Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Hawija Incident: Wider Ramifications in Iraqi Politics

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 13:20

The recent dramatic images from Hawija of protestors under attack by Iraqi government forces are in themselves nothing new in Iraqi politics. Populated mainly by Sunni Arabs and located close to the disputed city of Kirkuk and the border between the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Hawija has in recent years seen a level of violence that is significantly higher than the average in post-2003 Iraq. Some of the political violence has been mainly pro-Baath in nature, in other cases Sunni Islamic extremism has been at play, often with suspected ties to foreign radical groups.

What will determine the significance of the Hawija clash in Iraqi politics more broadly relates to its reception among Iraqi political factions outside the local area. And in this respect, early indications are not promising.

To some extent, it is unsurprising that Sunni and secular groups that have been critics of Maliki for a long period should rush to the defence of the Hawija protestors and complain about the actions of the Iraqi army. What is more critical, though, is that other Sunni and secular groups that lately have been on talking terms with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are also deeply critical of the government’s handling of the Hawija affair. This includes Sunni and secular ministers that had recently returned to the Iraqi cabinet despite the boycott by the mainline Iraqiyya movement – including Saleh al-Mutlak, the deputy premier, whose support for the annual budget played a role in enabling Maliki to pass it without Kurdish support.

Beyond this, even if Mutlak can perhaps be accused of wavering rather often when it comes to his relations to Maliki, the disputed areas of northern Iraq and the contest between the central government and the KRG have generally speaking been among the few issues where Maliki has been able to win some Sunni and secular friends during his two terms in office. By way of example, after parts of Iraqiyya opted to boycott parliament and cabinet following the arrest order for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in December 2011, it was mainly deputies from Kirkuk and other northern areas unhappy with the pro-Kurdish turn of Iraqiyya that defected and signalled their willingness to work with Maliki through breakaway factions like Free Iraqiyya and Wataniyun. Similarly, Arabs from the disputed areas have repeatedly played a certain role in helping Maliki defeat pro-federal tendencies in the northern governorates.

It will not be possible for Maliki to alienate both the Kurds and the Arabs of the disputed areas at one time. In a reflection of this dilemma, Maliki has reportedly rejected the resignation of the education minister from the Mutlak bloc, and is still weighing his options with regard to Kurdish ministers he had promised to replace by acting ministers in the case of prolonged absence from cabinet.

One interesting indicator of how this tug of war will play out relates to the provincial elections results of Diyala and Salahaddin, which have Sunni Arab majorities and significant Shiite and Kurdish minorities. Those results, expected later this week, will likely influence the extent to which factions like that of Mutlak will remain in protest mode.

Another significant process is the holding of delayed elections in Anbar and Nineveh. It emerged yesterday that there has in fact been considerable tension between the elections commission IHEC and the Iraqi cabinet on the issue: Whereas IHEC indicated 18 May as the latest possible date, the Iraqi cabinet decided that elections will be held on 4 July absent any radical improvement of the security environment at an earlier stage. The relevant legal framework gives cabinet the right to fix election dates on the recommendation from IHEC; to what extent this procedure has actually been followed now seems in doubt.

It is no more possible for Maliki to endlessly delay elections in Anbar and Nineveh than to pretend that the conflict in neighbouring Syria doesn’t exist. Maybe the Hawija incident can serve as a reminder for Maliki about how radical winds from Syria can easily derail Iraqi politics, and how critical it is for him, now more than ever, to build bridges and create accommodation rather than letting confrontational politics of the Syrian kind gain hold in Iraq.

