Iraq and Gulf Analysis

An Iraq Blog by a Victim of the Human Rights Crimes of the Norwegian Government

Triumph for Maliki as Iraq Passes the Annual Budget

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 23 February 2012 23:05

It took even longer than last year, but the Iraq annual budget finally passed in parliament today with a solid majority.

Many aspects of the budget are similar to last year, with small increases to all the main posts, roughly following the draft that was introduced in December 2011. The big money still goes to the central government and Kurdistan, with some added perks for the ordinary governorates. It is noteworthy that spending on electricity is sharply up compared with 2011, which must be a good sign.

Some special features of the last-minute changes to the original draft call for comment.

The Sadrists had demanded a petrodollar scheme by which a portion of Iraqi oil revenues would go directly to Iraqi citizens. This idea has indeed been included and was celebrated by the Sadrists as a win for their leader Muqtada. However on closer inspection it seems the money that will actually go to the citizens is whatever surplus is left after deficits have been covered, meaning that unless the oil price increases enormously, there may not be that much money to distribute after all.

Money has also been specifically guaranteed for the sahwa pro-government militias in Diyala and Nineveh. This is a response to a demand from the Wasat sub-bloc of the Iraqiyya coalition, and some parliamentarians suggested it constituted the main concession by the government in obtaining Iraqiyya support for the budget.

Last year, the Kurds pressed hard to obtain cost coverage for foreign oil companies operating in Kurdistan. This heading still exists, but the main Kurdish achievement this year seems to be the privilege of having the central government financing their electricity sector outside their fixed 17% share of the budget (at least, that is how some Kurdish politicians interpret the new arrangements). By way of contrast, oil is referred to in the same way as last year but with a somewhat Delphic reference to payment of costs to foreign companies “according to all articles of agreement between the oil minister in Baghdad and the KRG energy minister”. Whether this refers to the existing pragmatic cost-oil recovery scheme or something else (and maybe future) remains unclear.

As regards the governorates, the role of the governor in implementing investment projects seems somewhat strengthened and in some cases is defined as an exclusive prerogative. The petrodollar scheme for producing governorates also continues, and there is money for the pilgrimage cities (Karbala gets the lion’s share followed by Najaf).  Not all of the enhanced governorate focus is necessarily progressive – there are now for example governorate quotas for foreign scholarships. Also, regardless of what the budget says, much of this will depend on implementation capacity in the governorates, which is often substandard.

In this way – and perhaps with the added incentive for Iraqi parliamentarians to show up and vote since they will now get their armoured cars as a result of today’s vote – the budget passed despite a pessimistic outlook earlier in the week.

What it all amounts to is something of a triumph for embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Critics of this interpretation will perhaps say there are individual clauses in the budget that may limit prime ministerial freedom of action more than before. Some of his own deputies soured today and said silly things (Sunayd: “I consider resigning as a deputy because the parliamentary majority defeated me on article 36!”) But that is besides the point. What Maliki has achieved is a situation in which he doesn’t really need the Iraqi parliament for a long time, providing him with the cover he needs to take a relaxed attitude to demands for national conferences and the implementation of the Arbil agreement. To have achieved passage of the budget under adverse circumstances and with Iraq literally under fire from terrorists today is nothing short of a masterful accomplishment in statecraft.

It is quite emblematic of the situation in Iraq that earlier this week, Usama al-Nujayfi, the parliament speaker of the secular Iraqiyya, characterized Iraq as a “derailed train”. Today, Nujayfi went on to play exactly the role Maliki wanted him to play by shepherding the budget vote to a successful conclusion. Maliki plays it well when he manages to buy political support over the budget instead of making political concessions.

Symptomatically, perhaps, the Iraqi media almost forgot that another preparatory meeting for the elusive national conference had to be cancelled today because of the prolonged budget debate. That cancellation might well be a bellwether for Iraqi politics for the rest of 2012.

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51 Responses to “Triumph for Maliki as Iraq Passes the Annual Budget”

  1. amagi said

    Astounding. So we can look forward to nothing else getting accomplished until provincial elections next year?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    If you mean political deal-making, yes, I find that quite possible. But I am sure Maliki wants to be seen as a popular leader & has a genuine desire to improve the general standard of living in the country. He is just not particularly interested in the Arbil agreement, and now he has yet another reason to ignore it.

  3. Hi Reider
    Do you think that Maliki has enough leverage now to officially turn his back on the Arbil agreement?

  4. nevermind said

    Characterizing this as a win for Maliki is reaching and unfounded analysis. Don’t stretch your analysis to cover your earlier preconceptions. How about looking at all the articles that got removed and that Maliki had fought for?

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Ihsan, yes I think this puts Maliki in a far better position to ignore most of the calls for implementation of Arbil. He will just say “look at the constitution” etc.

