Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Budget Aftermath: Another Quasi-Decision in the Iraqi Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 6 March 2012 18:51

Iraqi parliamentarians have been on a week-long holiday since they passed the annual budget for 2012. Meanwhile, Iraqi media have given Iraqi politicians a chance to vent their anger regarding items in the budget about which they had second thoughts.

The first days after the passage of the budget, the debate was dominated by signals that some in the government, especially those close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, were unhappy with the failure of parliament to pass article 36 of the budget which would have given the government greater freedom with respect to spending money. There were even suggestions that the government would bring the matter before the supreme federal court – based on the argument that the annual budget is a special case of legislation for which article 62 of the Iraqi constitution imposes limits as to how much parliament can do in terms of editing (basically nothing much beyond moving money from one post to another). Furthermore, it has emerged that it was the financial committee headed by Haydar al-Ibadi, a Maliki ally, that played the leading role in abruptly adding articles to the budget on the day of voting subsequent to the cancellation of article 36, including some that seemed nonsensical or out of place (for example, a stipulation that scholarships abroad be distributed evenly between governorates). Was some of this last-minute added matter a deliberate move to make the budget vulnerable to challenges in the supreme court so that the government could regain article 36 if it wanted? One can wonder, especially since the cancellation of a single article on spending hardly goes beyond what the constitution allows for in terms of transfers (i.e. the equivalent of nullifying something), and also since it has been done before (in the 2011 budget, article 22 cancelled the “social spending” of the three presidents also through a last-minute change).

More recently, it is the earmark for armoured cars for Iraqi parliamentarians that has come to the forefront. The massive public criticism of special protection for politicians is understandable given the continuing security problems affecting the poorest of Iraqi society. Nonetheless, the question is how parliament can make changes to the whole budget it just passed.

Today, that issue came up for debate as the Iraqi parliament reconvened. It was decided that in order to make changes to the budget, a new, ordinary law has to be passed. The committees for finance and legal affairs were charged with preparing a draft law, which supposedly will go through the usual two readings before a vote. Thankfully, parliament did not opt for the (perhaps more logical) solution of amending the entire budget.

Politically, it is noteworthy that members of Maliki’s State of Law bloc were in the forefront among those demanding a new law to cancel the spending on the armoured cars. That, alongside the fading of the calls for a supreme court review of the budget, might indicate State of Law ended up concluding that the glass is at least half full and that there is a political net advantage of having negotiated the budget hurdle without any major showdown. Certainly, opening up once more the whole parliamentary debate on the budget would be risky, and even the Iraqi supreme court would probably find it difficult to go ahead with what Maliki perhaps might prefer – reinsertion of article 36 and keeping the rest unchanged.

As for the Iraq parliament as an institution, despite what the media says, today’s “decision” on the budget was essentially a non-decision. The deputies “agreed in principle” to press for a law to cancel the armoured cars. That “agreement in principle” is not a law, but with parliament so often unable to do what it should do (i.e. pass laws) there has been an inflation of this kind of quasi-decisions  that can help mask the ineffectiveness of the deputies. A recent, interesting case in point is the little-noticed “decision” that preceded passage of the budget on 23 February – about “balance” (ethno-sectarian quotas) in the armed forces (as per article 9 of the constitution) and special representation of the federal regions and the governorates at the level of state (article 105). This is however not a law (and article 105 specifically calls for a law), and whoever demanded it as a prerequisite for passing the budget (presumably the Kurds) has in fact signed up to yet another mini Arbil agreement unlikely to see implementation any time soon.

In the weeks leading up to the Arab summit scheduled for the end of March, focus in parliament is likely to move to the amnesty law (with another attempt at a second reading on Thursday). Generally speaking, Sadrists and the secular Iraqiyya have people in their constituencies who would benefit from a liberal amnesty law whereas Maliki’s State of Law are pressing for more restrictive definitions of who should be eligible for pardon. The law has been at the level of a second reading for several months, exemplifying the kind of long-term stalemate that has become so characteristic of Iraqi politics.

Maybe Iraqi parliamentarians will understand that one day, armoured cars may not be sufficient to protect them from the anger of an unhappy electorate fed up with parliamentary inefficiency?

34 Responses to “The Budget Aftermath: Another Quasi-Decision in the Iraqi Parliament”

  1. Article 36 is way more significant than the armored cars issue yet everybody is talking about them, and about the parliamentarians and how they are selfish and use delay tactics, when it is the only resistance they have at their disposal in order to slow down Maliki’s hegemony.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Agreed, but I don’t think article 36 will necessarily be reinstated. My thinking is that even if Maliki did not get absolutely all the $$ he wanted, he remains in a far better position than anyone else to control funding for political purposes. With the budget hurdle out of the way, this aspect becomes even more important.