13 Responses to “The Hawija Incident: Wider Ramifications in Iraqi Politics”

  1. faisalkadri said

    Some observers think that the theoretical power of the Iraqi army will end the confrontations. For the benefit of non-Iraqi readers I would like to explain how IMHO dangerous is the Hawija incident.
    The constitution of the Iraqi army is and was tribal. In Hawija, Maliki used excessive force, particularly the SWAT team which has no tribal sensitivities and it was said that many of them spoke Farsi. According to some reports, the locals in Hawija saw their injured relatives being slaughtered by the SWAT team. This action is frowned upon by our tribes because it is particularly cowardly and will cause acts of revenge between the tribes. Many soldiers refused orders to shoot and finally the tribes are mobilized against the government. The power of the Iraqi army may be overwhelming on paper but it is no match with the tribes if they unite. I think this is a truth that’s hard to believe unless you are Iraqi. The Iraqi army has no chance unless it is bolstered by naked Iranian support, which is reported by some sources.

  2. amagi said

    This is ludicrous. Who here is spoiling for a fight? Only extremist elements, surely! I have no doubt the Sunni community will take up arms if they feel they have to, but that surely isn’t a desirable outcome for them.

  3. bb said

    Once the Syrian uprising was allowed to drag on without decisive western intervention, the more emboldened were the salafis in Iraq and their baath hangers on.
    Hard to see how Sunni politicians will be able to withstand given that anyone who does will be targets of assassination.

    Seems serious to me, what say you Reidar? Isn’t this recipe for division of Iraq?

  4. A W said

    Haha Faisal claims SWAT team speaks Persian, hahah what a joke. The SWAT team are defending Iraq from extremists, many of whom are not originally Iraqi. These people in the west are not loyal to the state, but to Gulf states. Iraq cannot be trusted in their hands.

  5. faisalkadri said

    A W,
    Over 60 Iraqis killed while demonstrating is not funny.

  6. A W said

    No, you sayng SWAT speak persian, thought you were better than that.

    And many of the protesters had rifles and guns, just look at how they threatened the army with suicide bombers etc

  7. Salah said

    the SWAT team which has no tribal sensitivities

    Faisalkadri, in your first bit you tagged the Iraqi army is and was tribal, I don’t know how you been confident about the new Military Special Forces (Just like tyrant regime 250,000 personal) whom selected in accordance with tribal sensitivities?

    You cannot take tribal sensitivities from the society & citizens in very short time in a country rolled back heavily to its tribal sensitivities for the last 30yers?

  8. Salah said

    To: Faisalkadri & A W
    What we witnessed in Iraq from old days when the King Faisal and with some family members dragged on the street of Baghdad in front of all the Iraqi public from civilians to military (when the dead bodies past the Ministry of Defence in Bagdad) to the religious figures who did don’t act to preventing or rejecting those cowered acts that that massacre done.
    Followed by Pictures of Abdul Kareem Kassim on Iraqi TV killed and spiting on him then dragged on the street of Baghdad the 1963 massacre were Iraqi killed for different reasons despite was tagged as commonest or anti-nationalist causes.

    More after 1968 which we very familiar with what happened.
    Then followed by US invasion and we saw the teens of crimes and massacre done on the civilian by the invader and terrorist who invited by Sheik Paul Bremer after his very stupide order of dismantling Iraq military and police forces which open the doors for whoever wish to kill come on.
    So when democracy settled every single criminal should be brought to justices and should be prosecuted this should be the very biases of law and order.
    Sadly none of that happen for the past 10 years same very famous names well known on the street of Iraq like Abu Dra’a (ابو درع)
    So now the killing and slaughtering of the dead its act of inhuman and it’s a criminal act, whoever done should be face charges according to rule of law. There is no justification killing or slaughtering Iraqi by any one. The demonstrations against bad government behaviour protected by law, if few either side breach that, and then they should be brought to justices.
    When this sett as a practice by Iraqi rule of law, then you will see a development and improve of civil society and more peaceful society that all people covered by one law.

  9. faisalkadri said

    Tribal sensitivity means people with sense of shame who think that killing a captive is 3eib. The army has more of this sense than SWAT.

  10. Salah said

    Thanks for your reply, but Faisalkadri After 1991 war things when very bad specially after 13 years of international sanctions on Iraqis, I believe you are outside Iraq during that time never been back till 2003.

