Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for June 13th, 2011

The Iraqiyya Withdrawal: Towards De-Baathification Replay in Iraq?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 13 June 2011 13:30

It is a sorry political menu that is on offer to the Iraqi public these days: Alternative A consists of a party that insists on calling itself “State of Law”  but that holds demonstrations demanding the death sentence for suspects in the Dujayl wedding trial before the judicial proceedings have even started. Alternative B is a party that claims to be secularist and nationalist, but whose leaders see cooperation with separatist Kurds and Shiite Islamist hardliners as somehow constituting the best strategy for furthering their own agenda. Yesterday matters came to a head when Iraqiyya withdrew from the first session of parliament after a month-long recess in protest against the rhetoric of pro-Maliki demonstrators who were out in the streets of Baghdad over the weekend.

What is clear after these recent bitter exchanges is that the two sides are further apart than ever.  And as earlier, it seems likely that some kind of dirty shouting match about the legacy of the Baath party may set the parameters of the debate going forward.  The controversial pro-Maliki demonstrations at Tahrir Square in Baghdad had featured posters with pictures of Ayyad Allawi meeting one of the persons that now stand accused in the Dujayl wedding affair – a terrorism attack that took place in 2006 during the sectarian violence at the time. Of course, meeting with such a person does not in itself constitute a crime under Iraqi law, but the problem is that the “State of Law” supporters want to criminalise people with past ties to the Baath no matter what the law may say. If the law is non-existent, they simply make one up and proceed according to their own whims, precisely as they did back in February 2010 ahead of the last parliamentary elections, when “de-Baathification” took on the nature of a primitive, medieval witch hunt without any reference to judicial process whatsoever.

For further proof of the ascendancy of this tendency, one needs to look no further than to the pro-Maliki website that carries the name of his alliance (www.qanon302.net). In an ominous report two days ago, the website announced a forthcoming demonstration in Nasiriyya intended as a protest against the reinstatement of education ministry officials with past Baathist ties. The website simply said the protest was against “the return of the Baathists” that supposedly had been orchestrated by the new education minister from Iraqiyya, Muhammad Tamim. What the website failed to mention was that those reinstated had in fact been members of the Baath at the firqa level and as such were perfectly eligible to return to service under the accountability and justice law passed by the Iraqi parliament in January 2008. Yesterday the website continued by covering the demonstrations themselves, where the two hot topics had even been merged into one so that demonstrators were carrying posters of Allawi meeting with Firas al-Jibburi (the accused in the Dujayl trial) while at the same time protesting about the education ministry reappointments!

What these developments show is that, firstly, political leaders in the governorates south of Baghdad have no respect for the accountability and justice law passed by the Iraqi parliament in January 2008, let alone for any concept of due legal process as such. Similar to the situation before the last parliamentary elections, they operate ad hoc kangaroo courts in which the label of “Baath supporter” – however ill defined and arbitrarily assigned – can be sufficient to attack an individual and subject him or her to almost whatever punishment the accusers may want to concoct. Second, the way the stories from Tahrir Square and Nasiriyya were reported on websites close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki suggests there is support at the level of the central party leadership for the totally extra-judicial approach that is being employed. It all makes you wonder whether “the new Iraq” is really that much different from the tyranny its leaders claim to have replaced. Maliki presides over a party whose provincial leaders are fond of playing jury, judge and executioner all at the same time – and who also appear totally oblivious to the fact that by so doing they have lost whatever moral high ground they may have once possessed. In terms of their methods they are now at the same level as the torturers and human right violators of the savage Baathist police state; no longer worthy of its name, dawlat al-qanun (“the state of law”) has in reality become dawlat al-shubhat (“the state of slander”).

It should be added that if Maliki’s State of Law has become a contradiction in terms, things are not looking brighter in the other camp either. Iraqiyya is courting Sadrists and ISCI: This might well have the net effect of these groups joining together to throw out the very Americans whom many in Iraqiyya would probably rather prefer to stay a little longer. (By the way, in this situation, how can the CIA boss and the US ambassador in Bagdhad be so cocksure that a demand for a prolonged American military presence is indeed forthcoming and that the Sadrists constitute the only obstacle??) As if just to underline the utter futility of Iraqiyya’s strategy of once more making friends with these strange bedfellows, Humam Hamudi of ISCI – one of the parties courted most frequently by Iraqiyya as part of their  “opposition alternative” –  yesterday expressed a degree of sympathy for the anti-Allawi demonstrations staged by the Maliki supporters of the weekend!

Unless Maliki dares to confront ugly vigilante tendencies in his own “State of Law” coalition, and unless Allawi can get real about the alternatives before Iraqiyya, the current stalemate in Iraqi politics may well continue for a long time to come.

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