  3. bb said

    Interesting to read yet another example how the executive is circumscribed by the leglislature. Please alert Kenneth Pollack, ask him for an article comparing and contrasting with US congress.

    On the scholarships/governorates – what on earth can be wrong with that?

    On the armoured cars: the only surprise, surely, is that this has not been done before?

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Nothing wrong with the scholarships except it was a somewhat odd item to bring up in the twelfth hour. The modalities alone made me wonder why so much energy was spent getting these things added. They are insignificant items compared to the big headings in the budget.

  5. bb said

    They might have just forgotton to put it in before.
    btw, the judges should have armoured cars too.

  6. Santana said

    Reidar- you said- “Even if Maliki doesn’t get all the $$ he wants”………. is far from reality…we discussed the stealing and milking of Iraq’s wealth two weeks ago…….I challenge anyone to do any deal -sugar, wheat, rice, oil , water or major construction with Iraq without it going to a Daawa guy to approve and get a slice of the pie….which is shared in cash with Maliki….I know this for a fact because I have relatives in the business world that tried like mad to do one of these deals……and went very far just to get shut down last minute for not being shiite or not willing to put up millions in “performance bonds” or not willing to deposit cash in Beirut with some “hezbollah silent partner” who’s expertise is money-laundering.

    As far as the armoured vehicles…another joke…they only protect against bullets….no IED protection whatsoever…if hit with an IED that “armoured”Suburban will fly in the skyeven higher than the humvees do….everyone inside is soup …….”shorba” . The company making them is in Virginia and I am sure they want this contract but it is worthless in my opinion.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, part of that was actually the point I was trying to make, i.e. with the large, shall we say, informal, sector of the Iraqi govt economy, it is in Maliki’s best interest to keep the wheels spinning because he is better positioned than anyone else to control that economy.

  8. Salah said

    he is better positioned than anyone else to control that economy.

    Why he is “better” could please give your reasons making you say so?
    Are Iraq empty from someone that can really work in good faith right now?

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, I think that possibly you may have misunderstood that sentence. “Better positioned” does not imply a judgement on whether it is good or bad, only whether someone will be able to do something if s/he wants it.

  10. Salah said

    With all due respect, the past term of Maliki “Da’awa” they prove they did not contribute to Iraq as they should do.
    The problem here is the support he got from US and other European countries.

    He and other ilk’s well know of their corruption, no one can denied that so seen him better positioned to do the job is as escape goat to keep him without questioning him for vast and wide spread corruptions in today Iraq today. If Malik been PM in other countries he will pushed out from the office within a week.

    Let bring your attention to two matter are very important to be consider right now while Iraqi infrastructures and all public service stand still just with miner work don while all of you hearing billions and billions also contract rewarded to many companies but on the ground its shambles.

    Is short of money? Is short or devoted leaders? Is short of skills?

    1. مفاوضات جادة بين المالكي و ايران لتسلمة فترة ثالثة لرئاسة الوزراء

    2. Oil fill his land and his sons-free pockets ….. “3” millions of barrels per day of…..-quot-3-quot-millions-of-barrels-per-day-of

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Haha, the informed source in that Shatt story is probably the journalist himself. Why would anyone discuss another term (actually it is the third, not second) for Maliki right now? No elections are coming up. I am confident the whole thing is made up. Shatt hates Maliki and will go to any length in order to criticise him.

    As for Shahristani, he is hardly considered the most corrupt politician in Iraq and it is not exactly bad to get Iraqi production moving to increase revenue. That said, I am personally sceptical about the focus on EITI as stamp of approval for “sound” oil economies. Doesn’t matter much what is paid to the foreign companies when oversight over the national spending budget is lax anyway.

  12. Salah said

    May I add this which well-presented study and bolder about corruption in Iraq which resonant with my take about Iraqi politicians, with my disagreement on statement about Maliki “is better positioned than anyone else to control that economy “. In my view he is the major problem in Iraq today.

    Corruption in Post-Conflict Environments
    An Iraqi Case Study
    By Jeffrey Coonjohn1

    The future of Iraq in relation to anti-corruption is problematic: government ministries are Balkanized into sectarian and political divisions and subdivisions, all vying for sweet-heart contracts, kick-backs and other forms of fraud that will bring money to the sect, its political party or its individual leaders. This is not a recent phenomenon but has been developing since the Coalition invasion of 2003.