    “Nevermind”, I specifically addressed that point about individual articles wanted by Maliki allies, some of which related to extra govt spending powers. The bigger point is that political crisis is inverted & Maliki apparently achieved this without major concessions to any of the three most demanding factions in parliament, i.e. the Kurds, Iraqiya and the Sadrists. As far as I can see, the Sadrists were by and large fooled. As for Iraqiya, supporting the sahwa is a lot more palatable to Maliki than talking federalism, and represents rapprochement on his terms. Regarding the Kurds, again as long as it is only money and not Kirkuk or sovereignty in the oil sector, Maliki is happy to play along.

  6. Another important element of the 2012 budget (at least the latest draft version I had seen prior to yesterdays vote on the final draft) is the first time inclusion of language allowing the usage of GOI sovereign guarantees for infrastructure projects. This is a critical step in allowing Iraq to tap capital and bank markets to fund large-scale infrastructure projects.

  7. Mohammed said

    Reidar:

    It appears Allawi’s reaction to Maliki’s triumph is to threaten to bring the Arab League to solve Iraq’s problems like they are doing in Syria. Hmmm…Why doesn’t Allawi also suggest that the Arab League solve the problems in the riots is Qatif of Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain as well?

    I really don’t understand why Allawi feels like he has to resort to the Arab Leauge, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the USA to influence events in Iraq. If Allawi called upon Iraq’s citizens to peacefully protest in the streets by the hundreds of thousands in Anbar, Mosul, Adhimiya, etc would they not heed his call and bring pressure on Maliki?

    Reidar, do you think Allawi doesn’t have the ability to call crowds into the streets for peaceful protests.

    regards,
    M

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, good point, I am sure the other AL members will want the Baghdad meeting to be a Syria only show.

    Iraqiyya wasn’t very involved in the 25 February protests last year, and apparently nothing much is happening today. We’ll see tomorrow which is the real anniversary (but a Saturday). In a way, it is remarkable that Iraqiyya haven’t tried to tap into discontent among the Iraqi public at large.

  9. RS said

    RV – I thought Syria has been suspended from the Arab league?

    Also if Iraqiyya do put the “Iraqi Crisis” on the agenda I would bet that all our neighbours woild flood in and do their best to help us with our interests firmly at heart!

  10. Reidar Visser said

    RS, sorry, by “Syria only” I meant that would be the only item on the agenda.

  11. Mohammed said

    Reidar:

    Did you see the following: http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/31290-iraq-s-sadr-attacks-pm-maliki-as-a-dictator ?

    What is motivating the timing of Sadr’s statement? Are they unhappy with the budget?

    Could it be that Maliki’s recent moves such as voting with the arab league at UN general assembly, against Syria, and possible warming of Iraqi ties with Saudi Arabia are seen as against Iranian interests and hence, Iran is trying to tighten the pressures on Maliki through Sadr?

    regards,
    M

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Maybe the Sadrists just discovered that their budget petrodollars will not be as many as they had thought? Anyway, Maliki doesn’t need their active support that much now when the budget has been passed. Should they become really troublesome, he might give them som interior ministry positions.

  13. observer said

    RV
    I posted the idea of sunnistan and kurdistan coordinating and even getting into a strategic alliance to resolve all the “disputed territories” and allow for the exportation of gas from anbar to Ukrain through Turkey. I am here to report to you that i am beginning to hear that idea or a varient of it in different circles and today even Kitabat had an article on a varient of the idea. Good ideas are like that – they catch on quickly!!!…

    The intransigence of Maliki and Dawa is the main reason for the others resorting to different tactics and even strategies (as the idea of cooperation between sunnis and kurds) and it is on the shoulders of Maliki and Da3wa that the responsibility for the division of Iraq will fall.

    I am sure that when the time comes, Da3wa supporters will be quick to point the fingers at the arabs because Da3wa can not possilbly admit being wrong since their dogma and doctrine is god inspired ;)

    http://www.kitabat.com/index.php?mod=page&num=2983
    Peace

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, I can see at least two potential problems with the idea of the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs joining together territorially.

    Firstly, some Kurds seem to have a preference for the Talabani plan for remaking administrative boundaries prior to final disputed territories settlement. Today a Salahaddin politician promised armed struggle to fight the Talabani scheme!

    Second, it seems to me tribal resistance to federalism in places like Anbar is stronger than the governorate politicians had thought. For weeks now, they have been delaying their much-anticipated federalism “declaration”.

  15. observer said

    RV
    what I am saying is that the idea is catching on and not that everybody is behind it. It has merits logically and strategically and even considering global geo politics it has merits in the Iran/turkey competition. Sooner or later, and assuming that Maliki and Da3wa will continue (and succeed) in their attempts to hold on to power and by THE PARTY, the idea of telling Baghdad and Da3wa to take a hike will have more supporters… It is up to Da3wa and Maliki to prevent the idea from gaining suporters by modifying their behavior and actually take on the promises they gave of partnership in the country.
    Peace

    PS
    It is strange to me to see the idea that was nothing but a post on this thread three weeks ago put in media already (be it in a varient form). It must be that others have been thinking along the same lines and actually the idea is older than the post I put here…..

