Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Maliki’s Last Option | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File photo showing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki speaking during a news conference in Baghdad. (Reuters)

Gaza’s crisis will not succeed in diverting attention away from the wars in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, these two wars, particularly Iraq, may alter the course of the region, and Iraqis may finally succeed in achieving a safe and smooth transition to a new government which has the support of the majority of the Iraqi people. This will end the chapter of fear and chaos and begin a new era.

Agreeing on a new government, a new prime minister, a new president, and a new speaker of parliament will save Iraq from chaos and partition, and will enable Iraqis to confront terrorist groups and reform relations with their neighbors.

One step is needed in Iraq to achieve this, and that is appointing a new prime minister. In Baghdad, politicians continue to besiege the stubborn premier, Nuri Al-Maliki, whose legitimacy has been eroded. After running out of tricks, he has said that he will step down, but this will not come cheap. He has stipulated 28 conditions, including legal immunity for himself and hundreds of his followers to save them from being held to account for corruption and crimes committed during the eight years of his iron-fisted rule. The conditions also included compensatory posts, payments, and even real estate.

Maliki was very late in setting these terms, agreeing only after political, religious and foreign powers agreed to remove him. He’s got nothing to bargain over, other than attaining some sort of immunity—and even that may not last long if more of his mismanagement is exposed. If he seeks to stay safe and prevent being prosecuted, his best option is to leave Iraq. The only natural choice left for him is to move to Tehran or London for a few years until the storm passes. The legacy he leaves behind will make it difficult for him to attain any definite assurances from anyone. He worsened the animosity between him and his opponents to the extent that scores of politicians had to flee Baghdad to safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan, Beirut and London. Meanwhile, he spent billions of dollars on his presidential guards to protect himself at the expense of protecting Iraq and its people. He increased the number of presidential guards in Baghdad from 6,000 to 70,000, and appointed his relatives to oversee them. He thus followed in the footsteps of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and this is the secret behind Maliki’s tyranny and why his rivals feared him—he held personal command of a great deal of military power.

Now that most of Iraq’s political factions have agreed to remove him, he is making exaggerated demands in the hope that he will be able to impose his will on the future prime minister and the new Iraqi government. This may trigger a political battle in the future. In return for stepping down he wants huge funds, real estate, a force of 2,500 troops to be added to his militias—as well as civil posts.

No one wants the departing prime minister to be humiliated or subjected to revenge attacks. This means the only safe option left for him after he leaves his palace will be to travel abroad, although few countries will welcome him.