    As a consequence of the influx of cash, the organizational structures of these political parties grew proportionately larger. The greater the income, the more the party grew. The more the party grew, the greater its political success. The greater its political success, the greater the party’s demand for money to support its organizational structure. As a result of this vicious cycle, the parties’ emphasis turned toward maximizing income. To maximize income, there was furious political competition to control important positions—both positions that would bring income as well as positions that would protect their income sources (i.e. coopted government officials).

    In Iraq, this necessarily means that an anti-corruption implementation strategy must be developed by Iraqis who understand the historical and social issues implicated. While the international community can provide guidance, they cannot fully appreciate the nuances of Iraqi social and cultural development. The same is true in almost every other country.

    As for Shahristani, he is hardly considered the most corrupt politician in Iraq and it is not exactly bad to get Iraqi production moving to increase revenue

    It looks you did not got my point, I did not mentioned any name of those “corrupt politician” as I am not insider neither I hand evidences for that but as most of you these stories reported by Iraqis (may Santana Case one of them) and western reporters also agencies of vast corruptions in Iraq.

    So the point I was making is the production increasing day after day now its 3Mil/p and this is good for the corrupt politician not for Iraqis as far as we can see oil money not used wisely for rebuilding Iraq or improving the lives of 40% Iraqis & Widow and orphans who are living under poverty line in today Iraq. who is responsible I leave it to you to pick.

    As for Shatt story, it might this bit correct or not, who guarantee this story? you and most of dealing with Iraq knew well what the relations between Maliki and Iran there are no secrets here.

    In the end Reidar, may I ask you respectfully, why the western world keep silent about those big fat corrupt Iraqi politicians? why they not bringing this matter to the top?
    We saw Hosni Mubarak, US Senators raising the Mubarak’s wealth to 80 Billion?
    Here we have Iraqis doing the same as Hosni, they using money laundering, after 9/11 US and other countries watch closely money transfer/ movement around the world even US asked the most secret banks Austria to open their box for tax frauds, so Iraq case would be very closely watched and cleared from the miss that US and other they setting it up>

    But of course here money talk not the me or people much concerns about poverty national wealth or poverty inside Iraq.

  13. Mohammed said

    HI Reidar:

    You wrote: “with the large, shall we say, informal, sector of the Iraqi govt economy, it is in Maliki’s best interest to keep the wheels spinning because he is better positioned than anyone else to control that economy”

    I don’t understand what you are implying, or rather how you are drawing your conclusions. What do you mean by the “informal sector” of the economy? If by that you mean corruptions and bribes, I am not sure I agree with you. Everybody knows that there is a great deal of corruption. I am not convinced Maliki can put a stop to it on his own. In terms of his own financial benefit (or that of his family, and friends), I just don’t see a compelling reason to promote corruption in the face of an impending public backlash. He is far better served as being known as the leader who saved Iraq from civil war, restored Iraq’s electricity, improved oil output, healthcare, education, etc. He can use his position as PM to distribute projects to win over favors (good ole fashion pork barrel politics like they do in America), but outright stealing of money is going to bite dawah in the rear end if they keep at it.

    If he fails to deliver on improving the country in the next two years, he will be in big trouble in the elections. Even if the elections are not fair, people will protest against him. Sistani himself, or perhaps a new shiite opposition party will emerge (one that is not aligned with Dawa or Iraqiya or ISCI) and be positioned to feed off public discontent, and cause trouble for Dawa. Next time around, I don’t think he can count on the same support from Sadrists, ISCI, Iraqiya to support his nomination, and unless Maliki does not make radical improvements, I don’t see any compelling reason why the election results will be any different than before (in fact he may lose support). If I was Maliki’s political advisor, I would tell him that your election season is starting now, and if you dont have all Iraq lit up like a christmas tree with electricity by summer 2013, you are going to have major riots on your hand.

    So, he does have an interest in keeping the country running right now and infrastructure projects moving at a faster pace. But if he continues to allow corruption to run rampant in the country at the expense of real progress, he will be in trouble. If he is booted out of office, what good are his imaginary billions of dollars going to do him?


  14. Reidar Visser said

    I agree that he wants to be seen as an honourable leader. Even most critics say Maliki personally is “clean” when it comes to corruption. What I meant is that he is better positioned to anyone else to provide budgets to subordinaries, who in turn may not be equally clean, and there you go. In addition to being PM, he effectively controls large parts of the security sector and the funds that come with it.

    Generally speaking, financial oversight in Iraq leaves much to be desired and final accounts for previous years have been long delayed.

  15. Salah said

    “Maliki personally is “clean” when it comes to corruption.”

