Iraq's Deputy PM: "Maliki is Dragging the Country Toward Chaos"

The Iraqiyya bloc’s Saleh al-Mutlaq has been called on to resign from his post as Deputy Prime Minister by Nouri al-Maliki. He speaks out in this candid interview, claiming that even members of the Prime Minister’s own bloc are fed up with his autocratic style of governance, and calls for early elections under neutral supervision as the only way to rescue the country from its current tailspin.

al-monitor Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq speaks to Reuters during an interview in Baghdad 10/03/2011. Photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen.

Topics covered

transitional government, state of law coalition, mutlaq, maliki government, maliki, kurdistan alliance, kurdistan, iraqiyya, iraqi elections, iraqi domestic politics, government corruption, government, electoral reform, democratic reform, autocratic rule

Jan 17, 2012

Early Elections under the Supervision of a Transitional Government, is the Solution to the Iraqi Crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq believes that describing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as a “dictator” comes within a political context. He said that had the situation been [politically] normal and steady [in Iraq], such a description would not have been valid. However, he believes that he was right in portraying Maliki as “dictator” because he is dragging the country back into chaos and destruction.

In an interview with Al-Hayat, Mutlaq confirms that “Iran still wants Maliki as prime minister,” which will further deepen the internal crisis. He refused for the Iraqiyya bloc to opt for parliamentary opposition, which he feels amounts to “political suicide.” Instead, he called for “early elections,” stressing the necessity to form a government to monitor these elections without taking part in them, in order to prevent potential voter fraud.

Below is the entire text of the interview:

Al-Hayat  Let us begin with recent political developments: Relations between you and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki broke down following your latest statements and your decision to resign.

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Whether relations broke down or not, my resignation is subject to my decision and to that of the parliament. The fact that that Mr. Maliki declared my resignation by himself proves that dictatorship has infected him. He could have said that this matter should be left to the parliament to settle. Or that the legislative power which appointed me as deputy prime minister should be the competent authority to decide in this regard, noting that I do not seek nor demand positions. Maliki was right when he said that the relations between the two of us have become strained, but he does not have the right to make a decision on this matter. I, too, prefer that he leaves office and makes room for more committed people. He could also reform the current government and appoint whomever he wishes. Our participation [i.e. that of the Iraqiyya Bloc] in parliament is not based on the decision of the prime minister, but is the result of a political consensus according to which he and I were appointed to our current positions.

Al-Hayat  I would like to broach the recent statement you made against Maliki, which set off this crisis. Many are asking: Isn’t Al-Mutlaq one of the government pillars? Then why would he describe its prime minister as “dictator” while he [Al-Mutlaq] is his deputy?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Under normal circumstances, such an incident would be deemed unusual. In this case, however, the prime minister has marginalized the role of some of the government’s members and favored others. He headed to the United States without informing the cabinet of the political agenda and the points to be discussed there. Thus we have the right to make such accusations against him. There is no authentic basis to the management of the state and therefore calling him “dictator” came within a purely political context. I repeat that the government was formed as a result of political consensus. I am not a deputy to Maliki but the deputy prime minister in the consensus government. I have the right to describe Maliki as such when the circumstances he has created will drag Iraq toward chaos and destruction. I did not make my statements arbitrarily. I wanted to inform the Iraqis and the world that the path on which Maliki has embarked today poses a dangerous threat to the future of the country and the region. Someone had to speak up following Maliki’s monopolization of the entire security system, with no institutions to operate in. Today, he is the general commander of the armed forces, even though there is no general command for the Iraqi armed forces. This approach has weakened the [state’s] security institutions to a great extent and has resulted in the killing of many Iraqis at the hands of terrorists on a daily basis. Silence on this matter is betrayal. I do not wish to betray the missions entrusted to me by my people.

Al-Hayat  It has been said that the crisis will be quelled following the meetings between Maliki and Nujaifi (the parliamentary speaker).

Saleh al-Mutlaq  The meeting between Mr. Maliki and Mr. Nujaifi is an effort to reach a solution to the mounting political crisis and to move toward the national conference.
Al-Hayat  Do you believe that political tensions will be relieved?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  It should be noted that on the night of the agreement itself, Mr. Maliki has issued his threats. He did not even commit to the truce agreement which he himself requested and agreed to. If Iraqiyya was required to [do its part] to quell the tension, I believe he should also have to avoid issuing inflammatory statements against us. [But] he went further than that. He went so far as to take arbitrary measures, such as placing ministers on “extended leaves.” His actions are not sanctioned by the constitution nor the principles of consensus and partnership. The government is not a company where he is the chairman of the board of directors, owning the majority of its shares.

Al-Hayat  It has been said a “majority” government is in the offing. Do you think such a step could be the solution to the crisis?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  In principle, majority rule is not rejected, provided that it is a political [majority] and not ethnic or sectarian [in nature]. Currently, however, Maliki is acting as a majority prime minister in cabinet and parliament; he passes [those laws] that best suit him. The other members remain marginalized.

