On June 11, during a press conference in Brussels chaired by Struan Stevenson, President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq, the formation of a new NGO, the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) was announced.
At this meeting Sid Ahmed Ghozali – former Prime Minister of Algeria, Alejo Vidal-Quadras – Vice President of the European Parliament ( 1999 – 2014), Stephen Hughes, Vice-President of the Socialists-Democrats group and former MEP Paulo Casaca, an expert on Iraq, participated and spoke, focusing on the following points:
1- The Conference strongly condemned the human rights violations in Iraq, the unprecedented number of executions and massacre of Iranian refugees in Camps Ashraf and Liberty, and stressed that the monopoly of power in Maliki’s hands in the past 8 years and the unprecedented infiltration of Iran and its terrorist Qods Force in Iraq has been the main cause of the problems. After the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the Iranian regime filled the power vacuum in Iraq. The Conference described the support of Western governments, particularly the United States, for Maliki, as shameful and said they must share responsibility for the murder and massacre of the Iraqi people, and called for an end to US and Russian arms being supplied to Maliki to help him suppress the popular uprising, which Maliki falsely claims is being led by ISIS and Al Qaeda.
2- Developments in Iraq have dramatically affected the entire region. If a national government, not-dominated by Iran, was in place in Iraq, Bashar Assad would have fallen long ago. The life of the Iranian regime depends on Assad and Maliki, and the fall of any one of them, brings Iran closer to its edge. So the regime is in full force killing people in both countries.
3- Representatives of various Iraqi factions reiterated that recent elections were neither free nor fair and all of them have been defrauded by Maliki and the Iranian regime. While most of the Iraqi political factions oppose Maliki, with the support of Iran and using intimidation and threats, he is desperately trying to buy or bribe his way to becoming Prime Minister for a third consecutive term.
4- Residents of 6 Sunni provinces have staged sit-ins since December 2012 protesting widespread repression and executions. These peaceful protests were confronted by suppression and lethal attacks by the Iraqi military under orders from Maliki and people and tribes in these provinces, especially al-Anbar, have been forced to defend themselves. Maliki has resorted to the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians by barrel bombs and missile strikes and repeated air attacks in these areas. These operations are carried on under the command and monitoring of the Iranian regime's terrorist Quds Force. There is no doubt that these attacks constitute war crimes and the international community should strongly condemn them. In the meantime there are strong rumours that Maliki has evacuated his family to the UK and may even be preparing to flee the country himself.
5- Reacting to the on-going attacks and oppression, the Iraqi people and tribes have taken control of Nineveh province and Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, driving out the Iraqi military and releasing hundreds of political prisoners. Iraqi military forces have been routed in Nineveh and more than half of Salahadin Province, with fighting now within 30 kilometres of Baghdad. Maliki misleadingly pretends that the terrorists and ISIS have taken control of Nineveh province in order to pave the way for bombings and missile attacks as well as to find an excuse for the U.S. and the Iranian regime’s military intervention in Iraq. He also arrogantly asked Iraq’s neighbouring countries to help him to suppress the terrorists in these areas, basically sending an open invitation to Iran's IRGC and Qods force to intervene.
6 -Western countries, especially the U.S. and the U.K. and some other countries that had played a key role in toppling the former government in Iraq and empowering Maliki, bear serious responsibility for the current situation. For the past eight years the U.S. has provided unilateral support for Maliki and has maintained silence about his atrocities against Iraqi citizens, particularly the Sunni population and other religious and ethnic minorities as well as foreign refugees. The US has also turned a blind eye to the increasing domination of the Iranian regime in Iraq, which has played a major role in creating the current situation.
7-The conference stressed the fact that the crisis of Iraq can only be resolved by an urgent change of leadership and the ousting of Maliki, combined with the complete eviction of the Iranian regime from Iraq, through the creation of a national and democratic government that rejects sectarian tendencies and represents all parts of Iraqi society. The conference asked western countries, in particular the U.S. and the EU to stand with the Iraqi people in order to realize this goal and to avoid providing any further support for Maliki.