    There are stories that his son which he appointed as director of PM office, a lot of talks about his finance rampant in Dubai, Syria, Lebanon and London

    been long delayed
    In you view , Who is/are responsible for the “been long delayed”?……

  16. Salah said

    May I add more in regard to this statement by keeping saying”Maliki personally is “clean” when it comes to corruption? What I meant is that he is better positioned” you insisting on and keep forcing it here.

    Reidar, you know well Maliki “he effectively controls large parts of the security sector and the funds that come with” this well discussed by you and other he using this for his self-necessities, from forcing his will, controlling and may be using his force to clap down any oppositions or demonstrations as we wittiness in last year.

    The important part is how much budget this package had. Few weeks ago news leaked that Maliki controlling 7 Billion from Iraq money by himself for himself even the ministry of finance don’t know about this money.

    The fact in Iraq today is Maliki controlling a pyramid of corrupted and thieves most of you hearing names of officials involved in vast corruption’s scandals some flee some resigned and some still in different levels of the government or parties. All these make you believe Maliki is clean? How?

    Let go to his personal side now his son is a new “Udday” you all heard about Udday and his attitude and behavior in Iraq all news out lets spoken about his and his ventures, now Ahmed al-Maliki doing same things he is following Uddys steps and ventures, why same news outlets keep silent about him?

    New Udday Saddam under a new name

    Maliki’s son

  17. observer said

    Riedar, Muhammad and all,
    If you all think that Maliki is clean, then I would like to smoke the same stuff you are smoking. What world do you guys live in? Come and try to get an oil deal going without Ahmed Maliki. Good luck.

    Corruption starts at the top, not at the bottom. The base only imitates the leadership. You have forgotten how Maliki protected Sudani? What evidence are you looking for to become “convinced”

    On next elections.. heheheh. Really? You think Maliki si going to allow it? Ok, I wil hold my peace and wait. Meanwhile, look for political assassination of enemies of Maliki (both in the press, and quite literally “liquidation” .


  18. Mohammed said

    Dear Observer:

    Look my friend, the comment about Maliki being “personally clean” is from Reidar, not me. But since you think me to be the token pro-Maliki propaganda minister on this forum, allow me to respond.

    If you examine most of my posts, I usually refrain from commenting on the moral virtues of Iraqi politicians unless they make outlandish statements that are beyond any reasonable defense (exempli gratia, Saleh Mutlaq’s outspoken public support of the Baath Party).

    If you examine my aforementioned comments about corruption and where Maliki fits in to all of this (see also the posts from the prior week), please note that I have stated clearly: “Maliki has completely failed to stop corruption in Iraq” and I believe he bears some responsibility for that.

    As to your question about what I am smoking, I believe it is called “a whiff of reality.” I really don’t care about what is in Maliki’s heart (nor do I claim the ability to ever know what is in his heart), I am only thinking about what is in Maliki’s interests. Let’s say that he is stealing a billion here and a billion there? How is he enjoying that money? He is cooped up in the green zone with the threat of assassination hanging over his head. He is not vacationing in his “imaginary” luxury yacht off the French Riviera like a Bahraini Prince does.

    On the other hand, I can plainly see from Maliki’s actions that–above all–he wants to strengthen his political control over Iraq. Maliki is motivated by increasing political control and not vacationing in Bora Bora. Overall, I still think that Maliki is pretty weak when it comes to being the CEO of a country. There are so many competing factions, and he is simply trying to keep things from blowing up. He shows strongman tendencies once in a while, but overall, many of Iraq’s political actors constantly and publicly try to undermine him and Maliki seems powerless to stop it. The Sadrists are constantly trying to undermine him (look at the protests they organized against Bahrain before the AL summit). Ammar al-Hakim always has his suitcase packed and ready to fly off to meet foreign leaders to join them in their criticisms of Maliki. And then there is your buddy Allawi tweeting away that he has met “with foreign leader X, and discussed regional and Iraqi issues, and concluded that they have similar views.” There are the Kurds who are supposed to be part of Iraq, yet Maliki has absolutely no control over them, striking oil deals as they wish, and Hashemi can just hang out there with impunity, and the Iraqi army is forbidden from stepping foot on Kurdish soil. Throw in all the neighboring countries and their interference, and the constant threat of terrorism and violence, and it is a miracle that Iraqi has held together as long as it has.

    So, when I compare Maliki to any regional leader in the Middle East, he is perhaps weaker than any (with the exception of perhaps Lebanon, and now Syria). He certainly does not have the same control over Iraq in comparison to his counterparts in their respective countries (e.g. Turkey, Gulf Dictatorships (Iran, GCC), Jordan).

