Muqtada
loyalists in Baghdad, forcing authorities to
immediately order his release, making the prime
minister look silly. The arrest and rapid release
of Saadi demonstrates just how powerful Muqtada
really is and how unable - or unwilling - Maliki
is to cross him.
It was Muqtada's support,
after all, that brought Maliki to power and it was
Muqtada's signal that ended the reign of Jaafari.
Maliki's visit to Muqtada shortly after Saadi's
release raises speculation that the purpose of the
Najaf trip might have been to apologize for
detaining such a senior Muqtada loyalist. It also
gives credibility to the prime minister among
hardline Shi'ites to have his picture taken with
Muqtada, a man viewed as a Shi'ite nationalist and
anti-American to the bone. Such publicity stunts
greatly legitimize Muqtada as well, portraying him
as a protege of the Iraqi government.
also gives him political ammunition to use against
his opponents in the Shi'ite community, mainly the
Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Instead of objecting
to the prime minister's alliance with the rebel
Muqtada, the United States is in fact encouraging
Maliki to solidify his ties to him. As long as he
has the backing of the cleric, the Americans
believe, Maliki will remain legitimate in the eyes
of ordinary Shi'ites.
On Wednesday, White
House spokesman Tony Snow said that that the US
hoped Muqtada would cooperate with the Maliki
government and play a constructive role in Iraq.
This was shocking for Iraqi observers, because of
Muqtada's anti-American history. Asked whether
Muqtada was an enemy or ally of the US - or
something else - Snow replied, from aboard Air
Force One with President George W Bush, that
Muqtada was "a factor in Iraq. He is somebody who
obviously has adherents, and the most important
thing, I think, if Muqtada al-Sadr wants to play a
constructive role, is to make sure to cooperate
with Prime Minister Maliki in dealing with
Meanwhile, sources close to the
premier told al-Hayat that Maliki was planning to
"purify the Ministry of Defense" of sectarian
elements. Meaning, he wants to disarm the Sunni
militias who are affiliated with the ministry, so
that they do not obstruct the agenda of the
Shi'ite militias of the Ministry of Interior.
Al-Hayat added that Maliki had "began
steps towards ridding himself from the militias".
If this proves to be correct, then Maliki is
taking steps that are too little, too late. Abdul
Jalil Khalaf, an officer in Rasafa, explains to
al-Hayat that the Iraqi Army is facing "great
embarrassment" while carrying out its duties in
Baghdad because it is being confronted by the
police, who work for the Ministry of the Interior
and are infiltrated by the Badr Organization, an
Iran-backed militia headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim
and the SCIRI.
Khalaf adds that "residents
in some districts complain [to us] that the police
are requesting the assistance of the militias when
exposed to attack". He points out that the army
"refuses to interfere in many critical situations,
such as sectarian confrontation, for fear of being
accused of sectarianism or bias to one party or
Khalaf states that "the army is
more acceptable to the Iraqi street than the
police force because of the accusations from some
parliamentary and governmental groups who say that
the police are supporting the militias and are
involved with the death squads". The officers in
the army are often attacked by militiamen wearing
police uniforms and driving cars from the Ministry
of the Interior. Missiles are fired at Iraqi
soldiers from districts supposedly under control
of the ministry.
With all of this going on
in Iraq, it is not surprising that there is a lot
of talk about a coup being planned to oust Maliki.
Rumor has it that the newly created Iraqi Army,
along with former officers in Saddam Hussein's
forces, will stage a coup to topple Maliki and
replace him with a strong prime minister who is
able to clamp down on the militias.
prime minister would be pro-American, owing no
loyalty to the militias as Maliki or Jaafari did.
The name circulating is former prime minister Iyad
Allawi. Rumors add that the US would initially
denounce the coup in lip-service to democracy, but
eventually cooperate with the new regime because
it would bring security to Baghdad.
just shows how impatient everybody is with Maliki.
The coup scenario is being actively discussed by
Iraqis - almost as if they actually want it to