  16. Salah said

    Again and again each time Iraqi parliament doing his round someone jump and telling something fishy happen…

    Let read:

    شبر: بعض الجهات مررت فقرات غير دستورية في الموازنة ولم يطلع عليها النواب إلا في جلسة التصويت

    Read more: http://www.sotaliraq.com/mobile-news.php?id=45300#ixzz1nTXsrc6w

  17. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, Shubbar (and others) mainly objected to procedure, i.e. voting on articles not mentioned in first or second reading of the law. This is however not exceptional. It was done for exampe on 22 july 2008 (controversial Kirkuk clauses in election law).

    It is interesting that others who resisted these additional articles alongside Shubbar (who is from ISCI) included Kurds & Iraqiyya. Equally interesting is that their protests came to nothing.

  18. Mohammed said

    Hi Reidar:

    Now that the budget is passed, what in your opinion will be the time-table and factors that will influence any new legislation? Maliki cannot afford to delay the oil-gas law much longer can he?

    The multinationals are pretty much shouting at Iraq that Iraq needs to get its act together in a hurry. You would think for Maliki’s own benefit that he would move on this front soon along with boosting electricity output since electricity is so dependent on oil-gas.

    Most of my relatives are dreading the heat of the approaching summer! Even if we did not see big protests this past weekend, my guess is that there will be major problems and headaches for Maliki thiis summer if he does not show progress in this area, and they will make prior protests pale in comparison. It is incredible how similar the complaints I hear regarding electricity, security, healthcare, etc be they sunni or shia.

    btw, on a seperate but related note, per the IraqOilReport and wall street journal, they are in fact moving ahead with Akkas gas field in Anbar (Kogas – South Korea is taking big part), but there are security issues that still remain. So the Koreans did not pull out, and prelim work has already started.

    regards,
    M

  19. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, it’s not Maliki that needs the oil and gas law, is it? The oil majors seem to sign nevertheless. The current problems with Exxon are not related to the absence of a gas and oil law as such to the best of my knowledge. Get its act together yes, but in the oil ministry rather than in parliament is what the international companies seem to want.

    As far as I am able to see the electricity sector has had its share of the budget increased six-fold. Maybe they are beginning to understand?

  20. Santana said

    The Sadrists are not happy these days…..and have criticized/described Maliki the same way Mutlaq did…so logic dictates that in such a situation – Allawi and Moqtada and the Kurds have a chance at 163+…..right? well …that should be the path they take but I think reality is a bit different… here is what I think will happen instead…the terrorist Qassem Sulaimani will pick up the phone and tell Moqtada to “get back in line with NA” and that he will get whatever deficiency/cash that the Ahrar had hoped for……Iraqiya will get something too……a big “bouri” (pipe) up the side of the head !….and will be back to square one…it never fails guys.

    I am sure Iran already made contact with the Sadrsts telling them what Marlon Brando in the Godfather told the undertaker that complained about getting screwed …..Marlon said to him “why didn’t you come to me first? why did you go to the cops”….well in this case it is Iran playing the role of the Godfather and they told Moqtada “why air all your grievances to the press and make our puppet Maliki look bad ? why didn’t you come to us first?we can solve it within the Shiite house”…..and they will.

  21. Mohammed said

    Dear Santana:

    I think the Sadrists latest uproar is probably nothing more than posturing for more power. Although I do wish their proposal for distributing petro dollars directly to people was not washed down as it was in the final version of the budget. Regarding your “Godfather” comparison, I just don’t think it is consistent with facts as they are unfolding. The first rule of the Godfather is: “Never go against the family.” Well, Maliki/Iraq already voted against Syria/Iran at the UN (something that Lebanon did not do). Furthermore, the latest statements from his security advisors while visiting Saudi Arabia further indicate Maliki is not going to support Syria’s baathist regime.

    BTW, I highly recommend reading the interview posted on: http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2012/02/reassessing-us-surge-and-recognizing.html

    Douglas Ollivant wrote an interesting piece: “Countering the New Orthodoxy, Reinterpreting Counterinsurgency In Iraq” As somebody who actually walked around Baghdad with the US military and was head of Iraq Issues as the NSC in washington, his interview seems to be very insightful and REALISTIC.