8- The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) as an NGO has been formed to be a voice for the people of Iraq, who deserve a better future. Many distinguished politicians and notable leaders who share these objectives have joined in this task. The Board of EIFA includes John Bruton – former Prime Minister of Ireland, Geir Haarde – former Prime Minister of Iceland, Alejo Vidal-Quadras – Vice President of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014, Giulio Terzi – former Foreign Minister of Italy, Lord Carlile – former National Security Advisor to the UK Government and Paulo Casaca (MEP from 1999 to 2009).
Struan Stevenson, MEP
President, European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq
BBC, June 14: Iraq conflict: 'We are stronger than ISIS'. Divisions between the groups fighting to topple Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are emerging. Much of the attention from the current insurgency has focused on ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, but it is only one of a number of militia groups fighting. Former General Muzhir al Qaisi is a spokesman for the General Military Council of the Iraqi Revolutionaries, which entered Mosul alongside ISIS and is taking part in the campaign. He told the BBC's Middle East correspondent Jim Muir that Mosul was too big a city for ISIS to have taken alone. He also stressed the differences between the two groups, describing ISIS as "barbarians".
CNN, June 14: Emboldened militants, backed by Sunni tribal leaders, pushed toward Baghdad on Friday as increasingly nervous U.S. officials mulled their limited options to help slow the militants' advance. In recent days, Iran has sent about 500 Revolutionary Guard troops to fight alongside Iraqi government security forces in Diyala province.
The Daily Star (Lebanon), June 14: [Iraqi government air strikes and] military power in the long run remains helpless in the face of determined moves by disgruntled citizens to regain what they see as dignity, freedom and rights.
The Economist, June 14: Mr Maliki has been less brutal but more crass than Mr Assad. By the end of 2011 American forces had almost eradicated ISI, as it still was, in Iraq. They did so by capturing or killing its leaders and, more crucially, by recruiting around 100,000 Sunni Iraqis to join the Sahwa, or Awakening, a largely tribal force to fight ISI, whose harsh rules in the areas they controlled had turned most of the people against it. But after the Americans left, Mr Maliki disbanded the Sahwa militias, breaking a promise to integrate many of them into the regular army. He purged Sunnis from the government and cracked down on initially peaceful Sunni protests in Ramadi and Falluja at the end of last year. Anti-American rebels loyal to Saddam and even Sahwa people may have joined ISIS out of despair, feeling that Mr Maliki would never give them a fair deal. In 2012 Tariq al-Hashemi, the vice-president who was Iraq’s top Sunni, fled abroad, and was sentenced to death in absentia. Sunnis feel they have no political representation, says Mr Haniyeh. “ISIS and al-Qaeda are taking advantage and appropriating Sunni Islam.”
Al-Monitor, June 13: Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki never implemented promised reforms to integrate and share power with Iraq’s Sunni communities. Although the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is trying to exploit the “Sunni cause” to mobilize its fighters and rally supporters, its “jihadist” characteristic reduces its claim to represent the Sunni community to a small segment within this community. Most Sunnis maintain their suspicious view of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, but they do not see ISIS as a good alternative. It is true that ISIS has largely invested in the sectarian tension in Iraq and the region, but its objectives go beyond the Iraqi borders or the major concerns of Iraq’s Sunni community. ... Maliki tried to weaken strong Sunni leaders, deprive the Sunni population of legitimate and reliable leadership and empower those who are personally loyal to him. ... Without reaching a new compact that reforms the system of government and seeks a broader legitimacy for the state, Iraq’s future as a united country remains uncertain.
The New York Times, Editorial, June 12: What’s happening in Iraq is a disaster. ... Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is said to be in a panic. It is hard to be surprised by that, because more than anyone he is to blame for the catastrophe. Mr. Maliki has been central to the political disorder that has poisoned Iraq, as he wielded authoritarian power in favor of the Shiite majority at the expense of the minority Sunnis, stoked sectarian conflict and enabled a climate in which militants could gain traction.
