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Iraqi Politics - 2014

Prime Minister Maliki squandered hundreds of billions of dollars that should have been spent on improving Iraq’s faulty infrastructure. Meanwhile, sectarian violence was building, especially in the northeast tribal areas of the country. When Iraqi security forces cracked down on Sunni protesters in Anbar province in April 2014, tensions spiraled out of control.

David Ottaway, senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former Washington Post Middle East correspondent said in June 2014 he was doubtful that Maliki himself can achieve political unity. Tensions between the Iran-backed government and Iraq’s Sunnis had been simmering for far too long. “The Sunnis have smarted ever since they lost power in Baghdad in 2003, and over time it’s just gotten worse and worse,” Ottaway said. “I don’t see how Maliki will get any Kurds or Sunnis at this point to join in a coalition government.... I think it’s rather headed in the opposite direction – towards a Sunni-Shia shootout."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected forming an emergency government to help the country counter a surge by Sunni Islamist militants. In a televised address 25 June 2014, Maliki said he considered a "national salvation government," intended to present a unified front among Iraq's three main groups, a "coup against the constitution" and going against Iraq's April 30 parliament election results. Iraqi leaders said they would meet a July 1 deadline for beginning to form the post-election government.

Parliament would convene on 01 July 2014 to start the process of forming a new government. Under the official schedule, Iraq’s parliament would have 30 days from when it first meets to name a president and 15 days after that to name a prime minister.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said 02 July 2014 that he hoped to overcome the challenges blocking the formation of a new government, a day after the new parliament's first session ended without agreement on top government posts. Sunnis and Kurds abandoned the first meeting of the new parliament after Shi'ites failed to nominate a candidate for prime minister. The Shi'ite parties were deadlocked over Maliki's ambitions for a third term, and who could replace him. On 01 October 2010, Iraq had set a record for the longest period a country had gone between holding parliamentary elections [in March 2010] and forming a government (surpassing the previous mark of 207 days set by The Netherlands 33 years earlier).

Iraq's deadlocked parliament postponed its next session until mid-August, unable to decide how to split political power even as Baghdad faces a militant Islamic insurgency that has edged close to the capital. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Western leaders in June that a new government would be formed early in July. On 07 July 2014, parliament put off its next session until August 12 in hopes of resolving who should fill the country's top three positions. The acting speaker said on 08 July 2014 that Iraq's new parliament will hold its next session 13 July, after the five-week delay announced one day earlier was criticized by local lawmakers and the United States. It still appeared unlikely political leaders would be able to bridge their differences in time to settle on names for the top leadership posts - particularly the prime minister.

Iraq's parliament failed on July 13, 2014 to break the damaging political deadlock holding up the formation of new government, making no progress on choosing new leaders who could help hold the nation together and confront the Sunni militant blitz that has drawn to within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Baghdad. Hopes had been raised that lawmakers might at least vote on a speaker of parliament after Sunni blocs announced that they had agreed on a candidate for the post, Salim al-Jubouri, a moderate Islamist. Under an informal arrangement that took hold after the 2003 US-led invasion, the speaker's chair goes to a Sunni, the presidency to a Kurd and the prime minister's post to a Shiite. The greatest disagreement is over prime minister, the most powerful position in the country.

Despite attempts to prevent a vote, on July 15, 2014 the Iraqi parliament elected Sunni politician Selim al-Jabouri as its new speaker. The conflict, however, over who will fill the more important positions of prime minister and president remained unresolved. The Iraqi parliament broke an impasse, electing its new speaker, with a majority of 194 votes. In a sign of a political thaw, members of parliament loyal to former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi agreed to attend Tuesday's session, and were sworn in, after boycotting the two previous sessions.

The Iraqi parliament elected 76 year-old Kurdish lawmaker Fouad Massoum to be president 0n 24 July 2014, breaking a major political log-jam. Contentions remained, however, over who will fill the more important post of prime minister. Kurdish lawmaker and Islamic legal scholar Fouad Massoum was elected president Thursday with a plurality of 211 votes in the second round of balloting. Rival Hussein Moussawi, who was not present, received only 17 votes. Massoum succeeded President Jalal Talabani, who suffered a stroke last year and only just returned to Baghdad. Both men belong to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party.

By late July 2014 there were rumors that Nouri al-Maliki was losing political support for his bid for a third term from core backers. Maliki was said to have lost the confidence of all but his most loyal inner circle. Iraq's top Shiite spiritual authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was reported to have expressed opposition to a third term. Iran's leadership was said to be divided on whether to support Maliki, who rejected an attempt by Iran to persuade him to step down. Some Maliki's partners in the State of Law coalition had threatened to withdraw if he did not give up his bid for a third term.

