London and Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia condemned on Monday the “hostile and irresponsible” comments made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, during which he accused the Kingdom of supporting terrorism and seeking to destabilize Iraq.
In an interview with the France 24 TV channel, Maliki said: “I accuse them [Saudi Arabia] of inciting and encouraging the terrorist movements. I accuse them of supporting them [terrorist groups] politically and in the media, of supporting them with money and by buying weapons for them . . . I accuse them [Saudi Arabia] of leading an open war against the Iraqi government.”
A senior Saudi official source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Monday: that Maliki “knows more than anyone about the Saudi stand against terrorism in all its forms and sources. He also knows about the great efforts made by the Kingdom to fight this phenomenon at the domestic and international levels, which makes it a leading nation in this fight.”
The source added: “Instead of making false accusations against others, Maliki would have been better off adopting policies which would have ended the daily chaos and violence in Iraq, caused by the support for sectarianism and isolationism by his government against the Iraqi people.”
The source said Maliki wanted to “falsify facts” and to blame others for his own failings as prime minister after “[putting] Iraq at the service of regional parties that have fanned the flames of sectarianism in an unprecedented way,” and subjected the country to dangers “which threatened its national unity and territorial integrity.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Jawad Al-Jubouri, a spokesman for Iraq’s Sadrist Al-Ahrar bloc, said: “Maliki is looking for excuses to cover his mistakes and failures . . . [He] has failed in uniting the Iraqi nation by building bridges of national confidence and accord between all partners and went ahead destroying the fabric of society.”
Jubouri said Maliki was “directly responsible before parliament and the people for the security situation as Commander of the Armed Forces.” He asked: “What does ‘commander’ mean? Does it mean when you distribute jobs by selling them to the highest bidder?”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Sheikh Hamid Al-Maalah, a spokesman for the Shi’ite-led Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), said: “The ISCI has no knowledge of any evidence about Saudi support for terrorism in Iraq, and therefore cannot comment on Maliki’s accusations.” He stressed that the council had good relations with the whole region.
Maalah added that Maliki should be questioned over whatever evidence prompted him to make such an accusation.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Muhsin Saadoun, deputy leader of the Kurdistan Alliance in the Iraqi parliament, called on Maliki to be accurate when making such allegations against Saudi Arabia and said he should provide evidence to prove his allegations.
He added that “allegations like these should not be made against any party, especially in light of the fact that Iraq is about to host a conference on terrorism in the next few days.” He said allegations of this type against any country have negative consequences for Iraq.
Saadoun added: “The current situation in Iraq and its suffering from terrorism, and the innocent victims who keep falling daily, require it [Iraq] to get closer to its neighbors, and if there are suspicions, then they should be documented and supported by evidence.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Salman Jamili, the leader of the Iraqiya List and also a leading figure in the Mutahidoun bloc led by Parliamentary Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, criticized Maliki’s policies in the last four years.
He also said he thought the allegations against Saudi Arabia were an attempt to deflect attention from his shortcomings as premier: “The policies of the government in the last four years, especially the policies of the prime minister, have been based on creating crises to escape the failure in all areas, and his recent comments about Saudi Arabia were an attempt to escape his abysmal failure in Anbar. The security situation is bad in all governorates.”
He added that Maliki was trying to incite another crisis to mobilize Shi’ites after he has lost the confidence of Sunnis and Kurds.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Abdullah Al-Askar, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Saudi Shura Council, the country’s highest legislative body, said: “Maliki’s statements could be described as both sad and amusing, and they are strange statements to be made by a prime minister of a state of Iraq’s stature. Unfortunately, the aims of Maliki’s statements are mostly sectarian. He should have taken care of internal Iraqi affairs and worked to bolster security, instead of making wild accusations.”
Askar questioned the “unfortunate” timing of Maliki’s allegations and said they reflected his total confusion in his domestic and foreign policies.
He added: “Nuri Al-Maliki is sectarian to the bone and he did not take even a little time to absorb the Saudi royal decrees fighting and criminalizing terrorism in speech and in deed, and the bans on a number of extremist groups . . . I repeat that Maliki has a difficult task to maintain security and take care of Iraqi affairs instead of leaving it prone to division while he is lost in his sectarian policies and hostile statements.”
Abdulaziz Bin Saqr, chairman of the Gulf Research Center, also accused Maliki of having a sectarian bias: “Maliki deals with everything in a sectarian manner, and unfortunately he has handed Iraq’s security and governance to Iran and is no longer an acceptable figure to the Iraqi people. If Saudi Arabia supported terrorism as Maliki claimed, then what were all these decrees issued by Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism about?”
He added: “Maliki has made Sunnis feel that he is targeting them whether they were prisoners or individuals in his government, but I say that Maliki is one of the living examples of those who entrench the concept of the sectarian state, to the extent that he has started to use sectarianism in a manner which has led to a breakdown in the security situation in Iraq, making it difficult to control if he continues to use this approach.”
Layal Abu Rahal contributed reporting from Cairo. Salah Jameel and Adwan Al-Ahmari contributed reporting from London.