USA Today, June 12: With no obvious replacement for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and no apparent intent on his part to step down -Washington is largely resigned to continue working with his Shiite-led government that has targeted Sunni political opponents and, in turn, has inflamed sectarian tensions across Iraq. "He's obviously not been a good prime minister," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "He has not done a good job of reaching out to the Sunni population, which has caused them to be more receptive to al-Qaida efforts." The panel's chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., noted only lukewarm support for al-Maliki, both in Iraq and among U.S. officials. "I don't know whether or not he will actually be the prime minister again," Menendez said. "I guess by many accounts, he may very well ultimately put (together) the coalition necessary to do that."
CNN, June 12: Fareed Zakaria: "The Iraqi government under Nuri al-Maliki has excluded and persecuted the Sunnis. Any insurgency grows on the discontent of the population, and what has happened is that the population in Iraq has gotten more and more discontented. They're joining up with radical groups in Syria and they are now moving to Baghdad. The second-largest city in Iraq has already fallen. I think with the current government in Iraq, it would be a mistake to offer major support like air strikes and things like that. Because ultimately, I don't think al-Maliki can put this back together again. I think what we should demand is a national unity government. Al-Maliki step down as prime minister. A more conciliatory figure takes his place. Bring in Sunnis as well. Under those circumstances, I think that the United States should support, but not this government."
CNN, June 12: These 90,000 "Sons of Iraq" made a significant contribution to the reported 90% drop in sectarian violence in 2007-2008, assisting the Iraqi security forces and the United States in securing territory from Mosul to the Sunni enclaves of Baghdad and the surrounding Baghdad "belts." As the situation stabilized, the Iraqi government agreed to a plan to integrate vetted Sunni members of the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi army and police to make those forces more representative of the overall Iraqi population. But this integration never happened. Al-Maliki was comfortable touting his support for the Sons of Iraq in non-Shiite areas such as Anbar and Nineveh provinces, but he refused to absorb Sunnis into the ranks of the security forces along Shiite-Sunni fault lines in central Iraq.
The UK, having invaded Iraq 11 years ago on a very questionable pretext and having left with Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister obviously brings us some responsibility for what is happening there today. Amidst a rising discontent against Iraqi prime minister Maliki and his blatant human rights violations, and at a time when the public as well as both Shiite and Sunni leaders including Maliki's own allies were asking him to step down, the news came out on Tuesday 10 June that Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, had been captured and Maliki's army had fled the city in a matter of just one hour leaving most of their weaponry and uniforms behind.
The first question coming to mind was, "Mosul .... captured - by whom"? "The Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries" my contacts told me. "It's a general uprising against the Maliki misrule and the up to 1,000 killings every month for the past decade". Perhaps, insofar as Jihadists and criminals seem to attract greater headlines than the suffering community, first media reports tried to simplify the incident down to an unreal but perhaps an easy-to-understand theory that Mosul was overrun by "Islamic terrorists". In a little over one hour and with this surge rapidly spreading into other cities in various provinces of Iraq like Al-Anbar, Salahuddin and Kirkuk!! The call by Sunni leaders for the removal of Maliki and the formation of a new (pluralist) government immediately cast serious doubts on the presumption of "An attack by Islamic terrorists".
What a potential lifeline for al-Maliki if the world should simply accept that these are Islamic terrorists belonging to a breakaway Al-Qaeda group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)! Curiously, the ISIL was immediately branded by Maliki and by the mullahs in Iran as a frightful and horrific body. That was simply meant to scare everyone - Maliki, who is hated right across the sectarian divide by most Iraqis, could be the saviour of Iraq!
Rafe'i-o-Refaie, one of Iraq's highest Sunni religious leaders, said in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV on June 10: "We are dealing with a state-sponsored terrorism which accommodates the real terrorists. We often hear in the news about ISIL doing things in Al-Anbar, Falluja, Samera and Mosul but is ISIL not conveniently the name given by Maliki to everyone who is not prepared to capitulate to him."
