The recent remarks made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki made clear the deep rifts between these two figures in a country facing numerous challenges.
Al-Maliki will not rest at a simple no-confidence vote against his enemy. In fact, he will be placing his efforts for a coup d’état while enjoying the backing of the Shiite militia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) that is extremely loyal to him. These rifts have intensified after a report issued over Maliki’s role in the fall of Mosul to ISIS.
Similar reports have appeared referring to the suspicious role of al-Maliki’s government in plundering public property, the Spyker massacre and various arms deals. This prompted al-Abadi to carry out “painful” reforms targeting figures associated to al-Maliki that have acted as his covert arms in decision making posts.
These rifts escalated with al-Abadi raising his tone in his criticism against the former government, analysts say, meaning when he described al-Maliki as an “unavoidable leader” in a press conference. This was an ironic assimilation, reminding all of a term used for Saddam Hussein.
In the shadows of this public rift, a covert war inside the Dawa Party heightened. This is the party that both al-Abadi and al-Maliki belong to.
Local reports indicate that Dawa Party members are leaning to two different factions; one front is aligning with al-Maliki and the other with al-Abadi. The first is controlled by the “leftists” front and PMF group commanders, while the “doves” consist of a number of major political figures standing alongside al-Abadi.
Analysts believe the status quo will lead to a major split in this party’s ranks, considered a major Shiite political entity in Iraq.
Iraqi sources expected al-Abadi to very quickly end his membership in the Dawa Party, as this entity truly acted as an obstacle in the face of his reforms. However, it appears al-Abadi – in need of a party framework to support him – instead of pulling out of the party, has now become a leader of a party faction with the support of non-sectarian figures and those not involved in corrupt dossiers.
While Maliki enjoys the support of armed groups backed by Iran, his deputy enjoys the support of the Sadrists and Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq chaired by Ammar Hakim, all meaning a difference in interests.
Experts believe the internal conflict inside the Dawa Party is not summarized between al-Abadi and al-Maliki. In fact, this is a reflection of major disputes between senior religious leaders, especially the highest such religious figures in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sisitani, and the senior figures of Qom represented by Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Experts believe it is crystal clear Tehran’s trust in al-Abadi is much less in comparison to al-Maliki. This reaches a point that hardline political and religious circles in Iran have dubbed al-Abadi as America’s man in Iraq after his remarks in which he called on all neighboring countries of Iraq, without any exceptions, to respect his country’s sovereignty.
Parallel to al-Abadi’s cold relations with Iran it is clear that Tehran has expressed its utmost support for al-Maliki. This was seen very obviously when al-Maliki was invited and personally welcomed by Khamenei in Iran after being sacked from his post as vice president of Iraq and accused of being involved in the fall of Mosul.
Experts believe this quarrel is a reflection of a more widespread dispute between regional and international capitals and powers, especially Tehran and Washington that are attempting to impose their control over decisions in Iraq.
Various pushes-and-shoves are continuing to stop the political and economic reforms launched by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Various local sources have leaked information that al-Abadi has rejected a request made by Iran’s Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani to take back his order on sacking Nouri al-Maliki from his vice presidency post.
Iraq is witnessing major political shifts, with al-Abadi’s efforts focused on forming a new coalition consisting of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish currents to maintain a majority in the parliament to allow him to pursue his policies. When al-Maliki began his actions against the formation of a new parliamentary faction, al-Abadi had not met with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He held a meeting with other senior religious figures in the cities of Najaf and Karbala, including Mohamed Saeed al-Hakim, Bashir al-Najafi, Mohamed Fayyad and Muqtada Sadr. Al-Abadi is attempting to gain the agreement and guarantee of at least 200 MPs, alongside Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s support against al-Maliki. It has become clear that armed Shiite groups, and other such units, are also supporting al-Maliki. However, they have recently threatened to launch a coup d’état against him.
Al-Maliki also went to Karbala and met with PMF senior officials and senior Shiite leaders. Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri went to Najaf recently where he met with a number of tribal and religious leaders.
The situation in Iraq has become very complicated and sensitive. On one hand Iran and the Quds Force are maintaining and attempting to increase their influence through their associated militia groups in Iraq, and agents such as al-Maliki, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, Hadi al-Ameri and … Through these measures they are attempting to revive their lost political power in Iraq that went down the drain with al-Maliki being set aside. On the other hand there is al-Abadi and national figures and entities. This faceoff and war will continue as long as the Iranian regime is present in Iraq based on the presence of its agents. Moreover, the war against ISIS is further reasoning in this regard, and the Quds Force will be taking advantage of this war in the interests of its militia groups and its own foothold in Iraq.