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Analysis: Maliki bolsters Iraq re-election chances


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#1 yota691

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 05:40 AM

Analysis: Maliki bolsters Iraq re-election chances

By Michael KnightsWashington Institute for Near East Policy

_71001097_71000361.jpgSince winning a second term, Nouri Maliki has strengthened his grip on power

There are two widespread views of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who has just returned from his first high-level meetings in Washington since the US military withdrawal in 2011.

One view portrays him as an emergent would-be dictator, maximising his executive authorities and crushing rival institutions and personalities using state power.

Yet no sooner had Mr Maliki attained this reputation than he began to crash from one political and security crisis to another.

To many observers, this suggested that his political days were numbered and that, if freely held, the national elections scheduled for 30 April 2014 would eject him from power.

So which is the real Nouri Maliki: a strongman whose rule could span decades, or a quickly-forgotten character likely to be unseated in Iraq's first post-occupation polls?

Over-reaching

Initially viewed as weak when he entered office in 2006, Mr Maliki only bloomed into a more successful and confident leader in 2008 when the US-led surge allowed for decisive security operations against the Mehdi Army, a militia associated with the populist Shia leader Moqtada Sadr.

_71000260_71000259.jpgMr Maliki's opponents accuse him of sectarian bias in favour of the Shia majority

Building on the momentum from these military victories, Mr Maliki began a remarkably effective consolidation of executive power that has placed Iraq's security services, the Supreme Court, the treasury, central bank and state media under his hand.

Despite this recentralisation of power, Mr Maliki needed to carefully manage the political balance within Iraq's fragmented parliament after the US withdrew in December 2011.

Instead, almost from the moment of US withdrawal he started to alienate too many Iraqi factions at the same time.

By the spring of 2012, the Kurdish parties and Mr Sadr's allies had attempted a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Iraqi premier.

The effort narrowly failed due to strenuous Iranian lobbying on Mr Maliki's behalf, but it became clear that he would face a major challenge in securing a third term in 2014.

Mr Maliki's low point came in the April 2013 provincial elections.

_71000360_71000359.jpgMr Maliki's State of Law list suffered setbacks in April's provincial elections

Not only did they result in a lower haul of seats for his State of Law list - it won 22%, down from 28% in 2009 - but it also lost control of key provincial councils like Baghdad and Basra as other Shia parties allied against him.

Worse yet, the role of Maliki loyalists within State of Law also seemed diminished in those elections.

In his former stronghold Basra, for instance, only three of the 16 elected State of Law councillors were firmly associated with the prime minister.

Comeback strategy

With his back to the wall, Mr Maliki has demonstrated resilience and fancy political footwork in recent months.

He has given way to the Kurds on a range of issues, staying out of their way as they strengthened their hold on the disputed city of Kirkuk and as they completed an independent oil pipeline to Turkey.

In return, the Kurds remained silent on 26 August when Mr Maliki's men on the Supreme Court struck down legislation that would have denied the premier a third term.

In an increasingly successful effort to splinter Sunni Arab opposition, Mr Maliki is selectively reactivating the Sahwa (Awakening) movement of armed tribal auxiliaries and continues to promise de-Baathification and anti-terrorism reforms to Sunni factions.

_71000355_71000354.jpgViolence in Iraq has risen to levels not seen since 2008

And the premier has sought to remind Iraqis of his role in rolling back militia rule in 2008.

On Monday, he urged Iraqis to "remember the control of Moqtada's militia that fostered murder, kidnapping and theft in Basra, Karbala, Baghdad and other provinces".

Mr Maliki is also playing to the establishment's political interests.

He was not the only leader of a bloc to lose seats to smaller independent lists in the 2013 provincial polls, leading him to support legislative efforts to place a restrictive voting threshold on the 2014 national elections that would block the election of independent candidates.

Last, but not least, international partners are being intensively courted.

Mr Maliki is perhaps unique in being able to boast the US and Iran as his closest backers. Both have stepped into Iraq's political melee to save him from removal on numerous occasions since 2006.

With the Syrian crisis continuing to unfold, he remains a vital partner for Iran, whose resupply flights and convoys transit Iraq on their way to aid the Assad regime.

Mr Maliki has also sponsored a determined Iraqi government effort to reach out to Turkey, using Sunni Arab leaders as intermediaries to reduce anticipated Turkish opposition to his reappointment.

