Al-Maliki audio leak reveals Iraq’s failed government formation process

IRBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: By themselves, audio recordings are hardly anew. They only confirm what is a matter of public knowledge in Iraq: the enmity between two of the country’s most powerful Shiite power brokers, Nouri al-Maliki and Muktada al-Sadr, runs deep, and their conflicts with other Iraqi politicians. Relationships are complicated.

According to analysts, the real significance of the recording lies in their revelation of deep divisions and hostility affecting Iraqi politics, and is likely to hinder the process of government formation in the coming months.

In the recording, known in Iraq as “Maliki WikiLeaks”, the man who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2014 is heard denouncing his political rivals and talking about the impending civil war. Is.

“Iraq is on the verge of a devastating war, from which no one will come out safe, until the project of Muktada al-Sadr, Masoud Barzani and Muhammad al-Halbousi is defeated … and if necessary, I will go to Najaf.” I will attack you,” al-Maliki is heard declaring in one of the many recordings, the authenticity of which he disputes.

He even claimed that the British were behind the plot to put al-Sadr in charge of Iraqi Shiites and then assassinate him, paving the way for the restoration of Sunni rule over the country.


Iraqi Shia cleric Muktada al-Sadr is pictured in a placard during a mass Friday prayer in the city of Sadr, east of Baghdad, on July 15, 2022. (AFP)

The recordings, released by journalist and activist Ali Fadl, appear to be at least two months old as they refer to the tripartite Save the Homeland parliamentary coalition – consisting of the Saddarist Movement, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Halbowsi’s Progress Party – which competed against pro-Iranian Shia parties under the umbrella of the coordination framework, of which al-Maliki’s Law State is a part.

Al-Sadr ordered all 73 of its lawmakers to resign in mid-June after months of trying to form a majority government without a framework, which supports a more consensus-type government that has followed Iraq since 2003. I have been ideal.


The audio recording released on Twitter by Iraqi journalist and activist Ali Fadl appears to be at least two months old. (twitter screenshot)

The mass resignations of the Sadrists put an end to the Save the Homeland coalition and with it the possibility of a majority government in Iraq.

The Framework has since been in talks with the remaining parliamentary blocs to form another government.

Early parliamentary elections were held in Iraq in October 2021 but a new government has not yet been formed. The country is currently governed by a caretaker government led by the incumbent Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Innumbers

39.3 million Iraq’s population

3.9% GDP growth rate (PPP).

12.8% Unemployment rate.

$708.3 billion GDP size (PPP).

Source: The Heritage Foundation (2021)

On the surface, Iraq appears to be on the verge of greater instability. Sadr is out of parliament and back on the street, where al-Sadr has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to rapidly mobilize hundreds of thousands of devoted followers, most of whom are poor and angry with the political elite.

The political deadlock continues in Parliament, and the prospect of a new government remains remote even after nearly 10 months have passed since the last election. Now, al-Maliki’s incendiary declarations have been added to the mix.

If this situation persists, is Iraq at risk of serious fires or even some kind of civil war?


Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group accompany a funeral procession in Baghdad on October 26, 2019. (AFP)

“Al-Maliki’s comments suggest to him that things will escalate to potential street conflicts, which have happened before between Shia factions,” Joel Wing, author of the blog “Museings on Iraq”, told Arab News.

Wing believes the recordings to be authentic, noting that only al-Maliki and his associates have claimed otherwise.

He pointed out that the structure has already resorted to political violence since the October election, including the bombing of homes and offices of rival political parties. Several rocket and drone strikes have also been carried out against Iraqi Kurdistan to put pressure on the KDP.

“Political parties are getting frustrated with not being able to form the government,” the wing said. “Al-Maliki’s comments add more fuel to the fire, and his talk of political violence shows the extent to which some leaders are willing to go to defeat their opponents.”

The wing sees no sign that the current political impasse will end anytime soon, which will only increase tensions and the potential for armed conflict. Still, he doubts that the current situation will turn into an intra-Shiite conflict or civil war in Iraq.


An Iraqi demonstrator raises a giant flag of Hashd al-Shaabi during a rally to mark Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day on Aba Nawas street in Baghdad on April 29, 2022. (Sabah ARAR/AFP)

“I don’t see a civil war, but the framework and sadists have already resorted to violence, which may escalate given the current inability of political parties to come to any agreement,” he said.

The political deadlock is likely to continue given the framework and the continued failure of Kurdish parties to select the country’s next president and prime minister.

A candidate for the presidency, a largely symbolic role reserved for Kurds in Iraq, must be nominated by parliament before the next prime minister is elected. However, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have so far failed to agree on a common candidate.


Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group accompany a funeral procession in Baghdad on October 26, 2019. (AFP)

Furthermore, as the Wing pointed out, “There are deep divisions within this framework as to who should be prime minister.

“That is why there is growing talk of either holding fresh elections or retaining the incumbent in office,” he said.

The Wing’s opinion that the al-Maliki recordings are authentic is supported by Kyle Orton, an independent Middle East analyst.

He told Arab News, “The leaked recordings are a sign that al-Maliki retains his belief in the legitimacy of political violence, which was the position of the Dawa party, as it was co-opted by the Iranian Revolution in 1979.” was.”

“Within Iraq, this is not such an unusual situation: since the fall of Saddam Hussein, many in the political elite have engaged in politics by day and terrorism by night.”


The audio recording released on Twitter by Iraqi journalist and activist Ali Fadl appears to be at least two months old. (twitter screenshot)

Orton also suspects that the leak could be “anything like a civil war” in the near future. On the contrary, he believes the main point is “that they show that Iraqi politics is played within the limits set by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran).

“It’s a factional fight between Iranian customers, even if the game is being played a little harder than before,” he said. “But the IRGC controls the security architecture in Iraq, and its fighters eventually have the roads, so it won’t allow that kind of collapse.”

Summarizing the position, Orton said: “In terms of the outcome, again, the question really turns to Tehran: are the Iranians humiliated by al-Sadr crossing the border or whether al-Maliki is humiliated by this.” Too damaged politically. Be viable.”

Unlike Wing and Orton, Nicolas Heras, deputy director of the Human Security Unit at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, believes that an intra-Shiite civil war is a strong possibility.


Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group accompany a funeral procession in Baghdad on October 26, 2019. (AFP)

“Al-Sadr knows that al-Maliki hates him, whether with or without any of the new recordings,” Heras told Arab News. “Nuri al-Maliki is the type of Shia politician that Muktada al-Sadr has built a political career out of cursing for being out of touch with the needs of the Iraqi people, especially Shias.

“Iraq is on the verge of an inter-Shia civil war. The situation in Iraq has gone too far and the most tensions are among the Shias.”

Looking at Iraq’s future, Heras said: “It boils down to a dispute between al-Sadr and his allies and a whole range of Shia politicians and their allied militias.

“Kurds and Sunnis, for all intents and purposes, stand up to this imminent conflict.”