Al-Hayat  Some say that Iraqiyya leaders are “tense” in dealing with the current crisis. What do you think?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Iraqiyya is not the only [bloc] that is tense. The National Alliance, which includes the State of Law Coalition [led by Maliki], also wants to get rid of Maliki.

Al-Hayat  But we as journalists did not hear the National Alliance’s leaders talking about giving up on Maliki. On the contrary, some declared that they officially support him.

Saleh al-Mutlaq  The truth of the matter is that they do not want Maliki to remain in power. But no one dares to go to the media and speak up, due [both] to the local policy of oppression and foreign threats. Today, the Kurdistan Alliance emphasizes that it refuses the resignation of Saleh al-Mutlaq along with other factions of the National Alliance, which has publicly declared its rejection of [my] resignation. But Maliki has insisted on his position. The parties’ actions of provide better insight on their positions [than their statements].

Al-Hayat  Does this mean that you are holding on to your post as deputy prime minister?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  I am not clinging to this post. I just consider it a part of the sacrifice that the Iraqiyya Bloc has had to make during the formation of the government. The post of deputy prime minister is not a “prestigious” post, nor does it offer special benefits. However, it has helped me to provide services for my people. How can we speak of democracy when the political blocs refuse Mutlaq’s resignation, while the prime minister insists on [imposing] his whims?

Al-Hayat  It has also been said that there will be an exchange in posts within the Iraqiyya bloc: you will be appointed as vice-president and someone else will fill your post?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  I will only speak of what concerns me. I do not seek an alternative post, even if one was granted to me. I seek genuine and sound change in managing the state. I aim to promote its institutions by hiring qualified people who are able to properly manage the country’s affairs. I am not interested in the post itself.

Al-Hayat  Some suggest that the outcome of early elections might change the political map. Do you reject these early elections?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Conducting early elections while Maliki maintains his hold on power would be a disaster. We are not against early elections, provided they are conducted by a transitional government. This government will oversee the elections without participating in them. This is the only solution to save the country. However, if elections are carried out under the current government, they will be a complete fraud, and citizens will be terrorized and threatened to refrain from going to the polls.

Al-Hayat  Then why don’t you opt for parliamentary opposition?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  I do not believe there is such thing as “parliamentary opposition” in Iraq today. In these circumstances, “opposition” means going behind the bars on terrorism charges under Article 4 [of Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law]. Currently, parliamentary opposition means political suicide.

Al-Hayat  But some of Iraqiyya’s leaders have threatened to withdraw from the entire political process?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  This option becomes valid when we hit rock bottom and we find ourselves helpless, unable to change the course of events in Iraq. This is when you consider quitting the government and parliament.

Al-Hayat  Don’t you think that this option poses a greater threat to Iraq’s future than that of parliamentary opposition?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Iraqiyya does not intend to leave the political process. We fear that such a move would lead the country into the unknown. However, some are pushing in this direction. If they continue to pressure us, we will be forced to take such step.

Al-Hayat  Let us discuss the regional factors affecting this crisis and the international impact on it, especially given that it [the crisis] happened amidst disturbances and conflicts that altered the political balance.

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Regional factors have always influenced Iraq. It should be noted that Maliki would not have been appointed as prime minister had it not been for US [intervention] in the first place and Iranian [intervention] in the second. All previous facts indicated that Maliki did not have any chance to renew his mandate. All parties were against him in taking over the post of prime minister. However he was appointed to the post by Iran, and the US then approved this appointment because it served its interests. Today, Iran also has the final say in keeping Maliki in office. It seems that it still wants him to serve as prime minister. This will send the country spiraling back towards an internal crisis and we will all end up paying dearly.

Al-Hayat  There is some sort of negotiation going on, and the consequence could be making a Sunni federal state a reality...Is this the price you are talking about?

Saleh al-Mutlaq  When the constitution was written, at that time, the National Coalition insisted that the right to form federal districts should be stated at the heart of the Constitution, but we refused. In subsequent years, however, some provinces were forced to demand federal districts and thus accept [their formation] as a fait accompli. The people of these provinces found themselves at a crossroads: Either they had to live as slaves or to opt for the formation of federal district. I believe this is part of a grand scheme. It is clear that an invisible hand has worked intelligently to convince the Iraqis that it is impossible to live within [the framework of] an oppressive central government.

Al-Hayat  Are you alluding to an Iranian vision? Several analysts do not see any benefit for Tehran in a divided Iraq, at least at this stage.

Saleh al-Mutlaq  Perhaps this is true. I am not accusing Iran of [scheming to divide Iraq]. There may, however, be other players behind this plot. Iran is not necessarily the mastermind behind the scheme to divide Iraq into three districts - Sunni, Shiite and Kurd; or even the one pushing in this direction.

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