Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is doing everything he can to undermine his successor, in what may be a bid at mounting a political comeback.
Maliki served as Iraq’s Prime Minister from 2006 until 2014, and is seen as the Iraqi official most responsible for the rise of the Islamic State terrorist organization. After President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, Maliki began a sectarian purge of the Iraqi government and military.
The purges isolated Iraq’s Sunni minority, making them far more sympathetic to ISIS. The military, crippled by Maliki’s purges, crumbled before ISIS militants throughout the 2014 ISIS military campaign.
“Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to shape the political landscape in Iraq,” the Institute for the Study of War noted Tuesday. Maliki’s party bloc is behind a concerted effort to gut his successor’s cabinet, which is a key element of Iraqi Prime Minister’s reforms to curb corruption in Iraq, the think tank notes.
Both Iraq’s finance minister and defense minister were ousted by Maliki-driven efforts in recent months. Maliki recently summoned the Iraqi foreign minister for questioning, which could signal a prelude to a coming no-confidence vote. Reports indicate that Maliki’s bloc may even summon Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi himself for questioning.
If Maliki’s bloc is able to oust the finance minister, ISW warns it will “indicate to Maliki that he has the numbers to drive a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, a position he ultimately aims to retake.”
Obama arguably based his entire anti-ISIS mission on training and supporting the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Under Obama’s mission, the U.S. is instructed to provide unwavering political and military support to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi and his government. Abadi has made it a point to heal the sectarian divides in Baghdad that gave rise to ISIS in the first place.
Maliki’s political machinations come amid a crucial test for Abadi’s government. Iraq Security Forces, backed by U.S. airpower, are gearing up to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS in the coming days.
Maliki’s return would be a disaster for Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy. Maliki is almost single-handedly responsible for much of the chaos in Iraq today. Ali Khadery, the longest serving U.S. diplomat in Iraq, wrote in 2014 that after the U.S. withdrew, “Maliki broke nearly every promise he made to share power with his political rivals,” just as he had warned the Obama administration in 2010. Khadery believes that “under these circumstances, renewed ethno-sectarian civil war in Iraq was not a possibility. It was a certainty.”
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