Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ali al-Dabbagh, the official spokesman for the Iraqi government, said that US intervention in the issue of hundreds of candidates for the forthcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections being excluded from the elections as a result of a law passed by the Justice and Accountability Commission “will not achieve anything,” after an Iraqi political bloc called for Washington to intervene and solve the crisis.
The Justice and Accountability Commission has announced that more than 500 electoral candidates are excluded from participating in the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in March as a result of their links to the outlawed Baath party. One of the most prominent figures disqualified from standing for election is the well-known Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, as well as current Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Kader al-Obeidi. Some people fear that this represents the beginning of a political crisis in Iraq, while others believe that the actions of the Justice and Accountability Commission aim to “exclude” Sunni Arabs from participating in the elections.
The office of Iraqi parliamentary speaker, Ayad al-Samarrai informed Asharq Al-Awsat that US Vice President Joe Biden has called for the Debathification process to be postponed until after the elections on the condition that the electoral candidates in question prove that they are no longer affiliated to the outlawed party. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, hinted that his country would not support the elections if al-Mutlaq is not allowed to stand for election.
Al-Dabbagh told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the government does not have the right to interfere in the Justice and Accountability procedures and law, especially as the Council of Representatives unanimously approved this law.”
Al-Dabbagh added that “the crisis of removing some political entities and figures from the elections has caused political differences, but intervention at this time will not achieve anything on the grounds that everything that has taken place has been in accordance with the law.”
He also confirmed that “efforts are now being made towards activating the discriminatory commission (put in place by parliament to examine the validity of the Accountability and Justice Commission decisions) to look at the situation in a neutral and professional manner.”
Al-Dabbagh also confirmed that “I cannot imagine that intervention – whether by the US or the UN – in the work of the [Accountability and Justice] Commission will achieve anything. In contrast to this, we are keen to ensure that the operations of the judicial committee that will decide the appeal will be legal and neutral.”
For his part, Haider al-Mulla, the spokesman for the Iraqi National movement described the decision to exclude political entities and individuals from participating in the elections as being a “clear political decision.” He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Since the outset, it was clear to all the Iraqi people and the political partners that the decision to exclude [the candidates] was a political one.” He added that “the agenda behind this crisis is dominated by self interest.”
Al-Mulla called for “the rational minds in the political process, and the international community, and also the USA to get involved [to solve] this crisis.” He warned that “the agenda being carried out by Ahmed Chalabi, the director of the Accountability and Justice Commission has negatively affected Iraq and the US, especially with regards to the occupation of Iraq adventure. This is the same agenda that provoked the exclusion of political entities and figures from the forthcoming elections.”
As for the extent of the effectiveness of a US intervention to solve this crisis, al-Mulla said “under the US troop withdrawal agreement and according to UN Security Council resolutions, the US is legally and morally committed to sponsoring the [Iraqi] political process and it should work to contain this crisis and leave no room for Chalabi’s agenda to tear apart Iraqi society.”
He added “US civilian Administrator [of Iraq] Paul Bremer admitted that he made a mistake by establishing the Debathification Commission.”
The Debathification Law was dissolved, and the Iraqi Council of Representatives voted to replace this with the Accountability and Justice Law as part of the national reconciliation process. However the Accountability and Justice Commission is comprised of the same members as the Debathification Commission which it replaced.
For his part, Ali al-Lami, co-director of the Accountability and Justice Commission told Asharq Al-Awsat that all candidates are subject to the Commission’s law. He also said that the [Accountability and Justice] Commission works according to specific controls to exclude those with Baathist party affiliation from participating in elections. He also said that the delay in the announcement of the list of candidates excluded from electoral participation was as a result of increased scrutiny.
Al-Lami yesterday denied “the existence of any political pressure on the [Accountability and Justice] Commission’s operations” pointing out that “the Commission examines all electoral lists without exception.”