    Also, this piece from the NY times also supports what Reidar has been saying about Iraqiya’s recent failures:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/world/middleeast/maliki-wields-more-power-in-iraq-after-crisis.html?_r=1&ref=world

    Santana, I am glad you like the Godfather (as do I). With that in mind, perhaps Allawi should remember another Godfather line: “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” Allawi’s personal hatred of Maliki is otherwise clouding his judgment. Threatening to go to the arab league (should we call that the “mafia commision” since it is full of dictators and autocrats?) to appeal for “greater democracy in Iraq” is just the latest lapse in his thinking that is now devoid of realism.

    regards,
    M

  22. Mohammed,
    Douglas Ollivant’s interview is very interesting and he has a lot of recent and detail information, but he is still learning and has no historical perspective; he looks at Iraq as if it started to be a nation with the advent of the US invasion. This is particularly problematic at his forgiveness of Maliki’s dictatorial ambitions and compares it with many start-up countries. I readily admit that Iraq is the place for nepotism and practice of wasta, and that favoritism is practiced everywhere in the world, but Maliki infinitely forgives his proteges to an unprecedented extent in Iraq’s history. He says everything in Iraq is politicized but he makes it much worse. The problem with Maliki’s style of patronage is that it destroys deterrence, there is no sense of justice. All of Iraq’s recent dictators generally punished those who took bribes even if they were close associates. Ollivant’s cavalier forgiveness of Maliki shows how green he is.

  23. Santana said

    Mohamed-

    I am glad Faisal jumped in because it is exactly the same impression I got after reading Ollivant’s piece !!…he is clearly out of touch with reality. Then I find it amusing that you mention/criticise all these “autocrats/dictators” coming to the summit !! You make it sound like Maliki runs a Jeffersonian democracy in comparison ! He is ten times worse than any of them.

    Allawi’s democratic values are actually as close to the west as I have ever seen of any Arab leader.

    Also-your indirect defense of Maliki or your justifications in many of your posts to actions he has taken give me the impression that you are still “wet behind the ears” so to speak.

  24. Mohammed said

    Dear Faisal:

    I agree with you that Maliki has done a poor job in clamping down on corruption. If he does not remedy that, I hope the Iraqi voter takes that into consideration in the next round elections. From what I have experienced, and from what my relatives have experienced, Iraq’s ministries are stinking with corruption (across all the parties).

    However, the big picture that Ollivant paints seems to be pretty insightful. He does readily admit that he learnt much from reading books like Ali Allawi’s.

    I would rather not get into a debate about comparing Maliki with Iraq’s prior leaders. My bottom line is that I have certain expectations of a leader, and those will be the metrics I compare him or her against.

    regards,
    M

  25. Salah said

    Reidar
    In article in NYT views Maliki after recent political problem with Iraqia emerged stronger… did you agree with this view?

    As for the point you raised about Shuber, what I understand that there are new things put on the table after 1st or 2nd reading, i.e. never been released before that with the laws that the Iraqi parliament approved.

    I do not know if that you meant or just as common practice with parliament proceeding .

  26. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, much as I remain critical of several aspects of Maliki’s policies, I think that from a purely Machiavellian perspective he has played the latest crisis well and emerged stronger vs his opponents.

    Apparently, the govt wants to win back some of what it lost in parliament with respect to the budget, including article 36 which would give it enhanced spending powers. Their line of argument is that article 62 of the constitution defines the budget as a special case of legislation where parliament can only change the sums and not the basic structure of the budget prepared by government. There is however a precedent from the budget in 2011 where article 22 involves a cancellation of a spending clause proposed by the government.

    Presumably, the govt wants article 36 added and to keep the rest of the budget – and presumably the federal supreme court may find a Delphic way of agreeing with them on this, dubious as it may be…

  27. JWing said

    Faisal wrote:

    “All of Iraq’s recent dictators generally punished those who took bribes even if they were close associates.”

    May I remind you that companies paid billions in bribes to the Saddam regime to get into the Oil for Food Program. Investigations believe that up to 2,000 companies paid kickbacks and bribes during the sanctions period to the Iraqi government to the tune of $10-$12 bil. Saddam did not punish the Iraqis receiving that money because it was all part of his inner circle.

    When Allawi took charge of the interim government his defense minister and cronies walked off with over $1 bil, and nothing happened to him.

    Under Maliki, his Trade Minister is believed to have stolen $4 bil. Minister Sudani was from Maliki’s State of Law. His case was dropped in court. The former Electricity Minister Ani signed two fake contracts worth over $1 bil. He was from Allawi’s Iraqiya. His punishment was getting fired.

    What do all of these cases have in common? They show that those in power will not prosecute the widespread corruption within Iraq. I believe the reason is because if they actually find one of the top officials guilty it would open up all of them to prosecution, and they will not allow that to happen. The Iraqi political class will protect its own, and corruption will continue.

    To me, when it comes to corruption Maliki is no better or worse than the others. He talks about fighting it, but does nothing just like the others have.

  28. Mohammed said

    Santana:
    I have never called Maliki a “Jeffersonian Democrat.” As you can see above in my reply to Faisal, I am critical of some of Maliki’s failures. For the most part, I agree with Reidar’s criticisms of Maliki’s policies.

    I avoid getting into discussions about moral superiority of one leader vs the other, and would rather debate/discuss the policies and facts on the ground.