    My guess is that Maliki just wants to keep the ship afloat right now. I would tell Maliki you need to get oil output up, improve electricity, and improve security/public services, and reduce unemployment. Such improvements are far more in his interest than embezzling money for his own profit. If corruption is preventing him from getting that job done, he is going to be in trouble. It’s not just a matter of elections. There were already riots with regards to poor services/electricity in Basra last year, and people being shot. If people only have 4 hours of electricity per day, or the water in Basra is too salty for human consumption, it is the perfect fuel for a public explosion that cannot be countered by Maliki or anybody for that matter. He needs to improve the country (that is what all my relatives who are average Sunni and Shiite Iraqis living in different parts of Iraq complain about (btw, nowhere in their complaint list is Allawi getting his national security post or Arbil mentioned).

    So yes, there is corruption, but for now Maliki has probably decided that he has to put up with it in the short term. He has probably made deals with unsavory corrupt people in Dawa and local tribes to ensure relative stability. Observer, when I ask you about Allawi making political alliances with unsavory people like Saleh Mutaq, you always retort with the old “politics is like sausage-making” analogy. Well, I can use the same excuse for Maliki then (but I won’t for much longer, because I think Maliki has to put his foot down, and commit to building a state with real corruption-free institutions). If he doesn’t change course, he is finished.

    With regards to Maliki personally stealing, I again ask you all: where is your evidence? If Allawi is bold enough to accuse Maliki of every despicable crime in the book without furnishing evidence (look at his op-pieces in the western press), then why has Allawi not brought up corruption charges against Maliki even in the public? Essawi controls the finance ministry; just throw some numbers out there regarding where all Iraq’s money is going. And don’t give me the lame excuse of people killed for that (there are ways in the internet age of getting around that and protecting people’s identities).

    Finally, even if you think Maliki is stealing to fund his political machine, I would bet that he doesn’t need to steal money. He can buy the loyalty of politicians the old fashion way that they do in the west with pork barrel projects. If Sheikh X in Anbar will support Maliki and help clamp down on violence or federalism drive, he will send a project his way, etc. It’s not sexy, and not courageous, but it gets the job done.

    And right now, that is all I want. Get the damn job done. Iraq is comparable to the the Wild West in America in its development in the mid 1800s. If services and GDP are improved in Iraq, and a middle class is allowed to flourish, the natural evolution of any economy is that corruption will be reduced. Iraq is no different.



    With regards to the Sudani fiasco, at least Maliki had him arrested in the first place and he is no longer in a position to be stealing money. Maliki stopped his plane in mid-flight. If he wanted to let him escape, he wouldn’t have bothered to stop the flight. My guess is something changed after the arrest. I don’t know why he let him go (there may be some inside deal such as recovering the stolen money in return for being allowed to live in exile in London) or perhaps some threat of revolt by Dawah’s Sudani supporters, etc….In any case, I wish that Sudani was rotting in some jail, and I blame Maliki for being lax towards crimes like that.

  19. Santana said


    Hashimi is in the North because of the injustice and all the B.S Maliki has concocted…..there is much more to it then what you see and read in the news…fake confessions thru torture- not allowing Hashimi to a fair trial in Kerkuk or Khanaqeen,not allowing reporters to meet with the detainees…..the move against Hashimi within 24 hours of the U.S troop withdrawl is purely a sectarian move and has raised many eyebrows… is to send a message to the Sunnis.that “hey- look what I can do to your top leader !….FYI- Jalal may not make it till the end of his term – Iran knows this and Maliki knows it…….for a few months now and they DREAD the thought that Hashimi may become President of Iraq ! This is a redline for Iran and Daawa…so my friend-this move against Hashimi was done with many things in mind …..150 charges yeah right!

  20. Mohammed said


    My point was not to render judgment about Hashmi’s guilt or innocence. Rather, my point is that Maliki looks pretty weak to me. Maliki is accusing Hashmi of trying to assassinate him, mass-terrorism, and high crimes against the state. Yet, Hashemi is able to seek refuge within the borders of Iraq, hold press conferences bashing Maliki, and is effectively beyong the reach of Maliki’s security forces.

    Maliki just doesn’t seem to have the power and control over the country that goes with the “dictator” and “tyrant worse than Saddam” label you and others have ascribed to him. Any competent dictator would have just taken out Hashemi with a car bomb or bullet to the head.

    A couple of weeks ago you said that Qassem Suleymani would just put a couple of bullets in the head of Maliki if Maliki ever tried to defy him. In your post, you stated that Iran was worried about Hashemi. Now are you telling me that Suleymani can take out Maliki, but not Hashemi? It seems to me that arresting all these people, manufacturing all the evidence, and getting all the judges (from different sects), and various members from the security services to go along with this is a pretty messy way to get rid of Hashemi. Then, they hold a closed session of parliament to disclose the evidence to everybody is a pretty elaborate show with too many loose ends.

