Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Maliki-Nujayfi Showdown in Mosul

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 24 April 2011 22:45

In 2009, Mosul represented a promising trend for those hoping for rapprochement between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Today, the city exhibits some of the tensions that could potentially create instability in the country unless more is done to create a solid parliamentary foundation for the second Maliki government.

Back in 2009, local politicians in Mosul opted to work with the Maliki government in terms of challenging what they saw as Kurdish encroachments on the northern parts of the Nineveh governorate. In calling for assistance from Baghdad, the Sunnis of Mosul were requesting the help of a Shiite-dominated army with the declared aim of restoring the territorial integrity of their province. In terms of national reconciliation, it arguably represented one of the more significant steps taken since 2003.

Today, something vastly different is taking place. A few days ago, a new police commander for Mosul, Mahdi Sabih al-Gharawi, was appointed by the interior ministry in Baghdad. This prompted immediate protests by the local council, and yesterday it adopted a consensus motion that expressed disapproval of the actions of the Baghdad government and instead appointed a previous deputy commander as temporary chief of police. Athil al-Nujayfi, the brother of parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya, has been leading the protests against Gharawi.

The subtext of the drama is as follows. The local councils complains that the newly appointed police chief is “not from the governorate.” (He comes from Shiite-majority Wasit.) Moreover, if one looks back at Gharawi’s past career at the interior ministry, it becomes clear that he was frequently accused of  acts of torture and association with Shiite death squads during the dark days of sectarian violence in 2006. Against that backdrop, his appointment to Nineveh in the current climate comes across as particularly provocative.

Additionally, the legal procedures seem to have been subverted in this appointment too. It is unclear how Gharawi even became a candidate, since the provincial powers law of 2008 specifies a procedure in which the governor is to come up with 5 candidates, the governorate council limits the field to three and then the ministry in Bagdhad selects one. Today, the head of the security committee in Nineveh indicates that they have not been involved in selecting three suitable candidates so far.

Of course, the ministry of interior – which appears to have orchestrated these developments so far – is currently under the control of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who technically remains the deputy minister of interior. Waiting in the wings is probably Adnan al-Asadi, another Daawa operative who so far has been most successful in attracting support within the all-Shiite National Alliance as a prospective minister of interior. For these reasons, the Mosul appointment could serve as a warning about tendencies that may even grow stronger in the months and years to come. Demonstrations in favour of a US withdrawal have gained momentum in Nineveh lately, and the monster agenda recently adopted for next week’s parliament includes an item called the “law on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq”. In other words, absent any voices of moderation in the last minute, it seems as if both the central government and the people of Mosul are prepared to close their eyes and go ahead with requesting a full US withdrawal according to the SOFA – all in the name of an Iraqi nationalism that is  in deep trouble in the real world of Nineveh politics.

18 Responses to “Maliki-Nujayfi Showdown in Mosul”

  1. One of the lessons here is that you can’t have a cross-sectarian alliance based on a negative interest, by which I mean that if the only thing that held together a possible Maliki-Najayfi alliance was opposition to Kurdish expansion, then most of the time what divides them will overpower what they have in common. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of these variously-mooted Maliki-Sunni alliances – while he takes a much more conciliatory stand on debaathification issues than ISCI or Sadr, he has never been willing to go nearly far enough for someone like Najayfi (or Mutlak).

    But question whether Adnan Asadi really does have strong support among the Shia outside Maliki’s base. He has been Maliki’s first choice at interior since the beginning, and what has held that up has been Sadrist opposition in particular, but also ISCI opposition as well. There have been sources the last few days, most but not all of them from within Maliki’s camp, saying that he was back as the lead candidate. But I think that has now been said of about half a dozen people.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Kirk, Nujayfi and Maliki have previously held quite similar views on the powers of the governorates. The idea of having someone from the local community appointed as police chief is in line with the “softer” take on centre-periphery relations that is often described as lamarkaziyya or non-centralism.

