Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nouri al-Maliki's Political Posturing

In a press conference a few days ago in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki addressed reports indicating that US officials were preparing a conference to meet with Bathists at the end of the month in an attempt to bring them into the political process.

This didn't sit too well with the prime minister, who said it was a blatant breach of the Status of Forces Agreement reached with the US last year. He also said that such a conference between the US and the "outlawed, racist party" would "torpedo" US-Iraqi relations.

I get the feeling that much of this is political posturing on the part of Maliki. Lately, he has been trying to blame everything imaginable on the outlawed Bath party, especially the blasts in the capital that left over a 100 people dead last week. Though independent reports indicate that 'the Islamic State of Iraq' claimed responsibility for the attacks, Maliki is still trying to pin them on Bathists bent on sabotaging his chances for re-election in March.

Maliki's main competitor in the March national elections will be the main Shi'i coalition that includes ISCI and the Sadrists. So in order to appeal to Shi'i voters, he seems to be trying to show how much he really doesn't like those Bathists. He's been accused of being soft in this regard in the past, especially when he was trying to reach out to former Bathists like Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Another reason why there is cause for Maliki to be concerned is that the Hashimi-Mutlaq-Allawi alliance (Allawi is a secular Shi'i and a former Bathist-turned-CIA-informer) may make a particularly strong showing in the Sunni community. Maliki may believe that if he can somehow tarnish the Bathi brand by pinning these car bomb attacks on 'Bathists', he can limit the success of this emerging Sunni coalition in March's election (as mentioned previously, Mutlaq is an ex-Bathist as well). This is probably not a winning strategy for Maliki. Rightly or wrongly, he's taking the fallout for these massive security lapses in the capital which will have consequences for his electoral chances come March.

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