    With respect to Allawi, I am simply pointing out that he is very unrealistic with his expectations of going to the Arab league. Furthermore, Reidar has also pointed out that Allawi/Iraqiya are also unrealistic to expect anything out of a national conference in the way of Allawi becoming head of some imaginary national security council with any real powers.
    Your personal hatred of Maliki and injection of colorful adjectives into the discussion is entertaining, but is off the mark. I was simply pointing out that it is not reasonable for Allawi to appeal to a country like Saudi Arabia (where it is ILLEGAL to have public demonstrations, where there is a corrupt royal family that steals billions of dollars and readily admits to it on CNN (see Prince Bandar’s interview on CNN), that sends its military to Bahrain to crush peaceful protests, and posting an objectionable statement on Twitter will land you on death row) to put pressure on Iraq’s leaders to be more democratic.

    Santana, since you like to go lobby the state department on behalf of Allawi, I would advise you that they aren’t blind and deaf. When you compare the GCC favorably to Iraq’s government in terms of democracy, some would question your credibility.
    Many republicans have called Obama a “dictator” as well. If you don’t believe me, google it. That doesn’t make it true. Iraq is not a one-man show, Maliki could not even get a budget passed without Nujayfi’s help, or elected MPs casting their votes (for or against), and there is healthy debate in parliament with opposing views (it’s certainly not a rubber stamp parliament).

    With respect to the article I linked to, I guess you and I must agree to disagree. His blunt assessment is as follows: there was a civil war in Iraq, the Shiites decisively won, and sunnis realized that, and Maliki is rough around the edges, bends the rules to his advantage, but is no Saddam. Sunnis are better off trying to work with him if they think about this more rationally. Nir Rosen (who has spent endless time embedded with Iraqi opposition forces) has pretty much said the same thing.

    If you want to call me “wet behind the ears,” I will take that as a compliment since I feel and look young!
    As always, I look forward to your response.

    Regards,
    M

  29. Salah said

    JWingو
    Ooh…. yah Oil for Food Program?

    UN was the biggest corrupted body in that scheme did you forgot that JWing?

    Also major position of oil Iraq exporting was going to Dick Cheney new created oil company in France.

    Your comparison apple with apple sorry not right here, old tyrant regime was sing party non democratic regime, Iraq now with US proudly setting in new Iraq a democratic system so how can you twisting things here?

    You should refresh your memory of vast corruptions during Paul Bremer were billions and billions vanished no one knows where gone.

    You cannot paint one or two to justify the corrupted, incompetent your folk Maliki now in Iraq because serving you desire in the region.

    Btw, did you read about Iran and her disastrous action with regards of Iraqi Marshland that you are very concerned?
    What about Iranian regime did you follow their corruptions also now under sanction keep focused.

  30. JWing and M.,
    I don’t think either one of you got my point. My concern is not about corruption, it is about the law and its deterrence. Maliki forgave so much from so many of his cronies that nobody is scared of the law anymore.

    I think Allawi’s crony had accomplices from the opposition, that’s why he managed to escape. And Saddam’s high profile oil-for-food kickbacks has different twists, the “cronies” did not need to run away. And Sudani’s case dropped in court, so you think he is innocent JWing?

  31. In reference to and also to update my comment above regarding Article 36 of the proposed budget: As Reidar confirmed it was apparently struck down during the final budget vote. Specifically, Article 36 as was presented by the Council of Ministers to the Council of Representatives would have allowed the Minster of Finance to “ratify all the debts and guarantees incurred on the State due to the programs in question [infrastructure projects] according to the provisions of paragraph (6) from section (10) of the financial management and public debt law number (95) of year 2004.” In other words, Article 36 would have freed the dependency of the GOI on the ebbs and flows of oil revenues, and allowed it to borrow up to IQD18 trillion (~US$ 15.4 BLN) specifically for infrastructure projects — including IQD 2 trillion for low-cost housing projects.

    According to unconfirmed reports Iraqiyya, ISCI, and the Ahrar block all voted against Article 36. The State of Law apparently voted for it.

    Reidar, it would be ideal if one could confirm the voting record on this particular article as it would provide some insight as to the possible formation of coalition across party lists, to limit the budgetary fire power of the current administration of PM Maliki.

  32. Reidar Visser said

    Hussain, I agree this is an important question. It was certainly State of Law deputies that were most outspoken in their criticism of the failure to pass article 36. (Voting patterns are rarely known or recorded due to the show of hands & manual counting system.)

    At the same time, State of Law didn’t leave the session. They countinued to vote for the rest of the budget. That is why I think that, ultimately, passage of the budget, however imperfectly, was what Maliki wanted since it gives him breathing space and deprives his opposition of leverage.

    Re the numbers, 248 deputies reportedly attended the budget session. This means the opponents of Maliki may be able to defeat him in a two-thirds full chamber, but they probably do not have enough votes to reach the critical 163 mark needed to sack him.

  33. JWing said

    Saleh,

    The topic was how Iraq’s former dictators dealt with corruption and the rule of law. The U.N., Paul Bremer, and basically everything else you brought up were not what we were discussing.

