In the midst of the fierce electoral contest in Iraq and the accusations that are being leveled at anybody competing against the Iraqi Prime Minister and the Dawa party, with these rivals being portrayed as Baathists seeking to return Baathism to power, which is what happened to Dr. Iyad Allawi and Tariq al-Hashimi, not to mention the Debathification commission targeting nearly 500 Iraqi figures, as a result of which Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the National Dialogue Front, has been excluded from participating in the forthcoming elections. After all of this, Nuri al-Maliki’s government has decided, very simply, to reinstate nearly twenty thousand officers of Saddam Hussein’s army into service, and the government denies that this decision has anything to do with the Iraqi elections
Clearly, the decision to reinstate Saddam Hussein era army officers is a decision made purely for electoral purposes. The reinstatement of the army officers is not the only sign of this, and last Friday Nuri al-Maliki quoted anti-sectarian poetry in front of nearly 600 tribal leaders in the Salah ad-Din Governorate, which is the location of Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The question here then is why has al-Maliki remembered the Saddam-era army officers today?
All indications point to the purpose of this [reinstatement] being to secure electoral votes…but will al-Maliki benefit from this?
One of those observing the situation in Iraq told me “I very much doubt that al-Maliki will benefit from this step, and there is no guarantee that these officers will vote for him at the end of the day.” The source believes that the exclusion of Saleh al-Mutlaq by the Debathification commission has caused harm to the Dawa party and the State of Law coalition. The source said “al-Maliki has caused a lot of harm to himself by excluding al-Mutlaq, and he has restricted himself to the Shiite parties who want to rid themselves of him in any way they can.” It is well known that al-Maliki is facing strong competition from the Shiite south and therefore may need the votes of Sunnis and other minorities in order to remain in power. However this is something that will be difficult to achieve in light of the increasing chances of the Iraqiya List that is led by Dr. Iyad Allawi, and which Saleh al-Mutlaq – following the decision banning him from participating in the elections – has urged his followers to strongly vote in support of. This is an [electoral] bloc that consists of a national spectrum of religious and secular dimensions whose goal is Iraqi unity and stability and to secure the independence of Iraqi decisions.
Therefore we say if there is an important issue in the reinstatement of the Saddam era army officers, it is that this represents evidence that those in power in Iraq are willing to do the impossible in order to protect their position, even if this includes reinstating Saddam Hussein’s army. This means that their decision to deny these officers reinstatement for all of these years has been unfair, as they have repeated over the past year, and was not in the interests of Iraq and the Iraqi people, but in order for them to strengthen their grip on the army and security of Iraq.
The decision to reinstate the officers of Saddam’s army is proof of the weakness of the accusations leveled against Allawi and al-Mutlaq and al-Hashimi and others, namely that they want to return Baathism [to power]. Those in power are reinstating Saddam’s army solely in order to secure themselves votes at the elections, and this is something that the Iraqi voters must understand clearly before they cast their votes at the forthcoming elections.