Monday, August 11, 2014
The Iraq Shuffle - Showdown In Baghdad
The rumors early this morning about a suspected coup appear to be partly true, as political factions in the Iraqi government engage as Washington attempts to force Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki out of power.
Maliki had launched into an angry tirade yesterday against new Iraqi president Fuad Masum, who had refused to intervene with parliament to give Maliki a third term after he 'won' a dubious election back in April, threatening to 'take him (Masum) to court.He backed it up by placing army and Shi'ite militia units loyal to him in key areas of Baghdad, at one point surrounding the president's residence.
Meanwhile President Masum, a Kurd has declared Haidar al-Abadi, a former Maliki lieutenant the new Prime Minister and the Obama State Department issued formal congratulations. Meanwhile Maliki's Dawa Party announced al=Abadi's appointment illegal and Maliki's son-in-law, Hussein al-Maliki said they would overturn it in court...while Washington sent a stern warning to Maliki to bow out gracefully and not try using force to stay to power.
The White House said Vice President Joe Biden personally relayed President Barack Obama's congratulations to Abadi in a phone call, which is actually a pretty nasty insult although Abadi probably doesn't know that.
"The prime minister-designate expressed his intent to form a broad-based, inclusive government capable of countering the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the White House said in a statement, using the former name ISIS for the Islamic State.
Even worse in terms for any prospect of success, Reuters reported that John Kerry weighed in:
"There should be no use of force, no introduction of troops or militias in this moment of democracy for Iraq," Kerry said. "The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq and our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.
"There will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitution process that is in place and being worked on now."
You tell 'em, Mr. Secretary! I'm sure that will cause all of Maliki's Shi'ite troops and militiamen to throw their guns down and flee in terror.
That, you see, is the problem. Once we pulled out of Iraq, al-Maliki promptly put that $25 billion Iraqi Army the American tax payers provided him with and put it under his control, like any sensible Middle Eastern autocrat would. He purged of most of the Sunnis and Kurds and any Shi'tes not loyal to him from the army and the security forces, disarmed them when he could and made sure they were excluded from most positions of power.
At this point, it's al Maliki who has the boots on the ground, and I'm not sure what leverage the Obama team actually has on him. They can withhold spare parts for his military, but that means Islamic State takes over, so that's self defeating..especially since this president does not want to send American troops back to Iraq. It will be interesting to watch how this standoff develops.
Speaking of developments, an excellent one is that the Kurdish Pesh Merga are now receiving weapons and ammo from our CIA. Apparently this was Obama's fall back position. Since that 'inclusive Iraqi government' appears to be a long way off if it's even possible, the Kurds are the next best thing. Or it might simply be that the president doesn't want another overrun consulate and a dead ambassador on his watch. Unlike Maliki's troops who simply dropped their weapons and ran, the Kurds fought hard with inadequate weaponry and low ammo before being forced back by Islamic State. The air strikes and the beginning shipments of arms have re-invigorated them , the Pesh Merga's morale is superb and they forced Islamic State out of two towns yesterday.
If the Kurds are armed and they can defend their territory from Islamic State, this could be the start of an independent Kurdistan.