    So not only is Maliki the weakest “dictator” ever, but he comes across to me as pretty incompetent if he has to resort to such theatrics to get rid of Hashemi. Of course, the other possibility is that Maliki is really not the dictator you accuse him to be, and Hashemi may really be guilty as sin.

    Reidar, since you are constitutional expert, doesn’t Iraq have two vice presidents right now (Khodair al-Khozaei being the other)? So who is in line to succeed Talibani should the jolly Kurd finally succumb to his multiple chronic diseases?


  21. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, I don’t think there is a rank order since they were approved in a single vote. The official report from that session on 12 May 2011 just says three deputies, withour specifying the order:

    Also, the presidency has not adoped any bylaws as far as I know.

    Ironic how the vice-presidency undermines one of its most basic functions by failing to provide clarity of succession in the event of a vacancy!

  22. Salah said

    As Iraq revenue increasing day by day mainly from oil export and as Jeffrey Coonjohn stated As a consequence of the influx of cash, the organizational structures of these political parties grew proportionately larger. The greater the income, the more the party grew. The more the party grew, the greater its political success.

    Now another party become bigger and give berth a new the thieves in Iraq!
    أنفصال منظمة بدر عن تيار شهيد المحراب
    علي الضرغام – 11/03/2012م –
    اعلن تيار شهيد المحراب ومنظمة بدر في بيان مشترك انهما اصبحا رسميا و من اليوم تنظيمين مستقلين.

    Nuri Kamil al-Maliki

    المالكي : فن الإخصاء بعد الإقصاء

    Let read further about Maliki being “personally clean”:

    Corruption and bureaucratic graft are two of the most common complaints among Iraqis. Questions swirl over how the potential eradication of half of the Iraqi government could impact the balance in the cabinet between competing political blocs. But changes must be made. Some eight years after the US military toppled Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, most Iraqis still exist on less than three hours of electricity on a day, and many lack clean water as they cannot depend upon power for purifiers.
    In reality, there’s little chance of this political maneuver succeeding. However, it will be interesting to watch Maliki wield ministerial deletion as a political war-hammer. And the cost savings would undoubtedly help the Iraqi government afford all that Iranian gas.
    These developments can be instructive. Iraq’s government is corrupt, inefficient and fragile. It will prove increasingly reliant on other regional states to buttress domestic instability if and when the United States exits the country at the end of the calendar year. Generally, observers have presumed that Iran will emerge as the beneficiary of US withdrawal.
    Corruption and Bureaucratic Graft
    by Reid Smith | on July 4th, 2011 |

    In an edgy three-hour hearing led by one of Congress’ most tenacious interrogators, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, Rice said her office would look into allegations against Maliki as well as “hundreds of reports of corruption” among Iraqi officials.
    A former Iraqi judge told Waxman’s committee earlier this month that Maliki had shielded top Iraqi officials, including one of the prime minister’s own relatives, from investigation.
    “I am not personally following every allegation of corruption in Iraq, but I am certain that we are tracking these allegations of corruption because no one is more concerned about allegations of corruption in Iraq, no one is more concerned about what is, in fact, a pervasive problem of corruption than we are,” Rice told the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
    “But to assault the prime minister of Iraq or anyone else in Iraq with here-to-date unsubstantiated allegations or lack of corroboration, in a setting that would simply fuel those allegations, I think, would be deeply damaging,” she said.
    “And frankly, I think it would be wrong,” Rice said.
    Rice won’t discuss Maliki corruption probe

  23. observer said

    So what is it that you are saying. Maliki is bad but not the worst of them all? What is the bottom line message you want me (and others) to get out of your long post. You are defending Maliki’s actions with many different arguments but in the end, the arguments can be summarized under “he is the least evil”. Is that what you are saying or am I pushing words into your mouth?

  24. observer said

    News break. EMO’s are part of AL Qida…

  25. Santana said


    Brett McGurk will be the next U.S Ambassador to Baghdad- this is a disaster !!….he is known in Iraqi circles as “Maliki’s Lawyer”….he used to be the Chief negotiator on SOFA.
    His most recent plan (last November) was a suggestion to split Iraqiya up into two camps- one that is willing to work with Maliki (Nejaifi and Karbouli and others) and the “non-cooperating ” bunch like Allawi , Hashimi and Mutlaq which should be disposed of……….I am sure Maliki is delighted with this appointment !

    If Brett still views Maliki the same way he did 2006-2009 then Iraq is in deep deep doodoo.