    I can tell you a sentence from a friend telling the real sense of Iraqi personality in late years of the sanction she said:

    العراقيين فقدوا ادميتهم؟
    You cannot lay on Tribal sensitivity to build democratic and civil society, the law and order and the rule of law should be respected by all. I still on my point that the criminals between Iraqi, the tyrant gone, but the criminal still there.

    My father born in 1901, he talk about life then, when the sunset approach every house close their doors no one take the risk going outside after that (night) WHY?
    Because there were Salabah (سلابة) this was in old days when Tribal sensitivity was strong!!
    عيني فيصل العيب راح وية اهله

  11. Salah said

    I forgot to say, during our time from secondary school up finishing our university move to workforce, it was very shameful to talk about sect. or religion we all respect each other.
    The declining in the behaviour of Iraqi society to the degree most if not all Blogs, Facebook, Twitter are all full of this senses which reflect very bad and impolite personality.

    Myself I founded really odd and strange Iraqi living in western world living with all sort of ethnics and religions there but when they come to Iraq they split themself or joining sectarian /Tribal wagon which just disturbing.

    What they learn while been in western world?

    Do they have bairn in their heads?

    Did they really lived under democratic rules and saw how they treated and respected under rule of law?

    Any how the talk long I leave it here

  12. Salah said

    Is this give any sense that there is law and order in a country have democratic elected government?

    You all knew this matter was rejected by the Maliki before but today we have again hearing this in news:

    الامين العام لحزب الله تنظيم العراق واثق البطاط
    البطاط يلبس بدلة عسكرية ويحمل كلاشنكوف ويهدد باستهداف “معممين وسياسيين وإعلاميين”

  13. Salah said

    it was said that many of them spoke Farsi.

    Now its confirmend that Khomain forces (الحرس الثوري القذر) killing Iraqis…

    الحرس الثوري الإيراني يقر بالمشاركة في الاعتداء على معتصمي العراق
    السبت, 27 نيسان/أبريل 2013 كتبه وطن طباعة البريد الإلكتروني New 0 0 0 1 تعليق

    كشف أحد جنرالات الحرس الثوري الإيراني، عن مشاركة قوات الحرس الثوري في عملية الاعتداء على المعتصمين السنة في العراق الأسبوع الماضي.
    ونقلت صحيفة “أخبار روز” الإيرانية عن العميد ناصر شعباني قوله: “إن الحرس الثوري الإيراني نفذ في الأسبوع الماضي أول عملية أمنية له في العراق بالاشتراك مع الجيش العراقي منذ إعلان الثورة الإيرانية والإطاحة بنظام الشاه في إيران”، مشيرا إلى أنها لن تكون العملية الأخيرة، بل قد تكون بداية لتعاون أمني عسكري إيراني عراقي.
    وأوضح أن مبررات هذه العملية هي المصالح المشتركة بين البلدين الجارين، في ظل التحديات الاقليمية التي تواجه دول الهلال الشيعي، حيث استهدفت “ساحة يتجمع فيها المئات من المتمردين الوهابيين في احدى مدن كركوك، نجحت في القضاء على احدى اهم نقاط قوة المتمردين”، على حد قوله.
    جدير بالذكر أن قوات نوري المالكي اقتحمت يوم الثلاثاء الماضي، ساحة اعتصام “الحويجة” في كركوك، ما أدى إلى مقتل وإصابة العشرات من المتظاهرين والمعتصمين السنة، الذين يطالبون بوقف التمييز الطائفي ضدهم، ورحيل حكومة نوري المالكي الموالي لإيران، وقد أدت تلك العملية إلى اشتعال حالة من الغضب في صفوف أهل السنة والعشائر تجاه الحكومة وحلفائها؛ الأمر الذي تسبب في سقوط أكثر من 200 قتيل خلال 4 أيام من المواجهات التي أعقبت اعتصام ساحة المعتصمين في الحويجة، بحسب مصادر طبية وأمنية عراقية.
    – See more at:تقارير/الحرس-الثوري-الإيراني-يقر-بالمشاركة-في-الاعتداء-على-معتصمي-العراق.html#sthash.YzVl80Dv.dpuf

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