_71000256_71000255.jpgMr Maliki sought Barack Obama's help in fighting al-Qaeda militants

And despite a bruising public reception in Washington, the prime minister will probably succeed in portraying last week's White House visit as tacit US endorsement for a third term.

Democratic test

Mr Maliki is aiming to emerge from the 2014 polls as the frontrunner for prime minister largely on the basis that he is a known quantity and because replacing him may potentially be too difficult or destabilising.

He stands for "business as usual", counting on the fact that most Iraqi political leaders are more afraid of al-Qaeda and emerging independent politicians than other establishment factions.

It is still possible that a surprise could unfold once the process of picking a premier goes behind closed doors following the 2014 polls.

One scenario for Mr Maliki's replacement may be a "Shia palace coup", where poor electoral results create an opening for the other Shia parties to replace him with a new "grey man" that they hope would be easier to control.

_71000822_71000821.jpgShia leaders Ammar al-Hakim and Moqtada Sadr want the government resign

Yet as the incumbent caretaker prime minister during the next transition, Mr Maliki will hold many important cards that could tip the balance, including control of the Supreme Court, the arbiter of election controversies, as well as the security and intelligence agencies.

As the attempted May 2012 vote of no confidence misfired, Mr Maliki's willingness to step down in a peaceful transition was never tested.

Indeed during that crisis, praetorian forces were brought to alert at the entrances to Baghdad and around the government centre, reacting to the potential vote almost as if it were a coup attempt.

Any scenario that requires Mr Maliki's removal would test the proposition that Iraq remains a constitutional democracy three years after US withdrawal.

Dr Michael Knights is the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has worked in all of Iraq's provinces, including periods spent embedded with the Iraqi security forces.


Edited by yota691, 11 November 2013 - 05:41 AM.

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#2 Boozer

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 05:50 AM

the only way to get rid of this man is to  :cowboy1:


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#3 yota691

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 05:54 AM

Here is a Breakdown, from the above article..From a blog I  read...Michael Knights is part of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  It's to the right of my tastes but I have and will attend public events when the topic's Iraq and I have the time to do so.  Like the institute, Knights is to the right of me -- far to the right.  So why do I feel like I've been defending him all week?  Did he say that, in 20 years, Iraq would have a functioning government? 

We don't know.  The report used faulty punctuation and the paragraph clearly left a quote only to end with end quote punctuation.  What Knights did say in quotes (later in the article) was "someday."

Today, we've got Knights at BBC.  I saw the headline (a friend e-mailed it) and thought, "Well the BBC has repeatedly been wrong about elections in Iraq."  The title of the piece is "Analysis: Maliki bolsters Iraq re-election chances."  It's not a BBC analyst, it's Knights.

But I'm reading his analysis and I'm not seeing the headline backed up.

So is it his headline or BBC's headline?

Knights piece isn't really focused on current events of the end of the week.  So let's just add a few in.  Thursday, the Iraqi press was reporting on Nouri's supposed desire to improve relations with Saudi Arabia.  That 'outreach' was always going to be difficult.  It only became worse when, the next day, Nouri began making (yet again) accusations that Saudi Arabia was attempting to destabilize Iraq.  Or you can take his BP efforts currently which will not please the Kurdistan Regional Government. 

Granted, Nouri and his State of Law are never going to poll well in the KRG.  But antagonizing the KRG again -- after he spent the summer trying to pretend he was a diplomat and improving relations with the KRG -- it doesn't let him look like a leader.  He yet again appears to be a hot head and a thug.  And that's without even commenting on his latest nonsense aimed at Turkey -- one of Iraq's leading trade partners.

Nouri has an image problem -- having demonstrated since 2006 that he picks fights, attacks rivals (of every sect) and delivers nothing for either the Iraqi people or the Iraqi government.

Some might argue that he brings in billions in revenue each month.  No, he doesn't.  Nouri did not create oil or the world's need for it and Iraq's oil riches have nothing to do with him (other than he steals a great deal to keep him and his family rolling in the high life).

Prime Minister since the spring of 2006.

Where are the improvements?

The Iraqi people still need reliable electricity.  They still need potable water.  That's drinking water, water they can gather in a cup or container and immediately use as opposed to water that they must first boil or use purification tablets on before it's fit for human consumption.  Cholera outbreaks result from using Iraq's water without boiling or tablets.

And let's point out something else.  Each month, the oil revenues are in the billions, double-digits.