Mr. Rafe'i-o-Refaie went on to condemn what has been going on in Iraq as a game directed by the Iranian Ghasim Soleimani (Chief of the terrorist Quds force) and his deputy, Masjidi, who is based in Baghdad. This game is being played out under Maliki's direction at the behest of the clerical regime ruling Iran.
Hence, we need to be careful not to be duped again by Maliki and his Iranian masters. Let us put aside the ISIL and focus on what Maliki has done and is doing to that country. Iraqi people have been victimised for more than 11 years. Up to 1,000 people are being killed each month and up to 4,000 injured. The Maliki-government has been unable to deny that it carries out collective executions. Iraqi women have been raped and tortured in prisons run by Maliki's forces. 52 unarmed Iranian refugees were gunned down by his forces in Camp Ashraf on 1st September last.
Iraq's economy is in shambles. Despite the fact that Iraq is one of the leading exporters of oil and receives billions of dollars in foreign aid which brings enormous revenues to the country, Iraqi people even in its capital Baghdad, have to live with long hours of electric power cut-off. In a country which has the highest amount of water in the region, people have to put up with water-shortages. Unemployment and poverty run rampant. Corruption in the government and those affiliated to the government is almost unimaginable with billions of dollar embezzled and laundered, thus crippling the country's economy.
Maliki has created a Mafia-like network of criminals and assassins to eliminate the voice of opposition at every level. In a certain step-by-step scheme, Maliki has tried to bring all bodies of power under his dominance. For instance, In Iraq, the President is devoid of any executive power, though constitutionally many matters need President Talabani's approval. But President Jalal Talabani has been severely ill for almost two years and has, from abroad, been unable to play any role in Iraqi affairs.
Yet Maliki has been preventing the legislative branch from electing a new president in the absence of Mr. Talabani. Only his deputy Khazali who is from Maliki's political party plays a role and thereby, all power is effectively in Maliki's hands. But Iraq had two Deputy Presidents? The first deputy was from the Iraqi Sunnis and two and a half years ago Maliki framed him, illegally prosecuted him, and had him condemned to death in absentia despite the fact that he had legal immunity. Only Khazali, from Maliki's own faction, is in position and pliant.
Maliki has marginalised the Sunnis and suppressed his opponents for eight consecutive years in order to maintain power. People of Iraq as well as the Iraqi dignitaries and religious and tribal leaders are clearly demanding a change to his premiership and yet he does not want to step down.
This is the kind of man who is ruling Iraq today.
James F. Jeffrey, US former Ambassador to Iraq, who was in Baghdad for more than two years after the 2010 elections and as U.S. troops withdrew said to Associated Press that "it is time for Iraqis and Americans to consider alternatives." Responding to those who are worried if Maliki's departure would create a power vacuum that could foster even more political infighting and instability, Jeffrey said: "That might well be. But at some point in a quasi-democratic system, there has to be accountability."
It is indeed a question of accountability. What happened in Mosul and is now spreading towards Baghdad is a demand for accountability in Iraq. This is what the West including the UK and the US should be actively promoting. Maliki wants to declare a state of emergency in the country. One must immediately ask, "A state of emergency for whom, given that this uprising is a surge by the people of Iraq. Associated Press reported that the city of Mosul has a Sunni Muslim majority - so be it but the West should not be giving tacit support to a dictator against whom an overall deeply embittered population wants and deserves other than a Maliki's government.
Where it is possible the West must fulfil its responsibility to assist promote democracy and Rule of Law in Iraq by pushing for an alternative to Maliki's reign of terror. He has already been given far too much time. It is now time for the urgently needed change towards Democracy, peace and the Rule of Law in Iraq. The painful alternative will be if and when the mafia and criminals (and, yes - the Jihadists too) once again divert such a spontaneous uprising as we are witnessing to their own Maliki-like purpose.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama came under pressure from U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday to persuade Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to step down over what they see as failed leadership in...
