Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Targeting Mutlak and Hashemi: Towards Full Political Disintegration in Iraq?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 18 December 2011 13:15

Only days after Maliki’s Washington photo-op and with the US withdrawal formally sealed, Iraqi politics is alive again – but for all the wrong reasons. Yesterday saw unprecedented statements by people close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that a move is afoot to withdraw confidence in Deputy Premier Salih al-Mutlak of Iraqiyya (on charges of incompetence) and to bring legal charges against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, also of Iraqiyya, for alleged involvement in the recent terror attack against the Iraqi parliament.

It should be stressed that so far much of this remains rumours and statements. Iraqiyya leaders say no formal request to parliament nor any arrest warrants have been seen so far. However, to some extent, the exact formal status of these proceedings does not really make that much difference. Mentally speaking the cat is out of the bag anyway: Here are two abrupt attacks by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki against participants in his own government. Two lines of attack are being followed, one political and the other judicial.

With respect to the Mutlak case, given his latest comments to US media about the nature of Maliki’s regime it is perhaps unsurprising that Maliki should take some action: When Mutlak accused Maliki of being a dictator, Maliki allies quipped back that Mutlak was the deputy dictator! Whether Maliki has the parliamentary support base to do this remains to be seen. In this matter, Maliki can probably count on the Shiites outside the State of Law alliance (Sadrists and ISCI), since many of them are bitterly opposed to Mutlak for his past association with the Baath party (after previously having been targeted judicially, Mutlak was formally exempted from de-Baathification proceedings as part of the December 2010 government-formation compromise). It is also interesting that the move against Mutlak and the Iraqiyya boycott comes at a time when the general amnesty law is making progress in parliament: That was a case of Iraqiyya and the Sadrists uniting against Maliki.

It is more unclear what the Kurds would do and their votes should be needed even if Iraqiyya continues to boycott parliament since sacking a minister in theory requires an “absolute majority”. Given his penchant for exploiting potential legal loopholes, it is however not entirely unlikely that Maliki may try to make use of ambiguity that arguably exists in that the constitution regarding the definition of an absolute majority in this particular case: In most instances, the constitution explicitly refers to an “absolute majority of the members of parliament”, but with regard to the sacking of individual ministers it speaks only about an “absolute majority” (aghlabiyya mutlaqa). This may well have originated as a simple clerical omission, especially since the concept of a “simple majority” (aghlabiyya basita) occurs elsewhere in the constitution. In other words it would be a an exercise – far-fetched perhaps? – of redefining all of this as plurality, simple majority and absolute majority respectively. Under that kind of scenario, of course, the Shiite Islamists might theoretically seek to sack Mutlak singlehandedly.

As regards Hashemi, this very much looks like a judicial attack on a political enemy that Maliki would probably not be able to get rid of in parliament: Last spring, Maliki had more trouble getting his own vice-presidential candidate, Khudayr al-Khuzaie, confirmed than Hashemi had with respect to his own candidature. Today, there is a statement from the higher judicial council to the effect that it will create a special investigatory committee to look into the accusations against Hashemi’s security detail – a judicial approach that in itself seems ad hoc and extraordinary.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect in all of this is that Maliki is targeting people with a record for compromise. Both Mutlak and Hashemi have at times taken chances with their own constituencies for the sake of cooperating within the Iraqi political system. Back in 2009, Mutlak led a rapprochement attempt towards Maliki, whereas Hashemi was vice-president in the previous parliamentary cycle despite opposition from many Sunni Muslims. When Hashemi was labelled “Baathist” by the Sadrist Bahaa al-Aaraaji in autumn 2009, the revulsion against Aaraji in parliament included many Shiite Islamists and Kurds.

Symptomatic of all that is going on are perhaps today’s developments in Diyala. The embattled, pro-federal governorate council is in emergency session in the Kurdish-dominated Khanaqin. They complain about armed Shiite demonstrations in Baquba and the inability of the government security forces to provide adequate security. This is a pattern we have seen before: Secularists and Sunnis withdrawing to the Kurds in times of trouble with Maliki.

So far the Kurds have a track record of hosting Iraqiyya in a friendly manner and then ultimately betraying them in bilateral deals with Maliki.