This water we're talking about.  For some Iraqis it does pour out of the faucet.  For some.  For many Iraqis -- in cities and towns -- they're going to a well or a river or lake. 

Nouri's failure with regards to water is not a minor issue.  It's appalling.  This is the 21st century and Iraq's really one of the richest countries in the world.  The population is around 30 million.  At the start of the year, AFP reported that 2012 saw "$94.03 billion in oil revenues" for the government.  30 million people, 94 billion in revenues.  Yet, according to the United Nations, at least 23% of Iraqis lived below the poverty line in 2007.  In 2009, Xinhua reported on Iraq's Central Statistics Office finding that 6,210,000 Iraqis lived below the poverty line.   Layla Mohammed (Iraqi News) reported in August that the Human Rights Ministry stated 6.4 million Iraqis were living below the poverty line.


So, by Iraq's own figures, the number has slightly increased (by .2%). 

This in a country where the oil revenues in 2012 were over 90 billion and the population was 30 million.  In other words, the government could have given each Iraqi 30 million dollars from the 2012 revenues. They had the money to do that but Nouri couldn't even use a tiny fraction of that money -- wouldn't use a tiny fraction of that money to lift the Iraqi people out of poverty.

(Actually, the people are owed money from the revenues.  Moqtada al-Sadr's the only politician who regularly brings that up.)

Nouri's a failure in every way -- and we could note security and legal and so much more. 

But let's move back to Knights' analysis.  It's more even-handed than the headline suggests.  And there are real nuggets in it but he makes mistakes and maybe the answer can be found in this passage:

Initially viewed as weak when he entered office in 2006, Mr Maliki only bloomed into a more successful and confident leader in 2008 when the US-led surge allowed for decisive security operations against the Mehdi Army, a militia associated with the populist Shia leader Moqtada Sadr. 
Building on the momentum from these military victories, Mr Maliki began a remarkably effective consolidation of executive power that has placed Iraq's security services, the Supreme Court, the treasury, central bank and state media under his hand. 

Military victories?  He's referring to the attacks on Basra and Sadr City.  Forget the fact that Nouri jumped the gun -- as then Gen David Petraeus testified to Congress in April 2008 -- and, as a result, the initial stages of the 'victory' in Basra was almost lost. 

The reality is that Knighs' looking at it from an American point of view.

Shi'ites in Iraq were not thrilled by the operation.  The whole point of the operation (which the US planned) was for Nouri to show he could be 'tough' with Shi'ites.

Point being, this did not go over well the Shi'ite community.  This is also when you first see massive defections in the Iraqi military.  It had ** happened ** many times before with the police programs. (C.I. note, 11-10-2013, corrected from "hadn't many times" to "happened many times".) But this was the first time the Iraqi military registered mass desertions.

Why did that happen? Shi'ites didn't want to attack Shi'ites.

If Nouri could get Kurdish votes or Sunni votes, you might say 'Victory!'

But that's not going to happen.  That leaves the Shi'ite community.

Michael Knights is wrong to claim that 'victory' was a positive turning point for Nouri.

When you're 'analyzing' you need to grasp that what appeals to you doesn't matter if you're not the target audience.


Equally true, everything that goes wrong in Iraq is the fault of Iran?

Seriously.

I don't doubt that Iran meddles in Iraq politics.  I'm sure it does so at least as much as the US meddles.

It's funny, though, how Knights looks at the effort to do a vote of no confidence (May 2012) and sees Iranian influence.

Jalal killed the vote, Jalal Talabani.  And did so only after repeated non-stop lobbying from the US.  Jalal illegally killed the vote in fact.

Now Iran may have lobbied as well but the US killed it with Jalal.  Not the Iranian government.  That's a very interesting reworking of history. 

Knights writes:


The effort narrowly failed due to strenuous Iranian lobbying on Mr Maliki's behalf, but it became clear that he would face a major challenge in securing a third term in 2014. 
Mr Maliki's low point came in the April 2013 provincial elections. 


Not only did they result in a lower haul of seats for his State of Law list - it won 22%, down from 28% in 2009 - but it also lost control of key provincial councils like Baghdad and Basra as other Shia parties allied against him. 
Worse yet, the role of Maliki loyalists within State of Law also seemed diminished in those elections. 


Knights, like many others, argues that the 2013 results were a reflection on Nouri.

