Maliki in hot water over Mosul debacle
BAGHDAD - An Iraqi parliamentary committee determined that former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and 35 other top officials were responsible for the June 2014 military capitulation to Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the northern city of Mosul, deputies said.
They said the findings, after several weeks of investigation, for the first time publicly identified suspected former officials and will be sent to the Iraqi prosecutor general for legal action.
“No one is above the law,” parliament Speaker Salim al-Jobouri said in a statement released August 16th after he received a copy of the report. The document is to be debated in parliament, although no date has been set for the discussion.
“The judiciary will punish those” responsible, Jobouri said.
Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, 405 kilometres north of Baghdad, fell in June 2014 during an ISIS offensive. Iraqi media reported at the time that many Iraqi troops in Mosul abandoned their positions, weapons and uniforms as they fled the militants’ onslaught. The army’s humiliating defeat was widely blamed on a lack of coordination between Maliki, the commander of the Iraqi armed forces as prime minister at the time, and generals in the field. Maliki was prime minister since 2006 and sought to a third four-year term but begrudgingly stepped down to allow Haider al-Abadi to form a new cabinet on August 14, 2014.
He declined to appear before the Mosul investigative committee for questioning and his whereabouts remain unclear. Some Iraqi media reports suggest he is in Iran.
The findings were approved by 17 members of the 26-person parliamentary investigative committee, its chief, Hakim al-Zamili, told The Arab Weekly.
He said Maliki is identified by name as the main suspect behind Mosul’s fall. He declined to elaborate, saying details would soon be released in parliament.
The inclusion of Maliki was controversial among committee members with the Dawa party — the party of both Abadi and Maliki — pushing for his name to be omitted, said Zamili’s deputy, Kurdish lawmaker Shakhawan Abdullah.
He declined to disclose details but Zamili insisted that the investigation “completely ignored endless threats, political blackmail and pressure”.
Alia Nassif, a lawmaker representing Maliki’s State of Law coalition in the legislature, dismissed the committee’s findings as “lacking objectivity and professionalism”.
“For the committee to point at an individual as being guilty is illegal because it’s stepping on the toes of the judiciary, which is the right side to decide and issue its ruling in this matter,” Nassif said.
Other Iraqi officials investigated include Joint Operations Commander Lieutenant-General Abboud Qanbar, Ground Forces Commander Lieutenant-General Ali Ghaidan and Commander of Nineveh Operations Lieutenant-General Mahdi al- Gharrawi.
Army Chief of Staff Babacar Zebari publicly accused Maliki of the ultimate responsibility for Mosul’s fall. In remarks to local media, he said Maliki ignored requests from Kurdish leaders for air strikes on militant positions on the outskirts of Mosul, prior to the city’s fall.
Gharrawi, in remarks before he disappeared in the wake of Mosul’s capture, said he and his forces fought advancing ISIS militants until the army was ordered to retreat by Maliki, Ghaidan and Qanbar. Gharrawi could face a military tribunal and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to death.
Ghaidan, Qanbar and Gharrawi and other senior army officers who allegedly fled the battlefield before their troops when ISIS invaded Mosul have disappeared.
Maliki is widely seen as a sectarian leader who alienated the country’s once powerful Sunni Muslim minority. Alienated by Maliki’s policies, many Sunnis sided with ISIS militants when they captured their cities, hailing them as “liberators”.
Abadi sacked Maliki from the ceremonial vice-presidential post he had held for the past year, under reforms unveiled August 9th. The reforms followed days of street protests demanding a clampdown on state corruption, reduced government spending and improved services.
Maliki is alleged to have appointed military commanders and other top officials based on personal loyalty rather than competence. Overspending under Maliki, which critics claim was often to buy loyalty, increased Iraq’s budget deficit.
Political analyst Hassan Smaidaei said that the army’s capitulation to ISIS under Maliki was “so quick, easy and went by without even the ex-premier bringing his army generals for questioning on how such a steadfast city would fall so easily to militants”.
“Maliki fleeing to Iran is another indication that he’s implicated in this conspiracy,” Smaidaei said.
Baghdad resident Jalal Khaled, 45, said Maliki’s prosecution would prove the viability of the Iraqi government.
“All those proved responsible should be severely punished for treason that resulted in spilling innocent Iraqi blood in Mosul and elsewhere in the country,” he said.
On August 16th, Abadi’s office announced that he had cleared the way for the military prosecution of senior commanders responsible for the army’s surrender in May to ISIS in Ramadi, a key city west of Baghdad.