Iraqi federal court’s decision shows Abadi without power

Sunday 16/10/2016
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

LONDON - Iraq’s federal court, one of the highest courts in the country, overturned Iraqi Prime Minis­ter Haider al-Abadi’s decision to abolish the three vice-pres­idential posts and the position of deputy prime minister. The vice-presidents were — and are once again — Ayad Allawi, Osama al- Nujaifi and Nuri al-Maliki. With this latest legal setback, Abadi is look­ing more and more like someone no one in Baghdad takes seriously.

Abadi’s decision to liquidate the positions was praiseworthy, even if the intent was likely politically mo­tivated. Abadi and Maliki have been rivals since the latter was more or less forced out of the prime minis­ter’s office so Abadi could take his place, although they both hail from the Dawa Party.

Nevertheless, the Iraqi bureau­cracy was filled to the brim with ca­reer politicians opposing any kind of reform so as to benefit from the corrupt system.

That said, the federal court flipped Abadi’s plan on its head by essentially ruling that the vice-presidents should be restored to their posts.

A resurgent Maliki is likely to capitalise on this opportunity as a golden chance to continue to crip­ple any sense that Abadi has control or authority and is almost definitely plotting to make a political come­back to regain Iraq’s most powerful office.

Since being forced out of office, Maliki has consistently under­mined Abadi’s administration and government. Maliki has used his position as the head of the State of Law parliamentary bloc of Shia political parties, which includes Dawa, to marshal votes against measures Abadi would like to see passed through parliament or even to politically isolate Abadi within his own cabinet.

Examples of this are numerous but in recent months Abadi has been forced to endure the loss of two of his most senior ministers whose ministerial posts were sunk due to political broadsides emanat­ing from Maliki and his parliamen­tary allies.

Former Defence minister Khalid al-Obeidi, a Sunni who was a mili­tary engineer, was shown the door after he was accused of misappro­priating political funds designated for Iraq’s half-dead efforts at revi­talising its military. This despite the fact that Obeidi inherited a minis­try that had a problem with “ghost soldiers” and that was chronically mismanaged and corrupted by Ma­liki, who was the acting Defence minister as well as controlling many other ministries, including the prime minister’s office.

Less than a month after Obeidi was sent packing, veteran Kurd­ish politician Hoshyar Zebari was kicked out of office as Iraq’s Fi­nance minister. Zebari, hailing from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which holds sway in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, not only served as Finance minister but was previously Iraq’s Foreign minister. Zebari was accused of corruption and financial mismanagement, de­spite fierce denials.

Apart from Maliki and his bloc, the other link between Abadi’s po­litical misfortunes and his allies in the cabinet losing their offices is ironically the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Salim al-Jabouri.

Jabouri, a Sunni from the Iraqi Is­lamic Party which has been widely discredited in the Sunni commu­nity, was accused by both Obeidi and Zebari of having a hand in their downfall and was also accused of corruption and mismanagement, charges he denied.

Nevertheless, the fact that two senior ministers were toppled as a result of a strange alliance between the infamously sectarian Maliki and the notoriously weak Sunni parlia­mentary speaker Jabouri suggests the ministers may have grounds for their accusations.

With Maliki’s return to high of­fice, it is almost inevitable that he will similarly be making a concerted effort to topple Abadi from power and retake what he deems to be his rightful place at the top of the Iraqi political hierarchy. Although Abadi is by no means an inclusive, anti-sectarian politician — as evidenced by numerous atrocities taking place on his watch with no repercussions — he is a saint when compared to Maliki whose return to power can only spell disaster for Iraq.

The fact that Abadi’s decisions can be so easily overturned and overruled by a number of politically compromised bodies, including the judiciary, suggests that the Iraqi prime minister is not respected by his peers and those who do stand by him can be relatively easily be swept aside by a well-connected, ambitious and power-hungry Ma­liki.

In effect, Iraqi politicians are not treating Abadi as if he was the hold­er of the highest office in the land. They are treating him as though he was still the Arab dumpling mer­chant he was when he was living in fear of Saddam Hussein in London many years ago.