Some Senators Say Prime Minister May Need to Be Replaced as Part of Crisis Resolution
WASHINGTON—U.S. lawmakers Tuesday expressed frustration with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid the growing sectarian violence in Iraq, suggesting he may need to be replaced as part of any resolution to the crisis.
Lawmakers said President Barack Obama's decision to bolster the U.S. embassy in Baghdad with 275 additional troops was appropriate, but said the administration needed to explain its strategy to respond to Sunni militants' takeover of a number of Iraqi regions.
"My concern is whether we're going to do anything besides send a few extra Marines, which won't do anything," Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) told reporters Tuesday morning.
Mr. McCain added that the U.S. should send emissaries to Baghdad to "work with Maliki and tell him he's got to step down and have a coalition government."
Mr. Maliki, who has held his position since 2006, has come under increasing international pressure to quell the sectarian conflict. His government has been accused by Sunni and Kurdish politicians of fanning tensions between rival ethnic and religious groups by favoring hard-line Shiite officials.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said "Yes I do," when asked whether she thinks Mr. Mailiki needs to be replaced.
The Iraqi government has begun taking steps to respond to the sweep of militants across the country, with forces loyal to Mr. Maliki moving Tuesday to repel an attempt to capture a strategic province roughly 40 miles from Baghdad.
U.S. lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have been calling on the White House to more aggressively respond to the crisis. Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) said the violence wouldn't have spread so quickly if a residual NATO force had been present in the country.
"The question is whether air strikes would work," Ms. Collins said.
Mr. McCain said the U.S. should definitely conduct air strikes on militants, as well as have "a few boots on the ground" including, potentially, special-forces troops.
"So far we've done nothing of any significance to change the momentum of these people who are taking over large portions of Iraq," Mr. McCain said.
By Michael R. Crittenden, Updated June 17, 2014 2:06 p.m. ET
For years, U.S. officials have debated in meetings and in classified cables whether Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a uniter or a divider.
Now, events may have provided the answer.
President Barack Obama declined to endorse Maliki yesterday, saying that “the test is before him and other Iraqi leaders.” The Shiite leader has been told that his country’s Sunni and Kurd minorities must “feel that they have the opportunity to advance their interest through the political process,” Obama said at a White House news conference.
The U.S. has invested heavily in Maliki over the years, looking for him to rise above his background as a leader of the Islamic Daawa Party -- going back to when the Shiite group was outlawed under Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein -- to become a national authority capable of running an inclusive government. Now, the U.S. is signaling it’s open to a leadership change.
Iraq has been driven to its current state of turmoil by “a whole variety of actions by a variety of different Iraqi leaders, but first and foremost among them Prime Minister Maliki,” said Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. Maliki’s consolidation of power, including purging Sunnis from the military and arbitrary actions favoring Shiites, alienated Iraqi minorities, he said.
Maliki first became prime minister following parliamentary elections in December 2005. The U.S., seeking stability and continuity, backed him for a second term after the 2010 elections in which a coalition led by rival Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite allied with Sunni factions, won more seats in parliament.
“The Obama administration backed a second Maliki term while demanding that Maliki form a government inclusive of Sunni leaders,” according to a May 2014 report on Iraq by the Congressional Research Service.
American uncertainty about Maliki’s intentions was captured in the title of a classified 2009 assessment from Ryan Crocker, who was U.S. ambassador to Iraq at the time: “PM Maliki: Strengthening Center or Emerging Strongman?”
The report opted ultimately for optimism, saying “the answer lies closer” to the first description.
The report made public by WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group that publishes leaked documents on its website, said that Sunni and Kurdish politicians -- some calling Maliki a “new Saddam” -- see him as an “aspiring strongman bent on imposing a classic Arab autocracy.”
While Maliki’s thinking and actions “are undoubtedly informed by the Shi’a experience, he himself sees his conduct as national rather than sectarian-inspired,” Crocker wrote.