I disagree.  I'd love to join the chorus screaming, "He's weak! Look at 2013!"  I think he is weak but I don't think you can argue that the results reflect on Nouri.  They reflect on State of Law.  But mainly, they reflect local issues.  Nouri, in fact, ensured that it couldn't be a vote on him.

It wasn't a national election.

Set aside the KRG because they won't get behind Nouri.  Forget Kirkuk which Nouri won't let vote.  That still leaves 14 provinces.  Only 12 voted in April.  He punished two (Anbar and Nineveh) where he was not popular by making them wait months to vote.

So the results are incomplete and you do not have a true snapshot of voter sentiment.

Knights writes:


One scenario for Mr Maliki's replacement may be a "Shia palace coup", where poor electoral results create an opening for the other Shia parties to replace him with a new "grey man" that they hope would be easier to control.

I'm not sure what he means there.  In 2010, Nouri faced great Shi'ite backlash from the MPs.  He bribed a number to get support. 

Iran did pressure Moqtada to support Nouri.  That is an instance where Iran -- only Iran -- was pressuring.  The deal that was supposedly agreed to was Moqtada would back Nouri and the next go round (that would be what is supposed to take place in 2014) would find Iran backing Moqtada.

Along with that cleric and movement leaders, Ammar al-Hakim also wants to be prime minister.  He's not the only one but there are numerous Shi'ite leaders of Shi'ite blocs who want to be prime minister. 

Ayad Allawi should have been prime minister in 2010 had the rules been followed and Allawi is what?

Shi'ite.

I'm confused by what Knights writes because whomever the next prime minister is, it's pretty much a given that the person will be Shi'ite.

Dawa was against Nouri having a second term -- publicly against in 2010 for a brief period.

Why?

The easiest explanation is hurt feelings.  Dawa is Nouri's political party.

But Nouri chose not to run with them in 2010.  Instead he ran on his new political slate State of Law.  Should he do so again, Dawa would probably be even angrier.

My point being, if you're going to talk about a Shi'ite coup, I think you need to explain what you're talking about.

Moqtada and Allawi have support within Iraq.  One other Iraqi does as well -- and he's long been waiting to be prime minister.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if he stepped forward as prime minister this go round.

I don't think Ammar al-Hakim has support outside of ISCI in Iraq.  I could be wrong.  But he's young -- especially when compared to other Iraqi leaders.  Moqtada's young by comparison as well but Moqtada's stood up to Nouri many times.  Ammar, as one Iraqi message board likes to note, uses 'wiles' to get around Nouri.  It often works for him but it doesn't shot strength to the Iraqi people.
The White House likes Ammar and 2014 may be his year in one way or another.  (There's talk among the administration of Ammar becoming president of Iraq, for example.)  Ammar's also the popular favorite among those who consider themselves intellectuals and have the White House's ear.

Does Knights think, when he's referring to coup possibilities, that someone new or surprising might emerge among Shi'ite politicians?

I don't know.  Again, he failed to explain what he was talking about.

His analysis is brief and frustrating but worth reading.


Edited by yota691, 11 November 2013 - 06:02 AM.

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#4 sandfly

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 07:00 AM

TAKE HIM OUT


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#5 SgtFuryUSCZ

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 07:31 AM

TAKE HIM OUT

 

***///

 

yuh....git a rope.... :angry: ...then bag him up and dump him on the Iranian side of the border.

 

 


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#6 uncirculd

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Posted 12 November 2013 - 12:19 AM

I agree Yota my friend, about the Allawi.  He did have the support.  After all he won and let maliki get his majority.  He did this to make smooth transitions.  Yet, maliki had another plan.  He never did form a government.    This has really ticked of a lot of the opposition.  Mainly because a lot of them have been killed and/or put in jail.  Heck, we remember what happened to Hashemi's bodyguards, and he is out of the country for what maliki did to him.  He had to take him out in the event Talabani would become incapacitated.  (kind of like now)    This show could have been over long time ago.  I guess we wait and see what crisis the PM will create next and how much it will damper the parliament on getting the laws in place that will put that freak of a PM in his place.  I believe he's lost a lot of support with the folks.   I can't see him winning a 3rd term after these last elections and the unrest with the folks.   Honestly, evil people are very hard to get rid of.  They somehow keep coming back.   So, we might be looking at the next elections before they finish getting all this mess done.  Maliki is winning the battle of keeping the folks in poverty.  He will continue his path till he is out of the way, one way or another. 


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