Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Powers That Are Divided among Themselves

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 19 August 2008 0:00

Recent events in Diyala provide yet another indication that all is not well inside Iraq’s ruling establishment, especially with regard to its dominant component of Shiite Islamists. Presumably with the support of premier Nuri al-Maliki, Iraqi government forces yesterday raided the premises of Diyala governor Raad Rashid al-Mulla Jawad (linked to ISCI in many reports). Earlier, on 12 August, the chief of police in Diyala was sacked by the provincial assembly, ostensibly because he had promoted “ex-Baathists” to high positions in the local police force. The interior ministry was reportedly unhappy with the action taken by the provincial assembly.

On the surface, Diyala seems like a manifest example of the alliance between Kurds and ISCI that forms the increasingly feeble parliamentary backbone of Nuri al-Maliki’s government: these two forces dominate the local assembly and key positions in the local administration. However, these fiefs now appear to be coming under attack from forces loyal to Maliki himself. Before he was accused of promoting “Baathists” in Diyala, the sacked police commander, Ghanim al-Qurayshi, had reportedly been under consideration for transfer to Basra to assume even more important security tasks, suggesting that he has friends close to Maliki.

This is not the first time there has been friction inside the Shiite establishment. On 29 May, the provincial council in Dhi Qar rejected the interior ministry’s appointment of Sabah al-Fatlawi, against the votes of the Daawa (Tanzim al-Iraq) branch. Earlier, in February, Daawa along with Fadila had sidelined the provincial security council where ISCI was strong, prompting protests from ISCI about the police forces “becoming politicised”. And all too often it is forgotten that the top Basra security officials that came under attack by ISCI and the Sayyid al-Shuhada movement shortly before the military operation in Basra in March were in fact Maliki appointees. In light of examples like these, it is extremely difficult to maintain the common notion that ISCI has perfect control of the Iraqi security forces in most part of the country, although in the case of Diyala it remains unclear whether this is the result of an internal split inside ISCI (national versus local leaderships) or tensions between ISCI and Daawa.

Meanwhile, the corporate media is already feverishly reporting the Diyala developments as a purely sectarian affair, conveniently ignoring the fact that the Sunni Islamist IIP holds only 14 seats out of 41 on the provincial council that voted to oust the Shiite police commander (and whose governor is also a prominent Shiite leader who used to be criticised for ties to Badr).

[Most of this note is also available in an Arabic translation provided by the Iraqi news agency Aswat al-Iraq.]

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