20 Responses to “Targeting Mutlak and Hashemi: Towards Full Political Disintegration in Iraq?”

  1. Reidar – I can’t remember the precise case, but I do remember reading a Supreme Court case which addressed the ambiguity you discuss, and in that case they concluded that the difference between “absolute majority” and “absolute majority of the members of the parliament” is in fact substantive – only the latter means 163+. This is not really very logical, for the reasons you give, but the precedent is there.

  2. Danny said

    Reidar, you are completely correct on the fact that those targeted seem to the people most capable of reaching across the table. This is all very concerning (though I’m not sure Mutlag will be missed by many Iraqis). Finance Minister Rafei Eisawi seems to be another one of those also under threat of … within the next few days – his residence has been surrounded by security forces, apparently for a couple of days now. I find the lack of comment on any of these events by Nujeifi and his strange absence from this gloomy group photo very interesting…
    What are your thoughts on the possibility that a shuffle in cards within Iraqiya or a soft coup is part of what’s going on?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Kirk, the case I remember is the attempt circa March 2009 to have Samarraie confirmed as speaker with slightly less than what was then an absolute majority (136). The request for clarification to the supreme court by Tawafuq was somewhat ridiculous since the constitution explicitly says “an absolute majority of the members of the parliament” regarding the election of the speaker. One month later, Samarraie was however confirmed with more than an absolute majority, against the votes of some Iraqiyya discontents and State of Law voting blank. I’ll look up the ruling to see whether that may be the one you refer to.

    Danny, I agree that sometimes you wonder whether Nujayfi has his separate agenda. He is now taking basically the same position as he did right after his election in November 2010, when he earned some Shiite-Kurdish applause for staying put and declaring he was the president of all of parliament – not the speaker of Iraqiyya -when his fellow partisans stormed out during one of the heated sessions back then. It is of course less than a month since there was talk of a split in Iraqiyya, with Nujayfi supposedly taking a more pro-federal position. Confusingly, however, this time the Diyala federal movement seems to have played a role in prompting anti-federal leaders like Ayyad Allawi to act against Maliki. There is also the apparent absence of pro-federal movements in Nujayfi’s own Mosul.

    PS Kirk, parts of the FSC system – notably the jpeg files reproducing their rulings – have been offline for a while. It could be the ruling I referred to above, or the following one on immunity – also relevant these days:

    الاغلبية المطلوبة للتصويت على رفع الحصانة عن عضو مجلس النواب هي اغلبية عدد الاعضاء الحاضرين ، وان الادعاء بعدم حصول النصاب مردود

  4. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, you cannot expect the Kurds to stand up for the likes of Tareq al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq. These two men have practicaly made a carrear out of Kurd-bashing and now, after years of coopearating with al-Maliki against the Kurds, and trying to push him onto an as anti-Kurdish agenda as possible, when he turns on them, they cannot expect the Kurds to not “betray” them. Al-Hashemi thinks only the Arab race should be eligible for high office and al-Mutlaq thinks Saddam Hussein’s Kurdish policies were great and is known as the most anti-Kurdish politician in Iraq. I think a lot of people will be happy to see the back of these two and outside of Iraqiyya, the two minor Sunni coalitions and possibly ISCI, I don’t think there are many MPs which would stick up for them against al-Maliki.

    Sunni Arab Nationalist politicians indeed do always come begging to the Kurds in times of trouble with al-Maliki, only to push for a vehemently anti-Kurdish agenda whenever they’re not in trouble with him. In the 80’s they were killing us, for the last 8 years they have been campaigning to take our rights away, and now they want us to save them? Who wanted such a powerfull central government in the first place? And now this same government is coming for them. Al-Hashemi, al-Mutlaq, and all your supporters, you brought this on yourself. Should have reasoned with Kurds when you had the chance, back in 2010, but no, Iraqi constitution, article 140, totally unacceptable, we want authoritarianism and illegal oppression, so this can be directed towards Kurds. Now al-Maliki is PM, everyone loses, but now the authoritarian government is directing it’s oppression towards them instead. These hypocrites better get their priorities right first.