  34. JWing said

    Faisal

    Maliki has been able to twist the courts to be under his influence, but as far as following the rule of law Maliki is no different than Allawi and Jaafari who were before him. Rule of law period is weak in Iraq, which leaves all politicians with the ability to flaunt/break/bend it to their whims. Many Iraqi leaders and politicians don’t even seem to understand the law to begin with.

    If you are an ordinary Iraqi I think there is some fear of the law because no one wants to be arrested by the Iraqi police or army because you’re likely to be held for months with no contacts, no lawyer, and probably end up being tortured. It’s the politicians who are not afraid of it.

    All of the parties in Iraq and all of the leaders are guilty or at least complicit in corruption. That’s what they do when they take over a ministry, put all their followers in office, and start taking.

  35. JWing,
    I don’t know how much you are connected to Iraq but I don’t think you realize the scale of Maliki’s transgression, to say that he is “no different than Allawi and Jaafari” tells me that you are unaware of the scale of Maliki’s willingness to protect his own. And it is not only the politicians who don’t fear the law, it is everyone with money to bribe them. And your description:
    “That’s what they (Party leaders) do when they take over a ministry, put all their followers in office, and start taking.”
    is partially true in every country, but the scale under Maliki is unlike anyone before him, including Allawi and Jaafari. I think it is a sign of strong instability, things cannot continue like this.

  36. Santana said

    As always- I agree with Faisal….the corruption in Iraq is unbearable ! Never in history has there been more stealing and corruption as there is by Daawa with the full knowledge of the PM ! I am talking billions on projects that don’t even exist !!….I will share this Iraqi joke I received recently that gives a good example…

    وزيرعراقي يسأل وزير أمريكي ?!
    وزير عراقي يسأل وزير أمريكي: إنتو كيف تسرقوا من الشعب ؟
    الوزير الأمريكي : شايف المشروع الي قدامنا ؟؟
    الوزير العراقي : إي شايفه…
    الوزير الأمريكي : هذا تكلّفته مليار دولار, ظبّطناها و قلنا إنّه تكلفته مليار ونص.
    وإنتو كيف تسرقوا ؟؟؟؟
    الوزيرالعراقي : شايف المشروع الي هناك !!!!؟؟
    الوزير الأمريكي: لا ما شايف شي
    الوزيرالعراقي : رحم الله والديك , هذا كلف 5 مليارات …..

    For those that can”t read Arabic it is an exchange between two ministers- Iraqi and American..the Iraq Minister asks..”How do you guys steal from the public and the American replies “See that project over there ? The raqi says “yeah- I see it” so the American says ” It is valued at 1 bllion but we mark it up to 1.5 billion and take the difference” then the American asks the Iraqi “How do you guys steal’? the Iraqi points out and says “see that project over there”? the American says “I don’t see anything”! The Iraqi responds “Precisely !….. that project cost 5 Billion !”

  37. Salah said

    A flag-wagging and drum-thumping are traditional by JWing

    Iraq’s former dictators dealt with corruption……?

    How many dictators Iraq had in his history JWing?

    Maliki democratically elected dictator made by US?

    Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it’s not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position — that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship.

    President Bush speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars
    The corrupted US Bremer set what the future and the root to what Iraq today corruptions status?Iraq never has been a corrupted country like this degree before 2003.

    the Iraqi police or army because you’re likely to be held for months with no contacts, no lawyer, and probably end up being tortured. It’s the politicians who are not afraid of it.

    YES this well said but they trained for 8 years for this? Isn’t JWing

    What about Iraqis those were under US prisons and Abu Ghraib? Looks you have very short memory our A flag-wagging commentator..

    Iraq should have a new regime change, isn’t?

  38. Mohammed said

    Faisal and Santana:

    Like I said, I agree with you that Maliki has completely failed in stopping corruption in Iraq.

    Perhaps Iraqiya should focus on highlighting the corruption and bringing people to justice at least in the court of public opinion. For example, the Iraqiya electricity minister Raad Shalal who was fired last year for trying arrange a fake 2 billion dollar deal with an imaginary canadian company was never investigated. My guess is that the Iraqiya minister was probably in collusion with some Dawa people as well, and nobody wanted an investigation to see the light of day.

    I am sure there are clever enough people in Iraq that could develop a TV or Youtube program called: “To Catch a Corrupt Official.” (similar to american programs that are sting operations to catch pedophiles, or crooks). Have small mini-cameras, mini-microphones, and set up situations where people are recorded asking for bribes when talking with a “fake company CEO” and put the clips on TV or youtube! I know it would be dangerous, but by using disguises and fake names you might be able to pull it off. Heck, the program could be broadcast outside Iraq as long as you get the video and audio clips online to escape the reach of crooks who would not want their crimes to be publicized.

