Thursday, December 22, 2011

Iraq: Isolation of Sunni politicians may result in renewed insurgency

The Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki seems determined to provoke Sunni politicians. His move to arrest his own vice-president Tareq Hashemi has led one of his main coalition partners the Iraqiya bloc to leave the government. Al-Maliki has rejected the idea of reconciling with them.

The Kurdish bloc has also withdrawn from parliament in protest against the arrest warrant issued for the vice-president. The Kurdish area has the only significant armed forces not within the control of Al-Maliki. The leader of Iraqiya Ayad Allawi has compared Maliki's actions to those of Saddam Hussein who often arrested people on claims they were terrorists. Maliki says that Hashemi's bodyguards have confessed to being involved in terrorist acts and Maliki also claims that Hashemi was plotting to kill him. Hashemi has taken refuge in Kurdistan in the north of Iraq and has said that he will only agree to being tried there not in the capital Baghdad.

Since Maliki has lost his majority he should be only interim prime minister at most until another coalition majority is formed. If a coalition with a majority could not be formed then new elections should be called. However, Maliki has given no indication he will relinquish power. Maliki apparently controls the army and national police.

Iraqiya in co-operation with the Kurds may try to form a majority coalition but even if it does, getting rid of Maliki might be difficult. The level of violence is increasing with 60 people killed in a recent explosion. Isolating the Sunnis may drive them underground and create a renewed insurgency and the conflict with Kurdistan may lead it to declare complete independence if issues cannot be worked out.

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