Inside Iraq: Situation Report
Anton VESELOV | 28.07.2014 | WORLD / Middle East

Inside Iraq: Situation Report

On July 24, the Iraqi parliament elected a new president. Former President Jalal Talabani took office in 2005. In December 2012 he suffered a stroke and traveled to Germany for treatment. On July 19, 2014 Jalal Talabani returned to Iraq after 18 months of medical treatment but was unable to carry out his duty. The presidential election is a step on the way out of the deep crisis Iraq is going through. A few days ago the parliament elected Salim al-Jabouri as new speaker instead of Usama Abdu'l Aziz al-Nujayfi. But the main events are still ahead. According to the rules imposed by US interim administration led by Paul Bremer in 2003 in the days of US occupation, the office of Iraqi President should belong to a Kurd. It’s not stated in the Constitution, but Americans insisted to make Iraq follow a kind of Lebanese model where the top government positions are distributed among leading religious communities. Americans were not stopped by the fact that the scheme had failed in Lebanon (the number of Lebanese by far exceeds the number of those who reside in homeland). The US wanted to divide the Iraqis and prevent their consolidation in future. 

The Sunnis are under heavy pressing. They want an Arab, not a Kurd, to hold the presidential office. But the opinion of Sunni is of no importance since 2003, the US insisted they got only second-rate positions in the government structure. They were discriminated against and any unrest attempt was resolutely put down. The Sunni Muslims community had to be satisfied with the position of the speaker of parliament. They are also pushing for giving the position of Vice-President to their representative Usama Abdu'l Aziz al-Nujayf. This office is vacant after Tariq al Hashimi escaped from the country being sentenced to death. 

Shiites welcomed the system imposed by Americans; they got crucial top positions, like the one of Prime Minister, who wears two hats being simultaneously the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, the position of Minister of Interior, who heads all special services and power structures, as well as key ministerial seats. For Shiites the presidential election is a step on the way. Their coalition the State of Law agreed to vote for a Kurd on the condition the Kurdish forces would be withdrawn from Taamim (Kirkuk) which is actually out of Baghdad control to be ruled by Erbil. As a result Shiites gave their support to a representative of the Kurdish community; otherwise they would have been responsible for constitutional deadlock. 

The Kurds were divided too. It was a close race between Barham Ahmed Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraqi Kurdistan and a former deputy prime minister of the Federal government of Iraq and Muhammad Fuad Masum, a member of Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party who was the first prime minister of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in 1992. 

He was born in 1938 in the city of Koya (to the east of Arbil) to a religious family of Sheikh Mohammed Mullah Fuad Masum, the head of the Kurdistan scientists and advocates of rapprochement sectarian and religious coexistence. He personally knows Jalal Talabani since childhood; their families were close in Harman where they descend from. He studied at the religion schools of Kurdistan. He studied law and Sharia in Baghdad University. In 1958, Masum traveled to Cairo to complete his higher education in Al-Azhar University. He worked as a professor in Basra University in 1968. He earned his PhD in Islamic philosophy from Al-Azhar in 1975. While studying he started to pay interest in Communist ideas and joined the Communist Party of Iraq. In 1964 he left the Party to become a member of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. Since 1968 he taught at Basra University (Iraq) and headed the Party’s local office there. In 1973 he was also the representative of the Kurdish community in Cairo in the capacity of personal representative of then leader of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and father of incumbent president of Iraqi Kurdistan Mesud Barzani. He was one of the founders of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan formed in Damascus in 1976 and joined the political bureau of this organization. In 1992 he was the first Prime Minister of Kurdish Autonomous Region. In 2003 he moved to Baghdad to actively cooperate with the US occupational forces and took part in writing the country’s new constitution as a politician of a «new wave». In 2004 he was elected the first chairman of Iraqi National Assembly. He is a member of parliament since 2005. 

On July 25 Kurdish media reported he was seriously ill and will, probably, go to Germany for medical treatment. 

According to Iraqi constitution it’s the President who nominates the candidate for the position of Prime Minister, but the ruling Party has no majority in parliament while other political forces block its activities demanding the resignation of Nouri-al-Maliki. 

