Friday, August 15, 2014

Iraq Report 16

Developments in Iraq 14 August 2014

Following mounting pressure on Nuri al-Maliki from various sources including Iran, U.S., Ayatollah Sistani and his own party, Hezb al-Dawa, he has today stepped down as Iraq's Prime Minister, making way for Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to become the leader.

Al-Maliki had previously refused to step down after al-Abadi was nominated, saying in a televised address Wednesday that the appointment was a constitutional violation.

Nothing was said as to his terms.

Heitham  al-Jabouri, the speaker of the Alliance for Legal Government, revealed that al-Maliki and al-Abadi had agreed on the transfer of power in Iraq. Ali al-Mousavi, Maliki’s advisor, also announced that Maliki has given up his legal case against Foaud Masoum, the President of Iraq, in the Iraq Federal Court. Ayatollah Sistani had very specifically asked for a new prime minister. Losing the backing of Iran, Sistani and the United States seems finally to have convinced Maliki that he had to give up his hold on power. And even Asa’ib Ahl Al Haq (de-facto Malaki’s militia) now back Abadi (though individual fighters may not do so in some instances). Al-Abadi has the support of Iran, U.S.A. and Saudi Arabia.

We live in hope that this is not just a milestone, but a pivotal moment in broader regional peace.

The situation on the ground:

Things remain as dangerous as ever in Iraq. Part of the problem is the flexibility of IS. When IS is attacked in a counter-insurgency move in one place, they fight back somewhere else.

We must correct an item in our last report. We implied that the government held Jurf Al-Sakhar fifty miles south of Baghdad in Babil Province. This is of course incorrect. IS still holds Jurf Al-Sakhar. We do not use press reports as sources but regrettably some of the sources we use are themselves influenced by reports that minimise the strength of IS and inflate the strength of the Iraq Army. Sometimes the Iraq Government itself does not know what is going on as spokespersons fall into the trap of believing their own PR.

Certainly Baghdad itself is quieter. Though there have been a lot of bombings, including one near Haider al Abadi’s home in Karada. People are angry at the Iraq Security Forces for their failure to keep things under control.

Another correction, some of the population figures we have given you, particularly for the Yezidis, may have been incorrect. This from one of our most reliable sources within Iraq:

“The numbers being thrown around are being questioned. Numbers from Kurdistan sources are too often highly exaggerated.  While initial estimates may make some sense under the circumstances, later updated figures often do not lead to revisions in initial figures. A rule of thumb is to cut them in half and go down from there.

“For example, the number of Yazidis in Iraq is often said to be 500,000.  Vian Dakhil, the Yezidi MP who made such an effective impassioned plea, said in an interview with Dutch media there are 300,000.    There aren't many Yezidi population centers.  500,000 suggests 10 cities with 50,000 Yezidis each or 100 villages of 5,000 each.  Neither makes sense."

The broader picture

For an interesting perspective on the wider picture see Patrick Cokburn’s article on this link

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