Crocker, who’s now dean of the George Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, didn’t respond to phone and e-mail messages yesterday, and the State Department said it declines to comment on documents purporting to contain classified information.
The U.S. continued to have many reasons for pause about Maliki. An embassy report in February 2010, also posted by WikiLeaks, said Maliki was removing Sunnis who were Defense or Interior ministry intelligence officers and replacing them with “Daawa party political officers who lack intelligence and related backgrounds.”
Maliki made similar moves against the judiciary, the central bank and other institutions with power.
He effectively blocked any agreement that would have the U.S. maintain a residual training and counterterrorism force in Iraq after December 2011. When the issue was first discussed late in President George W. Bush’s administration, Maliki didn’t want a deal, according to John Negroponte, who was deputy secretary of state at the time.
“Maliki didn’t want one because I think he felt it carried too much political freight for him inside his own country,” Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004 to 2005, said in an interview June 13 for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”
As a result, Bush left the issue for the Obama administration to deal with, he said, and no accord was reached.
Maliki’s actions, particularly since U.S. ground troops left, have alarmed U.S. officials, even as they continued to offer many supportive remarks publicly.
Amid the departure of U.S. troops in December 2011, Maliki met with Obama at the White House, where the American president praised the Iraqi’s “leadership” at that “historic moment.”
At the end of 2011, the Iraqis “did have a pretty good basis for moving forward,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense and foreign policy analyst, who appeared with Pollack at a Brookings panel discussion
“We struggled very hard -- we put in a lot of money, a lot of American lives, a lot of high-level attention -- and I believe that the Iraqi political system writ large squandered the opportunity,” he said. “Now the blame within that is primarily Mr. Maliki.”
With U.S. influence reduced, Maliki stepped up his efforts to consolidate control and strengthen Shiite dominance. A week after Maliki met with Obama, the Iraqi government announced an arrest warrant against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a major Sunni figure, for allegedly ordering his security staff to commit acts of assassination.
Al-Hashimi fled to the autonomous Kurdish area of Iraq. An Iraqi court in September 2012 sentenced him to death in absentia on terrorism charges.
Such moves “cast doubt on President Obama’s assertion, marking the U.S. withdrawal, that Iraq is now ‘sovereign, stable, and self-reliant,’” according to the CRS report. In addition to cracking down on Sunni leaders, arresting some and curtailing patronage, Maliki purged Sunni military personnel and others in the U.S.-trained and equipped security services, prompting critics to refer to the forces as “Maliki’s militia,” according to Pollack.
By the time U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Baghdad in March 2013, officials were growing more concerned by Maliki’s actions, senior State Department officials said at the time. Kerry sought to press Maliki to hold talks with Sunni and Kurdish officials to end discord between the country’s sectarian groups.
Last November, when Maliki visited the White House, Obama publicly praised him for showing a “commitment” to ensuring an “inclusive and democratic” Iraq.
By contrast, Obama said yesterday that, especially over the last two years, there’s been a “sense among Sunnis that their interests were not being served.”
With Iraq sliding into a sectarian civil war, the issue for Obama and his foreign policy team is whether to try to prevent Maliki from keeping his post in a new government following April’s parliamentary elections in which his Shiite coalition won the most seats.
The New York Times reported that the U.S. was actively encouraging the Shiites, the majority group in Iraq, to replace Maliki. At least three other Shiite officials have emerged as possible successors, the Times reported yesterday from Baghdad.
It’s now too late for reconciliation under Maliki, said Samir Sumaida’ie, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2006 to 2012.
“My own view, as well as the view of many Sunni and Shia, is that this prime minister has done enough damage,” he said in an interview. “It’s time for him to go.”
That may be easier said than done, said Henri Barkey, a scholar on Iraq at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said this week.
Pushing Maliki aside wouldn’t be easy, Barkey said, since “everything we know of Maliki is that he is a very stubborn man who wants to stay on.”