Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Against the backdrop of the ongoing advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in eastern Nineveh governorate in Iraq, a political storm has broken out that resulted in the dismissal of Nineveh governor Atheel Al-Nujaifi on Thursday.
A majority of Iraqi MPs voted to dismiss the Nineveh governor, who is a member of the Sunni-led Mutahidoun bloc and brother of Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Osama Al-Nujaifi, citing his poor performance.
A senior Mutahidoun member, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity said: “There are two reasons for what happened. Firstly, he is hated by many government figures and parties who want to hold him responsible for the fall of Mosul despite the fact that it was the military leadership who must bear full responsibility for this. The second reason is related to a previous request submitted by 23 members of the [Nineveh] Provincial Council calling for his dismissal.”
“Iraqi Minister of Provincial Affairs Ahmed Abdullah Al-Jubouri, for reasons we don’t know, submitted the request to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi who referred it to parliament, despite the fact that this is illegal as it [the legal request] lacked the required legal pretexts,” he added.
After the provincial council request had been submitted to parliament, a total of 55 MPs signed a petition calling for Nujaifi’s dismissal, with Prime Minister Abadi then having no choice but to dismiss him.
Mutahidoun and other Sunni-led Iraqi political blocs have criticized Nujaifi’s dismissal, particularly at a time when large portions of the Sunni-majority province are under ISIS control and Shi’ite-led militias have been dispatched by Baghdad to lead Iraq’s anti-ISIS efforts.
The Nineveh Provincial Council has submitted a statement justifying its complaint against governor Nujaifi, with one member telling Asharq Al-Awsat that the council has a total of 12 complaints against him, including allegations of corruption and the issuing of illegal arrest warrants.
In a press conference on Thursday, Nujaifi said that he would not resist the decision even though he questioned its legality, but struck a defiant note against his detractors, saying that he would participate in the fight to liberate Nineveh’s towns and cities from ISIS no matter what.
“The decision to dismiss me is directly related to my most recent visit to Washington and will have a negative effect on efforts to liberate Mosul. This could see Mosul being liberated but falling into the hands of another party, whether the [Shi’ite] Popular Mobilization forces or another side that wants to liberate Mosul aside from the Popular Mobilization forces and in cooperation with the international coalition,” he said.
The Shi’ite-led operation to liberate Sunni-held territory from ISIS is viewed with suspicion by Iraq’s Sunni community, particularly after it emerged that the operation had been dubbed “Labaik ya Hussein” [We obey you, Hussein], which has sectarian overtones.
“I will not fight for the post [of governor]. I will remain as governor until I formally receive the decision and then I will hand over power to my first deputy who will take over. After this, I will work as a politician in the governorate and will be a fighter in the liberation process,” Nujaifi said.
“My role in this battle will not be defined by the State of Law coalition or National Alliance MPs who banded together to ensure my dismissal,” he added.
Additional reporting by Dalshad Abdullah from Erbil.