    Corruption is a natural phenomenon in a country full of money, chaos, crime, and fear, but the scale of corruption in Iraq is just disgusting. Like I said before, Iraqiya controls the finance ministry, and should be in a position to know how much is officially appropriated for each project. You should have a well pubicized and easy to comprehend mechanism to hold people accountable at least in the court of public opinion. If a water purification plant costs 10x more than it should and never even gets built, there should be a program on satelite TV that lays all that information out, and then contrast that to homeless orphans and widows who do not have meals to eat. If I saw that you guys were serious about things like that, you would have my support in a heartbeat.

    I wish you guys would think about ideas like that. The more cynical side of me thinks that Iraqiya simply wants more influence (by always harping about national partnership and balance) so that they can get in on more corruption with SOL and others.

    This issue of corruption and lack of basic services is the number one complaint I hear about from the man on the street. If Maliki does not improve electricity, purified water, healthcare, and other basic services because of the corruption then I hope people call for massive demonstrations.

    regards,
    M

  39. Santana said

    Mohamed-

    You are suggesting some good stuff like airing corruption and bribery, but where are you gonna find guys with a deathwish to run it ?….they would be killed by Daawa thugs or JAM in a heartbeat !- the show would never get past it’s first broadcast.
    Remember the reporter (Mahdi?) that Maliki killed.

    See, your thinking is still very western and unrealistic……… with all due respect.

    Next thing you know you are gonna suggest enforcing the speedlimits on Iraqi streets.

  40. M.
    There is so much under the surface that you obviously are not considering. Basically, Iraqiya is not in charge yet you repeated their name in your comment above so many times as if they hold the key to Iraq’s survival. The problem is not in capturing and recording corruption, it is in the person who interprets the constitution, namely Maliki, and the total absence of judicial independence.
    There are many ideas such as yours. Demonstrations are dangerous in Baghdad.

  41. Reidar Visser said

    Guys, you’re entering the contest of who is the more genuine Iraqi… For what it’s worth, as a totally outside observer, I think I see a trend whereby an increasing number of tribal players and less famous politicians in Sunni-majority areas seem prepared to engage with Maliki, explaining the relative decline of the federalism demands. Not all of this is suppression (even though there is plenty of it elsewhere).

    My feeling is Maliki can get away with it. Unless he embraces the Talabani plan for boundary changes (next post)!

  42. Santana said

    I agree Reidar- many of Maliki’s opponents have succumbed to the fact that Maliki has so much power (Iran and the U.S backing him , Iraqy Army, Police, Intelligence, all the Judges….etc..that nothing will work to dislodge or dissuade his dictatorial ways… so everyone seems to be surrendering……and I am not talking just within Iraq- look at the Saudis…even they are warming up to him now!…..and believe me….to them this is like drinking rat poison….straight up.

    God help Iraq.

  43. JWing said

    Faisal,

    Yes, I believe that all the Iraqi parties are stealing. That’s one of their main priorities when they get a ministry, and has been so since 2005 when they got the government back from the U.S. Again, the former Electricity Minister Ani was from Allawi’s Iraqiya and he signed two fake deals for over $1 bil. Do you think that was just a mistake? Maliki only fired him to make him scapegoat for the public outrage. Explain to me how that was “Maliki protecting his own” when Ani was from the opposition INM? It’s just one of many examples of how the political elite protect their own, largely regardless of what party they come from. That’s shown by the fact that not a single high official has ever been successfully prosecuted for corruption by any Iraqi government post-2005.

    On Feb. 25, 2012 a member of the integrity committee in parliament said some of the most corrupt ministries in the government were Defense, Interior, Education, Agriculture, Municipalities, Housing, and Migration. Those are controlled by:

    Defense, Interior – State of Law
    Agriculture, Education, Municipalities – Iraqiya
    Housing – Sadrists
    Migration – Kurdish Coalition

    That pretty much shows you that everyone is involved.

  44. JWing said

    Saleh,

    Again you are rambling, making wild accusations, and can’t seem to figure out what the topic of conversation is.

  45. Reidar Visser said

    Municipalities is actually held by Adil Mahudar, the Sadrist ex-governor of Maysan. I guess that actually emphasises the main point made by JWing abt involvement of several players and parties in corruption.

  46. Mohammed said

    Hi Reidar:

    Regarding your previous post about Maliki working with tribal players and smaller player sunni politicians, you concluded: “My feeling is Maliki can get away with it.” I would appreciate if you clarified what you mean by “getting away with it” as that phrase to me sounds like you are saying Maliki is getting away with highway robbery. Personally, as you can see from my prior posts, I have always advocated that Maliki find ways with working with sunnis in the provinces by giving them projects/limited pseudo-federalization powers/bigger budgets/etc to maintain some harmony so that he can implement his policies in peace. As long as there is sectarian strife and harboring of sunni and shiite extremist terrorists, Iraq will only move forward at a snail’s pace. So if Maliki can make these deals with the tribes and smaller sunni players, more power to him.