    As far as I have been able to see, Asadi reappeared as a candidate after Ibrahim al-Lami was ruled out because of de-Baathification and the current problem is that the Sadrists demand the deputy minister for interior and Maliki is unhappy with their candidates so far. Once more, he cannot afford to alienate both Sadrists and Nujayfi at the same time…

  3. I don’t really have the decentralization issue as being that important in coalition politics. Important in practical terms, yes, but despite some of the rhetoric I don’t see it as sufficient glue to hold together a coalition. I’ve noticed how Sunnis in Anbar and Diyala who previously supported a strong central state rediscovered the virtues of decentralization once their energy resources started to become more exploitable. There is a certain ideological commitment to central power among many Sunnis, but in my view until Maliki is willing to face down his Shia allies/rivals on debaathification I’m skeptical he will have much of an alliance with Sunnis beyond those who just want a ministry.

  4. Salah said

    One of the lessons here is that you can’t have a cross-sectarian alliance based on a negative interest</i.

    Krik, the problem is not we need to learn this lessons after 8 years after Iraq invasion, Iraqis all refused the divisions that put on them either ethnically or religiously, we all knew this was serving those who came and put in power also length the calls for the stability and demands by Iraqis to get things move forwards.
    We saw this division made a lot of loses between Iraqis however Iraqis they realized that was ugly plane and dead born baby, they came over it.

    those in power in Iraq still working in same attitude use this for their interests, to keep the political process in Iraq complicated, not workable as we seen longish months taking to get a government after election, also still two position of ministers empty and we her Malik taking each day about security and warning demonstrators will be killing and bombing by “Terrorists” that’s why he impose curfew of them in same time he calling “Publically” he is with NOT extending US troop (SOFA) in Iraq? Just 2-3 weeks there is massacre in Salah al-Din council cost many lives of Iraqis, Maliki done nothings even firing any officials or call for investigation of that obvious breach of security forces or situations inside Iraq.

    وأعلنت قيادة عمليات نينوى، أمس الخميس، عن فرض حظر للتجوال في عموم مدينة الموصل وضواحيها، مؤكدة توفر معلومات تفيد بوجود سيارات مفخخة وأحزمة ناسفة لاستهداف المتظاهرين، في وقت ذكر الأهالي الموصل أنهم يستعدون لتنظيم عصيان مدني للمطالبة بانسحاب القوات الأميركية وإطلاق سراح المعتقلين.

    وشهدت محافظة نينوى، أمس، تظاهرة لعشرات المواطنين في ساحة الأحرار وسط الموصل، للمطالبة بانسحاب القوات الأميركية من العراق، فيما انضم المحافظ أثيل النجيفي إلى المتظاهرين.

    وكان محافظ نينوى أثيل النجيفي أعلن، الثلاثاء الماضي، الإبقاء على ساحة الأحرار وسط مدينة الموصل مفتوحة أمام التظاهرات والاعتصامات السلمية المتواصلة منذ 10 أيام، للمطالبة بانسحاب القوات الأميركية من العراق، على الرغم من ورود كتب رسمية من العاصمة بغداد تطالب بإيقافها، وفيما كشف عن حملة واسعة لجمع تواقيع تطالب برحيل تلك القوات لتثبت بوثيقة رسمية وتعلق وسط الساحة، تعهد بتوفير الحماية اللازمة للمتظاهرين ليمارسوا حقهم الديمقراطي بصورة حضارية.

  5. Reidar,
    Thank you very much for highlighting the appointment of Gharawi in Mosul. Earlier today I added an entry in my blog where I described Maliki’s policy of provocative appointments as political centralism, I suggested an alternative which I called political federalism, I hope I din’t step on anybody’s toes..

  6. Thaqalain said

    The last lines of your para need a separate article to further analyze the current situation.

    April is not yet over, US is pressuring Iraq to formally request for their continued presence in Iraq.
    Whether or not Al-Maliki melt to US pressure, US already have 2nd plan , how to continue protecting its interests in Iraq. Missiles and Mortars are start falling in Fortified Green Zones and American Occupied Bases.