The electoral process is taking place in the heat of crisis which may end up in the partition of the country. The Iraqi Kurdistan is on the way to holding a referendum on independence. Actually Bagdad has lost control over vast lands in the Sunni-populated Iraqi provinces where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has established its rule. The number of migrants has exceeded 1, 5 million. The Islamists made seek refuge all the Christians living in Mosul and are destroying Shiite and Christian shrines. The battle is raging at the distance of 20-40 kilometers from Bagdad… Getting hold of strategic road going from the Iraqi capital to Basra the militants can cut Baghdad off from the rest of the world. That’s why fierce fighting has been going on for the fifth week near Jurf Al Sakhar sub-district, 45 km Northwest of Hilla city, that’s where the main events are taking place. 

No wonder the issue of presidential election has been sidelined by the reports of the would-be visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the head of US Central Command (a theater-level Unified Combatant Command) General Lloyd Austin. The recent visit of Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi to Moscow has not gone unnoticed too. He gave a personal letter from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The letter informs about the unraveling of events and stresses the need to urgently boost military cooperation between Baghdad and Moscow. The Iraqi official was met by Russian defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to discuss the arms supplies, especially to satisfy the aviation needs. 

The very same day Senator-Democrat Robert «Bob» Menendez (New Jersey), Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said he would block American arms sales to Iraq unless he is satisfied weaponry dispatched will not fall into the hands of radical Islamic insurgents that have overrun large swaths of Iraqi territory. Senators of both parties pressed administration officials for information about the current state of Iraq’s beleaguered security forces. «They deserted the communities they were responsible for protecting, abandoned U.S. military equipment, and fled from ISIS fighters», Menendez said. Absent assurances of bolstered Iraqi military capabilities, Menendez said he would oppose further U.S. arms sales to Baghdad. 

Sunni radicals with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS) have captured as many as 52 U.S.-made M198 howitzers in their march across Iraq in June.

In addition to the stolen artillery weapons, ISIL is also in possession of 1,500 armored Humvees armed by Browning gun that were left on the battlefield by Iraqi regular forces fleeing away from terrorists. 

Menendez was not satisfied with the fact his committee had not been acquainted with the assessment of the state of Iraqi forces conducted by the military in June-July. The New Jersey Senator said lawmakers haven't been informed on potential military assistance to Iraq or about its troops' capability to push back the growing insurgency by rebels calling themselves the Islamic State. «You know, this committee has jurisdiction over arms sales», Menendez said. «And my reticence to arms sales to Iraq has in some respects been proven true when in fact we had much of our equipment abandoned and now in the hands of (Sunni extremists). So unless you are going to give us a sense of where the security forces are at, moving forward, this chair is not going to be willing to approve more arms sales so they can be abandoned to go to the hands of those who we are seriously concerned about in terms of our own national security».

The New York Times reported last week that a classified military assessment found it unsafe for Americans to advise Iraqi forces given their infiltration by Sunni extremist informants and Iran-backed Shiite militants.

In 2003 the first thing Paul Bremer ordered was the dismissal of Iraqi regular armed forces and the Baath Party. Having done away with the foundation of the Iraqi state the US made Iraq go back to tribal community, the Arab nationalism was substituted by turf structure when everyone had its own army. 700 political movements, alliances, groups and associations of different kinds appeared (the main result of US-imposed democracy) in possession of arms with no hesitation to use them if need be. 

Speaking at the July 25 joint press-conference with Ban Ki-Moon, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki assured the Secretary General that the Iraqi security forces have regained the initiative and retook the lead in the fight against terrorism. He said it was not a religious war. The Prime Minister said the government will begin the distribution of 1.5 million dinars for each family displaced, noting that the displacement of families is normal in light of the current security situation in Iraq. Maliki said, «The Iraqi government has paid great attention to the situation of the displaced», noting that he «will be during the next few distribution amount and a half million dinars for each displaced family meal first, in addition to the rest of the aid in order to alleviate their suffering». Finally Nouri al Maliki assured of his loyalty to the constitution of Iraq and the mission of forming a new government of the country. 

Tags: Al Qaeda  Iraq  Middle East