Iraq and Gulf Analysis

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 ( 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.

8 Responses to “The Iraqiyya Withdrawal: Towards De-Baathification Replay in Iraq?”

  1. The stories about pro-Maliki tribes – remnants of majalis al-asnad/tribal support councils? – helping to disperse protesters is disturbing, but I was thinking (hoping?) that the attack on Chalabi last week might be a precursor toward a new initiative toward Sunnis and a turning of the page against debaathification. Maybe not. I’ve been watching this conflict in Anbar over illegal arrests – forces commanded by Maliki appearing from Baghdad, arresting people without an arrest warrant, and then in some cases releasing them, a form of intimidation – and there was yet another “agreement” to resolve it this past week. If Maliki wants to build a coalition that can confirm his security nominees and pass a US security extension, he needs some Sunni Arab votes.

    As for the Maliki-Allawi rivalry, I think part of it is that Allawi is Shia; if they are Sunni then Maliki’s people view their political stance as more legitimate. For all Maliki’s faults, he has long been more open to working with Sunni Arabs than ISCI or Sadr. And of course part of the problem is with Allawi, he is a horrible opposition leader, and his constant courting of ISCI and Sadr is an example of this. Both of those groups have always been 100% uncompromising on debaathification issues.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    What makes me more worried is that the relationship between Maliki and people like Nujayfi and Mutlak has deteriorated recently too. Allawi-Maliki relations were always going to be difficult given the historical record, but with some of the others in Iraqiyya there seemed to be real rapprochement in the past. Izzat Shabandar keeps talking about improving relations between State of Law and the elements of Iraqiyya that are more critical of Allawi, and while some of the latter have indeed expressed mild criticism over his speech during the weekend, I really can see no substantial change so far.

  3. Jason said

    Sounds like a strong, fully independent supreme court is desperately needed (among many other things) to hammer out due process requirements and enforce the rule of law. This decidedly undemocratic institution has always been essential to the success of American democracy. (Another key was having a very powerful, nationalist, unselfish leader like George Washington to bind the government together until the SCOTUS was fully established and able to assert its independence). When there is no one to hold politicians accountable to play by the rules, then self-interest is allowed to subvert the processes, ie., using anti-Baathist sentiment as a club to further ones on political agenda rather than doing the heavy lifting of compromise that is required for democracy to work.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Well, the present court failed to stop the gross vigilantism that probably led to thousands of officials losing their jobs and homes in early 2010, and also refused to deal honestly with the disqualification of Mutlak and others ahead of the 7 March elections. Pending the seating of a new court (which still seems a long way off) much will probably continue to depend on the political leaders – unfortunately!

  5. Santana said

    Reidar- I am surprised that you have made no mention of of the Congressional delegation that came to Baghdad last week and headed by Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and others from the House Foreign Affairs committee. They made a request to visit Camp Ashraf and Maliki threw a fit (one hell of an actor !) and then got Ali Al-Dabbagh to call the Embassy and ask for their immediate departure and made it sound like Maliki’s action was a nationalistic one – opposing any repayment cuz Rohrabacher had also requested repayment of all the expenses the U.S had incurred in Iraq over the past 8 years (which is unrealistic and more of a GOP demand rather than the Administration).

    Maliki’s furious reaction to their request to see Camp Ashraf isthe real reason for their expulsion and further proof of his covert ties to Iran plus he is genuinely worried that the atrocities committed at Camp Ashraf will be exposed – Mujahidi Khalq were ready for this visit by HFAC and were informed of this possibility after they had lobbied heavily in Washington (to this day their supporters in the U.S are demonstrating outside the State dept). so one of the main reasons for the Codel’s visit was to see the Camp for themselves and to hear from the survivors what really happened there and how 38 opposition members were killed.
    Iran also knew about this possible vist not thru their massive intel network that is deeply infiltrated throughout all of Iraq’s Security services but they got a nice tipoff from Talabani’s people in DC Maliki has standing instructions from Tehran to NEVER allow the international community access to Camp Ashraf and there is a strong ongoing effort by Talabani-Sulaimani-Maliki and Sadr to shut it down.

    The Codel visit was a disaster from the start because unintentionally the HFAC just gave Maliki an added excuse to reject an extension of the U.S presence by him able to declare to the U.S government that any request for an extension by his office may be accompanied by a bill (fatoora) in the future if -for example- a GOP President is elected ………

    Maliki knows that all this punch up with the U.S should keep the Sadrists and Iran on his side and he needs them more than NSC to stay in power – he is thinking “screw NSC ! their influence is gone” Iran and the Sadrists is where it’s at now.

    Maliki is a pathological liar, an Iranian stooge, a sectarian with no principles nor a shred of decency and his true colors are showing day by day….the USG will learn the hard way cuz he sure has them fooled …….but then so did Chalabi……

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, Camp Ashraf may have lobbyists in the West, but the US Congress seems unconcerned about the thousands of past firqa members of the Baath who may lose their jobs and livelihoods in a totally arbitrary fashion because no one in the international community appears to be standing up against the tendencies described above.

  7. Basil W said

    “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”).”

    Disagree with Maliki and his supporters and their methods all you want, but to compare them to the child torturers and professional rapists that were a part of the state institutions of terror under Saddam is an insult to all those who actually suffered under the rule of the Baathist tyranny.

    Since you’re so keen on playing the ‘victimization’ card on behalf of the Baathists, please do explain how exactly the actions, as well as the demonstrations organized by, Maliki’s supporters even compare to Saddam’s tyranny? Are there mass graves of tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs that has not been reported? Is Dawa hiring ‘professional’ full-time rapists under the Interior Ministrys payroll to terrorize the wives, daughters, and sisters of the Baathists with whom they are at odds with? Are children being tortured in front of their parents in order to intimidate and silence opposition?


  8. Reidar Visser said

    Basil, I remind you that to assume someone is guilty before proving it using due legal process is also a human rights violation as per the official UN definition of the term. There can be no doubt that “State of Law” supporters have engaged massively in this kind of abuse, as documented in this and previous posts.

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