    A very hot summer is waiting to explode dyanamis of volatile political situation in the entire region.

  7. Kermanshahi said

    Sunnis trying to get Shi’a support to go to war with the Kurds was hardly a positive development towards “national reconcilation” or “stability,” it was just trying to replace one war with another, and replacing secterianism with racism.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi and Kirk, what happened in 2009 was more than just a bunch of politicians getting together on a largely anti-Kurdish platform. It was also about a broader vision of the state and the constitutional order: Both Maliki and Nujayfi seemed to agree that it would be advantageous to return to the pre-2003 formula of a centralised state with an autonomous Kurdistan.

    That formula still remains influential today. Witness for example the relative reluctance of the politicians in Diyala and Anbar to openly call for a region (iqlim) even as they press for a maximum of power in the name of the existing governorates. That in turn suggests that the underlying centre-periphery issues at hand are negotiable but that they need to be addressed properly through constitutional revision, or fixing the 2008 provincial powers law, or both.

    Faisal, I guess that is part of what you are hinting at with “political federalism”, but again what counts is how you choose to operationalise it – and you didn’t spell that out in your piece! I actually thought the 2008 law was good in the way it theoretically lets local authorities vet candidates for local top positions, but there are discrepancies between the distribution of power between the centre, governorates and regions in the constitution and the way it works in practice for example in the budgeting process. That discrepancy needs to be fixed urgently for the system to acquire some degree of stability.

  9. Agreed that the Sunnis have the idea of a central Iraqi state in their cultural DNA, and that is why as you say in Anbar and Diyala they avoided calling for a region/iqlim, but I view it as tertiary to the issues of debaathification and security services control. I guess the only evidence I could point to would simply be the lack of any such Maliki-Najayfi match having formed into a real coalition so far. Maliki can talk about the strong central state all he wants – and I don’t deny he believes in it – but until he changes course on those other issues I don’t see him building a real coalition with a sizeable Sunni component.

  10. Kermanshahi – While a Sunni-Shia escalation against the Kurds would clearly be a negative turn, but I think any outside observer would give the Kurds at least a certain degree of blame for that. Also, I would avoid throwing around the term “racism” in this context. People of all ethnic groups – yours and mine included – have a natural tendency to identify with their own. But I would distinguish the essentially good faith disagreements that exist between people like Maliki, Najayfi and Talabani and the kind of racism the Baathist regime really had for the Kurds.

  11. Reidar,
    I think the biggest factor in political centralism is the deployment of Maliki’s special forces, second is provocative appointments not according to procedure, both side step formality and local vetting of candidates. I suggested to make the subject an election issue in order to operationalize it as a policy.
    The US withdrawal negotiations add more unpredictability, an extension of US stay could mean an extension of the status quo of political centralism.

  12. JWing said

    Thaqalain said

    Those missiles, mortars and IEDs are coming from the Sadrists, the League of the Righteous, Hezbollah Brigades, etc. with weapons via Iran. They’re stepping up attacks because they want to claim that they made the U.S. leave. Whether those Special Groups attack or not, they’re not going to give the U.S. any more leverage in getting a troop extension. It’s mostly going to be based upon Maliki’s standing with the other major lists.

  13. Reidar Visser said

    For what it may be worth, just as I was getting pessimistic, Izzat Shahbandar of State of Law reports an imminent breakthough in forming a “political” coalition with Iraqiyya (minus Ayyad Allawi) that could replace the fragile national unity govt.

    It should be mentioned that Shahbandar was also optimistic about such an SLA-Iraqiyya alliance in summer 2010 when it eventually came to nothing. A former member of Iraqiyya, he is Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s personal “replacement deputy” in parliament. I am unsure how his positive view squares with the situation on the ground in Nineveh.