    It often goes under-reported that with all the “doom and gloom” scenarios we hear from Maliki’s opponents, the bottom line is living standards are improving in Iraq. Overall violence is down. GDP is up. Oil production continues to grow. Salaries are increasing. Yes, electricity has been slow to improve, but Iraq just emerged from a vicious sectarian civil war 4-5 years ago. People often compare the rest of Iraq to Iraqi Kurdistan, but the Kurds have had 20 years to sort their problems out since the 91 gulf war, their own civil wars in the 90s, and 2003 gulf war where they were largely spared from further strife like the rest of Iraq. I agree with Maliki’s critics that the pace of improvement should have been much better given Iraq’s tremendous resources, but those are the cards that Iraq has been handed.
    Reidar, as you stated in your posts, I am sure that Maliki will want to be seen as a good leader and hence will have to strive to improve the lives of Iraqis. Ultimately, if he is unable to substantially improve the lives of Iraqis because he is unwilling or unable to stamp corruption, I suspect he will be seen as a failure by shiites and sunnis alike.

    Santana/Faisal: Your dismissive attitudes for stopping corruption is not a matter of my “western” mentality or naiveté. I am not saying it is easy, but it IS possible. The example of the Iraqiya electricity minister Raad Shalal was discovered by an independent Iraqi-canadian citizen (Jawad Hashim) residing in Canada who merely made a couple of simple phone calls and used google. It can be done if your attitude is really about trying to stop corruption. Sure I agree that it didn’t result in real prosecutions, but at this point, I will settle for firing the bastards who are trying to steal the people’s money and embarrass them publicly. Jawad Hashim has no official capacity, but he made a difference.

    Regarding broadcasting and publicizing corruption, I realize that thugs will target such broadcasters if they are located within the country. However, the Iraqi public has access to all the arab programs via satellite/youtube that are sourced outside of Iraq well beyond the reach of your feared bogeymen.

    Faisal, I know Iraqiya is not in power, but it doesn’t mean you have “no power at all.” Iraqiya runs several ministries and if Iraqiya cannot run them in a corruption-free manner, then they are no better than the Dawah/Sadrist cronies you harp against. As Gandhi states (I will paraphrase): “Be the change you wish to see.”

    If Iraqiya leaders like Essawi can get away with calling Maliki a “dictator,” then Essawi might as well muster up the courage to actually do his job as finance minister and accurately track Iraq’s finances to expose the corruption. Yes, Iraqiya is in no position to prosecute the corruption, but you would at least earn the public’s respect by at least exposing it and naming names and furnishing the evidence like Jawad Hashim did.

    Santana, you once asked about strategies for winning Shiite votes. I can only speak for myself when I tell you that I would support your efforts if I saw real evidence that Iraqiya leaders displayed the integrity that is otherwise lacking in so many Dawah/Sadrists. Complaining about corruption is such a “me-too” strategy and is not enough. Otherwise, people group you all into the same bin of corruption and conclude that they might as well vote for corrupt Shiites instead of corrupt sunnis.

    I realize that such a conclusion is a sad and pathetic conclusion about the state of Iraqi politics, but I am trying to be blunt and honest with you— as I do respect that you have been honest in your views (however much I may disagree with some of them).

    Regards,
    M

  47. JWing,
    “Yes, I believe that all the Iraqi parties are stealing.”
    I agree but that is not the point. I think you and Reidar are misjudging my motivation; I am not making a moral judgment, I am interested in the process that Maliki has broken due to his excesses. And Yes, I will explain to you how come Maliki has to let Al Aani and other opposition administrators slip, its because he pardoned many more from his side. Its the Scale of Maliki’s cover-ups that’s destroying the process.
    Now, can I ask you to produce just one instant of full accountability of a Maliki’s protege?

  48. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, first apologies for the delay in getting your comment published, it must have been stuck in the system for some hours. What I meant was that Maliki in that case would be relying unduly on the tribal element instead (like Saddam in the 1990s) instead of reaching out to parliamentary players to build a more formal alliance. Hence the tone, which you detected correctly: I see it as a semi-authoritarian strategy. I agree the potential for rapprochement between Maliki and some Sunni politicians continues to exist in the way you describe but he just doesn’t seem able (or willing) to exploit it.

  49. JWing said

    Faisal said:

    “Now, can I ask you to produce just one instant of full accountability of a Maliki’s protege?”

    NO ONE is held accountable for corruption in Iraq unless you are a low level government bureaucrat. That is the point that I have been trying to make. Not Allawi, not Jaafari, not Maliki has ever held anyone at the top accountable for all the stealing and backroom deals that they make.

  50. Salah said

    making wild accusations?

    JWing, I was responding to your comment earlier in that matter, I did not making “accusations” as per your claims.
    These are facts and history on happened on the ground inside Iraq. Unless your mind in set of denial then clearly talking to blind and deaf here.

    Btw, may name SALAH.

  51. Reidar Visser said

    I’ll close this thread now. We have reached the point of collective exhaustion. There is an open post & discussion thread about Prez Talabani trying to make his own article 140 on disputed territories here http://gulfanalysis.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/disputed-territory-in-iraq-talabani-tries-to-create-another-article-140/

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