  5. I just received news that the Iraqi army is in heavy presence at the airport and in the green zone. Hashemi’s residence and aircraft were searched. Some described it as a coup.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    A very short time ago the office of VP Hashemi reportedly confirmed the safe arrival of Hashemi and Khuzaie for a meeting of the presidential council in Sulaymaniyya:

    عاجل.. مكتب الهاشمي:الهاشمي والخزاعي وصلا إلى السليمانية لحضور اجتماع مجلس الرئاسة ولا صحة لانباء اعتقال بعض عناصر الحماية

    Separately, Mutlak and Rafi al-Eisawi, the Iraqiyya min of finance, have supposedly left for Arbil:

    عاجل..المطلك والعيساوي يغادران الى اربيل

    So it is not only Diyala politicians that are seeking refuge in Kurdish territories these days…

    Regardless of the ultimate outcome, what I don’t like about these proceedings is the reminder of the pre-election atmosphere in 2010 and the ad hoc de-Baathification that was going on at the time. So much arbitrariness that it is certain to terrorise many people in or close to Iraqiyya even if the top leaders may get “pardoned” as a tongue-in-cheek goodwill measure from Maliki and his allies in the last minute.

  7. observer said

    Do you need more evidence to prove that the narrative of the dictatorship in the making is not a narrative, but in fact an operational fact?

  8. Wladimir said

    Interesting since most hardline Arab nationalists in Kirkuk are supported by Mutlaq. Now he is fleeing to Erbil. Although they feel betrayed by Baghdad’s Iraqiyya politicians.

  9. The Joker said

    The accusation against Hashemi is that his security personnel had a hand in the bombing. At the moment he can stop any investigations or questioning down this line because of his position.

    As for mutlag – he is characteristic of many in the government who work within the government to bring it down. Being in the government but acting as if you are in opposition is devastating to the country. It’s about time someone picked these people out for their double standards.

    Mutlag wants to act like he is in opposition then let him be kicked out of government and he can have his wish.

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Just for the record since the source (Khalid Shwani, a Kurdish MP in the legal committee) is usually reliable on this kind of issue: The formal request from Maliki to have Mutlak sacked arrived in parliament today,

    أعلنت اللجنة القانونية في مجلس النواب العراقي، عن وصول طلب رئيس الوزراء نوري المالكي بسحب الثقة عن نائبه صالح المطلك الى البرلمان.

    وقال رئيس اللجنة القانونية خالد شواني في حديث لـ”السومرية نيوز”، إن “طلب رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي بسحب عن الثقة عن نائبه لشؤون الخدمات صالح المطلك وصل إلى رئاسة مجلس النواب العراقي اليوم”.

  11. Santana said

    There is much more to all this than meets the eye- Iran is sending a message to the U.S that they can move Maliki as they please and cause major headaches in Iraq that would be a big embarrassment to Obama and affect his campaign and Iran is doing all this just to get the U.S to back off on Syria….this is a tradeoff, the message Iran is sending is-“you take Syria away from us and we will take Iraq”…..but the fact remains that Iran wants Iraq with or without Syria…just more so if Syria is gone.. the group headed by the Iranian puppet Faleh Al-Fayyadh that went to Syria had a great meeting with Asad and NO meeting with the Opposition- LOL….so much for Maliki’s big arbitrating role that he promised Obama with !…the Syrian opposition told Fayyadh to go to hell cuz they knew right away this Iraqi group is sectarian, sent by the terrorist Qassem Suleimani and are there to serve the Allawites and Iran….I loved the comment one of them made when he said “Tell Maliki to fix Iraq’s problems before he tries to save the world”…

    If the U.S doesn’t fix this meltdown in Iraq quickly then there will be a civil war and complete chaos….this will look great when Obama explains to the U.S people how his promised withdrawl was a major miscalculation and a disaster….what is happening now is EXACTLY what many folks like me have been screaming about in Washington for two years. I just hope the troops are still nearby.

  12. Thaqalain said

    There are latest reports: BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Iraqiya bloc is trying to form a new government following withdrawing confidence from present Baghdad government, after failing to provide the simplest of service, as stated by MP Talal al-Zoba’i.

    This is what we expected from US Installed and Dictated Democracy, it will be on knees soon as anything introuduced by White House is hated in Baghdad. Time is soming when we will see Baghdad will be ruled by weaker Premiers, every 2 months, there will be a new Government and real power will remain in hands of OIL CARTELS, CORPORATE & STATE DEPARTMENT will continue rule over Baghdad, they will rule sitting in Mortar Proof Embassies, hiring mercenaries and PSDs.