Under Iraq’s constitution, the biggest bloc in parliament has the right to form the government. Maliki, who headed the State of Law Coalition, which held 94 seats following elections held in May, said his coalition has the most MPs. His Shia rivals, however, said the National Alliance (NA), which consisted of several large Shia parties, is the largest bloc with 170 seats.

In a weekly Friday sermon delivered through a spokesman in the sacred Shi'ite city of Karbala, on 09 August 2014 Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said that politicians who cling to their posts are making a “grave mistake”, piling pressure on Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to drop his bid for a third term.

On 11 August 2014 Iraqi President Fouad Massoum picked Haider al-Abadi, the deputy speaker of parliament, to form a new government in Baghdad. Abadi heads the Daawa bloc within the State of Law Coalition, totalling 38 seats out of 94. Abadi was nominated for the post by Iraq's main Shi'ite bloc, the National Alliance, which shunned Maliki for a third term as prime minister. Soon after the nomination, Maliki appeared on TV with members of his political bloc who insisted that they would not accept the nomination and that Maliki remained their choice for prime minister. Iraqis had been anticipating Abadi's nomination for weeks.

Abadi had served as head of the Iraqi finance committee in parliament, a political adviser to the prime minister and minister of communications. He was educated at the University of Manchester in England. He's a low-key figure. Abadi belongs to the conservative Shi'ite Da'awa Party, which many Sunnis don't look upon favorably. Abadi served as head of the Economic Committee in the previous parliament. He strongly supported economic reform and anti-corruption efforts but admitted that his committee was not skilled or powerful enough to intervene when the government promoted regressive economic legislation.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran voiced support for Abadi, countering incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's push to extend his eight-year rule with a third term. Abadi appeared to have the blessing of Iraq's powerful Shi'ite clergy.

Maliki said on August 13 that Abadi's appointment was a "violation" of the constitution and "had no value." Maliki said in his televised weekly address, "I confirm that the government will continue and there will not be a replacement for it without a decision from the Federal [Supreme] Court."

On August 14, 2014 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to renounce power, saying he will give up his post to his replacement, moderate Shi'ite Haider al-Abadi. Appearing on state television flanked by Abadi and other Shi'ite politicians, Maliki said he was withdrawing his candidacy in favor of Abadi in order to "ease the movement of the political process and the formation of the new government." Maliki became on of three vice presidents, and remained a power broker in State of Law, the Shiite political bloc of which both men are members.

Iraqi parliament approved the appointment of new members of the cabinet of ministers, headed by Prime Minister Haider Abadi, on 08 September 2014. Abadi was only elected over Maliki because of a split within his Dawa Party and the broader State of Law Coalition. As a result, Abadi had no coalition base, and so he could only govern by consensus or by making executive appointments without parliamentary approval. Abadi appointed almost the entire cabinet; only the positions of the Interior Minister and Defense Minister remained vacant. Names of the new heads of these departments were to be revealed later this week.

Secretary of State John Kerry said he was encouraged by new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's naming of a new inclusive government and Iraq's help in fighting the Islamic State. Other observers noted that the new cabinet was no more inclusive than the outgoing cabinet, and expressed doubts of the ability of the new government to win Sunni support.

On October 18, 2014 Iraqi lawmakers approved the critical security posts of defense minister and interior minister in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government, amid the fight against the Islamic State group. They were posts that Nouri al-Maliki, the outgoing prime minister, had kept for himself. Parliament voted in Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker of the Al-Obeidi tribal confederation from the northern city of Mosul, as the new defense minister. Mohammed al-Ghabban, a Shi'ite lawmaker from the powerful Iran-influenced Badr Brigades political bloc, was elected interior minister.

At least 197 out of 261 lawmakers approved Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a member in al-Abadi's State of Law political bloc, as Minister of Interior. Roughly 173 lawmakers approved Khaled al-Obeidi, a Sunni lawmaker from the besieged city of Mosul and a former security advisor to Ninawa's governor until ISIL seized it, as Defense Minister.

According to the report issued 01 November 2014 by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), at least 856 civilians and 417 security forces members were killed and more than 2,000 were injured. The worst-hit city was Baghdad, with 379 civilians killed, the report said. The UNAMI casualty figures exclude Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group has dealt pro-government forces a string of setbacks in recent weeks. The Iraqi government has put the October toll significantly higher, saying 1,725 civilians and members of the security forces were killed -- some 500 people more than listed in the UN report.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2016 20:08:52 ZULU