  26. Mohammed said


    I would not go so far to say that Maliki “is the least evil.” Like I said before, I don’t like getting into the business of figuring out who is “evil.” If I made such a statement, then I would be implying somehow that Allawi was “more evil” than Maliki. I reserve the label of “evil” for men like Saddam or Uday. To me, I have not come across credible evidence to put Maliki or Allawi anywhere close to Saddam.

    You also stated that I was “defending” Maliki’s actions. Again, it is not so much that I am defending his actions as I am disputing some of the labels Maliki’s detractors ascribe to him. A Jeffersonian democrat he is not. But, I believe that he is a far cry from being a dictator in the style of Saddam. He has also been called an “Iranian puppet” although I think that there is evidence to suggest it is far more complex than that (e.g. went against Syria at the UN and AL). Observer, you once stated: “Da3wa can not possilbly admit being wrong since their dogma and doctrine is god inspired” yet at the same time you accuse them of massive corruption and stealing money that should be going to orphans and widows. I agree that many Da3wa people are corrupt thieves…but I highly doubt a thief really deep down inside believes his doctrine is God inspired. It may be a nice show to put on for the public, but, corrupt thieves are highly rational people, and God usually doesn’t figure into their calculus except to fool people. So, in the end, the accusations just don’t even fit well together nor are they consistent with facts on the ground.

    I prefer that we not let personal hatred and biases color the lenses by which we examine data and observations. For me, my political outlook is not really a function of who I like more as a person. I would go so far to say that I would probably much rather have dinner with Allawi than Maliki. If Dr. Mahmoud Othman ran for Prime Minister of Iraq, I would probably vote for him over Allawi or Maliki.

    However, I have to look at where Iraq is today, and decide on what policies are the most realistic at achieving the issues I care more about in the next 2-3 years. My aspirations for Iraq are: improved services (electricity/water/healthcare/sanitation), increased jobs, education, increased oil output, improved security, neutralizing corruption, and protecting basic freedoms. Allawi’s focus on “power-sharing” and “balance” are just not as important to me at this stage of Iraq’s development.

    Allawi’s focus about a national conference, Arbil, his insistence on power sharing is just not realistic. So in the end, my problems with Allawi are not about him being “more evil,” but they fall pretty much along the lines with what Reidar Visser has voiced on this forum—namely, Allawi just doesn’t seem to be realistic. Maliki is not going to agree to allow Allawi to be head of some national council of policy with any executive decision making capacity. So why should Iraq’s leaders be wasting all this time to satisfy Allawi’s unrealistic dreams? Yes, Allawi got all those votes in the last election, and was probably screwed over. But, we are beyond that point now, and have to move on. I would much rather have a conference on electricity policy, anti-corruption, healthcare, education, and religious/ethnic tolerance.

    All Iraqis would want Iraq’s politicians to focus on those issues rather than Arbil. I believe and hope that for the sake of his own interest and political benefit, Maliki is far more concerned with addressing those challenges than he is in discussing Arbil. If Allawi was in Maliki’s shoes, he too would probably be more concerned with those issues instead of power-sharing.

    I believe that economics and services must be addressed first, and then people are more empowered to participate and improve a democracy. Corruption and totalitarianism are far more likely to flourish under poverty and lack of security.

    So, if Maliki is a rational man (and I think he is), right now his interests are more aligned with my interests and objectives.


  27. observer said

    Re-read your looooong post and tell me why did you spend three quarters of your time with diatribes against Allawi with lip service to the corruption of Maliki and withint that disputing the fact that Da3awa’s doctrine is in fact “god inspired” and how that does not fit with the corruption. Come on Muhammad, admit it, it is not a bad thing to be a defender of Maliki…. The facts speak for themselves ;

    Now instead of hitting on Allawi just spend your time explaining away the incompetence of Maliki and company and how they are bringing Iraq to the point of fragmentation by insisting on ignoring the promises that he made to get his position.

    Yeh it is a year and a half since he made these promises and you and the rest of the Dawa crowd would like to “forget it”, but it ain’t going to be forgotten not by the Kurds, nor by Iraqia.

    Further – your beliefs aside, the reality in iraq is that nothing is going forward and of course it is all the fault of Iraqia not the incompetence of Da3wa. I look forward to your posts in the coming year declaring that Maliki is the man of the century ;).

    I used to discount Allawi’s claim that there is a quid pro quo between Iran and US regarding Iraq… I no longer do so. There is a plan of a sorts to have a she3a/sunni divide in this part of the world with the axis centered in Baghdad. The she3a of Iraq are going to get screwed once more due to the “enlightened” leadership. Hey maybe the Sadris and Da3wa are right after all. The Mahdi’s coming preconditions is caios and injustice – right?