    The Hostage and Exiled GZ Government will be a token government to fool world that White House Introduced Democratic Government is ruling OIL CAPITAL.

  13. Santana, there is no chance the U.S. will intervene to do what you propose. Pres. Obama and the whole of the rest of the U.S. political elite have reframed the “Iraq question” so that it no longer has anything to do with actual Iraqis– only with the need to get U.S troops out of “harm’s way”. Mission accomplished.

  14. Thaqalain said

    The overt occupation of Iraq is changed to a covert one. Currently there are thousands of special agents, dirty-work squads and scores of secret intelligence cells infesting the airports, the border control agencies, the military, the security agencies and the oil fields operations. These will be supervised from the largest Bomb Proof US embassies on earth in Baghdad, Basra with close to 2500 ‘Diplomats’. Under the cover of training Iraqis on the use of newly acquired weapons, would be acquired drum-beated F-16s, the US intends to have military personnel as advisors with diplomatic immunity.

    What White House funded soldiers, state department officials have done in Iraq will haunt them for years to come. Right now, Iraq is in a real mess. There is a possibility of US-manged military take over of the country and back to the good old days of ruthless Sadddam.

  15. Helena,
    I agree with your version. I think the only way the US may get back to Iraq is in partnership with other powers and under UNSC mandate. The suggestion that somehow a non-Kurdish Iraqi government will call on the US to send troops back to Iraq is not realistic. However, I think Santana hit the nail on the head when he said “Iran wants Iraq with or without Syria.”
    The confrontation with Iran is now mainly economic. It will be easy to disrupt the flow of oil in Iraq and Iran. UN action will make more sense after softening the target economically.

  16. Seerwan said

    I have been a follower of this blog for months, and Dr. Reidar you do a fantastic job.
    This is the first time I will comment though, I couldn’t let it all slide this time.

    @Reidar Visser – How much truth is there that Hashemi or his bodyguards had a hand in the attempted bombing?
    Keeping in mind there is precedent; the perpetrators of the 2007 Iraqi Parliament bombing was MP Mohammed Al-Dayni, a senior member of Saleh al-Mutlaq’s party.

    @Santana – Nice to know that you have abandoned your fantasies about Shia conspiracies – oh wait, you haven’t.
    This is precisely why you barely get a single vote in the South. You live in this deluded fantasy where any Shi’i on earth has a receiver in their head where they love and unquestioningly obey Iran. I pity you.
    You and your ilk cried, pissed & moaned before, during and after the US Invasion; and at the end of your drivel you state “I just hope the troops are still nearby”. You are beyond pathetic. Try to be consistent on a matter other than being positive to the idea of genocide on Shia or Kurds.

    @Thaqalaian – You are doubtlessly another classic old-school Arab who is steeped in a fantasy world of conspiracy theories; like our friend Santana.
    “thousands of agents blah blah” A lot of countries get US training on border control, drugs detection, etc. the backward state Iraq has been in for the last ~30 years means it requires a lot of help. It will naturally have a hell of a lot of US contractors present to train them to the latest standards.
    Infantile arguements with no logic.

  17. Seerwan,
    You start with a conspiracy theory regarding Dainy and Hashemy then you attack Santana and Thaqalain for what you believe is theirs, then you ask Santana to be consistent. I think you need to be consistent.

  18. Kermanshahi said

    Hey, al-Hashemi, al-Mutlaq, al-Issawi, weren’t you guys against a Kurdish autonomous region? What are you doing running over there? Ironically, if these guys had had their way, they would be in jail now. Haha, I just can’t stop being amused at this story.

    And Barzani, what are you doing? Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would have been willing to give refuge to Saddam Hussein himself. Kurds hiding Saleh al-Mutlaq and Tariq al-Hashemi? Whatever next, is he gonna give Kenan Evren refuge aswell, if Erdogan triest o press charges against him? I wonder how much King Abdullah is paying Barzani for this.

  19. Kermanshahi,
    Hey, Barzani owes his neck to Saddam, did you forget?

  20. Seerwan said


    I don’t see how I’ve been inconsistent; I’ve forgotten the details regarding Dayni, but didn’t his nephew confess to the plot?

    As for Hashemi, I merely asked Reidar if he thinks there is any truth to the allegation. It is near certain to be nonsense, but with the politicians Iraq has, from across the political spectrum, its not beyond them.

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