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Just to add to the above, news out of Iraq now seems to suggest that Maliki is backtracking on the issue, wisely so one might add. First, there was a report some days ago that the interior ministry had stressed that the appointment of Gharawi was temporary only, and related to the former police chief being incapacitated for health reasons. Then, today, there is this headline from Aswat al-Iraq:

    احمد حسن الجبوري مديرا عاما لشرطة نينوى والغراوي قائدا للشرطة الاتحادية

    The full story is not yet available online but the headline strongly suggests some kind of fudge whereby the former commander (Ahmad al-Jibburi) keeps his job in the Mosul police force and Gharawi instead is given a leadership position in the federal police.

  15. Kermanshahi said

    Kirk, most of these ex-Ba’athists are way more anti-Kurdish than they show publicly. It’s because currently in Iraqi politics, open racism like they could do during the Ba’ath times, is seen as unacceptable or atleast too controversial. Although al-Hashemi did briefly let slip how al-Iraqiyya really thinks about the Kurds, with is Arab-country, Arab-president, remarks. And currently it is impossible for them to disband the Kurdistan region, this is much to far prospect, that’s why their concentrating on making this region as small as possible and make sure Kurds have the least possible amounth of autonous rights. Another reason is that they are currently part of a Kurd-inclusive unity government. But if people like al-Nujayfi and al-Mutlaq would be put in charge of the country, they would definetly move this way, perhaps another al-Anfal might be on it’s way.

    Reidar, this Mahdi Sabih al-Gharawi, you say he is militia related, right? The name does ring a bell, is he perhaps related in any way to Ahmad Abu Sajad al-Gharawi (or maybe it’s the same guy), the guy who ran a smuggling network to supply insurgents and also had his own insurgent group in Maysan? We heared about him and Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani quite frequently around 2005-2006.

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Gharawi is a very common name and often refers simpy to Najaf origins. In this case it has been suggested that Gharawi changed his name from Azzawi, which refers to a famous family of Baghdad Sunnis. I am not sure if the whole thing is made up by enemies who may want to play on the Sunni – Shiite theme. The claims about militia links appear mostly on pro-Sunni websites.

  17. Salah said

    Well this new development?

    كشف نائب رئيس مجلس محافظة واسط مهدي الموسوي،انه قدم استقالته من حزب الدعوة ـ تنظيم العراق بسبب

    تصرفات بعض المتنفذين في الحزب.

    وقال الموسوي في مؤتمر صحفي :”انني اعلن استقالتي من حزب الدعوة ـ تنظيم العراق وطوي صفحة هذا الحزب بالنسبة لي لانه بنظرنا اصبح طريقا من طرق الدنيا التي لا توصل صاحبها الى النجاة ، وعليه نرى لزاما علينا ان نتخلى عن هذا الطريق “.

    واضاف الموسوي”ان العديد من الاسباب دفعتنا الى اعلان الاستقالة منها تشبث حزب الدعوة بتعيين محافظ غير المحافظ الذي تم انتخابه من قبل مجلس المحافظة مؤخرا ،وتغييبنا عن مركز اصدار القرارعلى العكس مما اقره السيد الشهيد محمد باقر الصدر “.

    وتابع الموسوي:”لقد واجهنا صعوبات كثيرة في عملنا على مدى العامين الماضيين،حيث يحاول بعض المتنفذين في الحزب ممن ينتمون الى واسط ،الركوب على جراحات الناس والعمل للمصلحة الشخصية والعشائرية والحزبية تاركين وراء ظهورهم كل القيم والمبادئ وهذا ما لا يرتضيه كل غيور مدافع عن الشعب

    Also: إقالة مدير شرطة بغداد وتعيين قائد شرطة البصرة السابق مكانه على خلفية قضايا فساد

  18. Santana said

    Now Jaafari is asked to broker a truce between Nujaifi and Maliki…sorry -I forgot it’s DR. Almaliki now- and we know where that brokering order came from…but for those who don’t..Ibrahim Al-Jaafari is Iran’s number one man in Iraq.

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