  28. Lars said

    On the matter of budget aftermath it seems that the oil ministry is getting worried about the more than 100.000 bopd production per day presently missing in the Ceyhan pipeline.

    I find it interesting that the oil ministry confirms its commitment to pay, but excuses the lack of payment (since May 2011) with the statement ” and delay payment of money does not mean it is not bound.” continuing ” stressed Jihad on the need to “abide by the other party the amount of oil extracted from fields in the region through a pipeline Kirkuk-Ceyhan”

    Seems to me that KRG tried for reasonably time to adhere to the agreement, but with continued lack of payment.

    Reidar, this “opening” from the ministry, could it be related to rumours that Joe Biden very recently has raised the matter with Maliki or is it simply, that the oil ministry is becoming afraid of critical voices, as it very much seems to me that they are exposing themselves to rightfull criticism not only from KRG but from any responsible MP.

  29. Reidar Visser said

    Lars, the problem is the Kurds probably want to pay the foreign companies profit whereas Baghdad only wants to cover expenses. If the profit vs expenses debate came up in parliament, few MPs other than the Kurds would support the idea of profit payment.

    The Kurds may be grandstanding by selling oil on the local market, but that is a limited market and they cannot do this for an extended period of time without hurting their own plans for boosting Kurdish output.

  30. Perhaps the appointment of Brett McGurk is the path of least resistance in front of the Obama administration; it is so uninterested in Iraq that it is contracting out the hassle to whoever seems not lost in the chaos. And sure, McGurk is Maliki’s friend, but is Maliki MuGurk’s friend? McGurk has to prove his worth to America, it will not be easy.
    Santana, I don’t think Bret McGurk is a disaster, he is not green: The decision to ban candidates stems not from Baghdad, but from Tehran. He will be close enough to Maliki to see the blemishes.

  31. Mohammed said


    – any politician who steals money from the mouths of orphans and widows is not following God’s doctrine. He or she may use religion as a distraction or vehicle to attain power and influence, but thieves do not seek inspiration from God when deciding on embezzling money for their own profit. Religion may be an “official” component of the Da3wa doctrine, but it is all for show.

    -you asked me whether I thought Maliki was the lesser evil, and I responded to you that I don’t think in those terms. I agree more with Maliki than Allawi on policy and strategy matters.

    – I have no idea what Maliki agreed to at Arbil (and I would like to see a signed document regarding what the agreement was). At this point, I view Arbil as a moot point, and people need to move on. If Allawi feels that he was cheated out, too bad for him. If Allawi insists on continuing his present course, it will likely lead to the break up of Iraqiya (not Iraq) because I believe that the sunnis realize that they have no interest in another civil war.

    Maliki has many faults (lax on corruption being his biggest failure in my opinion), but most of the accusations you and others have thrown at him are not supported by evidence or logic. I readily admit that Da3wa is full of corrupt politicians (as is Iraqiya, KRG, ISCI, Sadrists), if such an admission qualifies me to be a defender of Da3wa in your eyes, you are free to express your opinions. Labels are irrelevant. Arguments should be judged by their content and reasoning rather than who is making the argument.

    However, I do care about the poor suffering people of Iraq. And I believe that they will benefit most if Maliki is successful in raising the standards of living in the country, and that should be his focus rather than anything else (both for his own policial survival and for the good of the country).


  32. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, thanks for flagging the McGurk paper. I am working on something else now but can’t resist a few comments:

    McGurk correctly diagnosed the origin of the de-Baathification revival in Jan 2010 as Iran/ISCI/Sadr. But he underestimated the extent to which Maliki and Talabani would succumb to it.

    Still in April, though, McGurk was capable of issuing criticism of issues in the post-election procedure:

    McGurk must have changed his mind by August 2010, when he went to Baghdad to assist the govt formation process. Around this time, the USG switched to the view of Maliki as the “default” candidate.

    Interestingly, some of the strictures on the Shiite alliance articulated in those early papers by mcGurk are antithetical to the way in which the USG supported Maliki as “the Shiite candidate”. Wonder who made him change his mind?? Biden, Hill???

    PS Lars I find it highly unlikely that the USG would intervene on behalf of the Kurds in the payment issue, since they have explicitly warned against deals circumventing Baghdad. True, Biden is Biden, but I think the recent talks with Maliki more likely focused on Syria and AL issues.

  33. Reidar, I think in August 2011 the reality on the ground was set by Talbani and his delay was calibrated to benefit Maliki. It seems to me that McGurk simply recognized that reversing Talbani’s decision will kill the political process. I think this is a rare event where Barzani was over-ruled by the presidential position of Talbani.

  34. Reidar Visser said

    I read that as August 2010.

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