Sunday, August 23, 2009

Maliki promises a crackdow that could reach political figures

Prime Minister Nourai al-Maliki announced that there would be new measures to improve security following last Wednesday’s tragic bombings. “We defeated the terrorists, and Ramadan is a great chance to eliminate them once and for all”, Maliki said. He described the purpose behind the attacks as “They target the government which represents the political process and national unity, which they hate”. Here Maliki is clearly referring to some Shiite parties that attacked him over his active non-sectarian approach and increasingly stronger relations with Sunni Arab powers.

It can be seen from Maliki’s words that he is determined to move forward with building his diverse political alliance and ignoring the calls for rebuilding the Shiite alliance (UIA). There has been pressure from Iran and Najaf to reconstitute the UIA to enter the elections as one great mass.

In fact Buratha News, a mouthpiece of ISCI, bitterly announced today that Maliki and his Da’awa Party are not attending tomorrow’s launch ceremony of the new Shiite alliance.
Knowledgeable sources close to the preparatory commission of the National Iraqi Alliance (NIA; the new name of the UIA) mentioned that Maliki’s branch of the Da’awa Party will not attend the launch ceremony of the NIA. In spite of great efforts by political and religious leaderships to persuade Maliki to join the alliance-which emphasized the dangers of staying of the alliance-he did not give up his demands. Those demands were to grant his party absolute majority in the alliance and secure the premiership for himself. This is a demand that was rejected by all concerned religious and political leaderships.

Maliki also made some stern statements that allude to a possible crackdown on the political leaderships of political parties that had a role in the attacks.
Some political powers rejoiced Wednesday’s attacks; for political reasons…[we] have made decisions and will take measures that-with help from the people-will address this new chapter of terrorist campaign. There will be decisive measures to fix defects and points of weakness…Partisanship and politicization have driven their wedges in the security forces. This is a constitutional violation, which we will vigorously prosecute...we will not tolerate any of those involved[in the attacks].

In tandem, Baghdad is exploring the possibility of signing regional security protocols with its neighbors. MP Abbas Bayati, member of the parliament’s defense and security committee said Iraq seeks to establish protocols that enable the sharing of intelligence and mutual tracking of terror cells. Bayati named Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Jordan and Turkey as the countries with which Iraq seeks to establish security protocols. Through these protocols, the government will most likely try to facilitate the exchange of wanted individuals suspected of leading or financing militant groups in Iraq.

Meanwhile, foreign minister Hoshyar Zibari was a little more pessimistic about the situation and expected “greater security breaches in the future”. However, he echoed Maliki’s call for strict measures to contain the security breach.
"We must all refrain from making useless statements. We must expose the facts that stand behind the setbacks in security. This was a clear and dangerous setback, and so security preparations must match the magnitude of challenges" Zibari told reporters. Another source quoted him as saying that he does not "rule out the possibility of collusion between security forces and terrorists to deliver the car bombs to those sensitive locations."

The ministries of defense and interior are having their own exchange of accusations. Each ministry is trying to put the blame on the other. The minister of defense, Abdul-Qadir al-Obeidi said the ministry of interior was responsible for this failure. The minister of interior, Jawad al-Bolani fired back saying the protection of the capital was the responsibility of Baghdad Operations Command under Maliki’s command and involved both the police and army forces. It is worth mentioning that Bolani has some personal interest in tarnishing Maliki’s reputation as he is believed to have ambitions to run for the PM office in the next cabinet.

To inspire even more speculations about the political dimensions of Wednesday's bombings, the director of the national intelligence service Mohammed al-Shahwani reportedly resigned (in other accounts was fired from) his position. Shahwani reportedly had a vocal dispute with Maliki at a cabinet meeting in the aftermath of the attack. He is believed to be in Amman-Jordan now.

The parliament, which had a special session to hear from the ministers of defense and interior and senior commanders, was over all not satisfied with what these officials had to say. Several members of parliament from various blocs said the arguments of those in charge of security were “not convincing”.

The president of the country is in a different world. Once again Jalal Talabani acted as a leader of a particular party, not as a national leader. While the bombs hit the heart of Baghdad, he traveled north “to discuss the security situation in Kirkuk” with the local officials of his own party (the PUK).

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