Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 

Special Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 
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Nouri al-Maliki, the secretary-general of Iraq's Islamic Dawa Party, is said to believe in the legitimacy of political violence. (AFP file photo)
Special Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 
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Iraq power broker Nouri al-Maliki (2nd-L) arrives to attend a political meeting at the presidential palace in Baghdad on February 27, 2019. (AFP file)
Special Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 
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Nouri al-Maliki, the secretary-general of Iraq's Islamic Dawa Party, is said to believe in the legitimacy of political violence. (AFP file photo)
Special Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 
4 / 4
Nouri al-Maliki, the secretary-general of Iraq's Islamic Dawa Party, is said to believe in the legitimacy of political violence. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 27 July 2022

Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 

Al-Maliki audio leaks hold clues to Iraq’s failed process of government formation 
  • In purported recordings, former PM denounces political rivals, talks about imminent civil war 
  • Iraq held early parliamentary elections in October 2021 but a new government is nowhere in sight

IRBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: In and of themselves, the audio recordings are scarcely newsworthy. They simply confirm what is a matter of public knowledge in Iraq: That the antipathy between two of the country’s most powerful Shiite power brokers, Nouri Al-Maliki and Muqtada Al-Sadr, is deep, and their relations with other Iraqi politicians complicated.

The real significance of the recordings, according to analysts, lies in their revelation of the deep divisions and enmities that plague Iraqi politics, and are likely to continue hindering the process of government formation in the months to come.

In the recordings, known in Iraq as the “Maliki Wikileaks,” the man who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2014 is heard denouncing his political rivals and talking about an imminent civil war.

“Iraq is on the verge of a devastating war from which no one will emerge unscathed, unless the project of Muqtada Al-Sadr, Masoud Barzani, and Muhammad Al-Halbousi is defeated … and if necessary, I will attack Najaf,” Al-Maliki is heard declaring in one of the many recordings, whose authenticity he disputes.

He even claims the British are behind a conspiracy to place Al-Sadr in charge of Iraqi Shiites and then assassinate him, paving the way for the restoration of Sunni rule over the country




Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr is depicted in a placard during a collective Friday prayer in Sadr City, east of Baghdad, on July 15, 2022. (AFP)

The recordings, released by journalist and activist Ali Fadhel, appear to be at least two months old since they refer to the tripartite Save the Homeland parliamentary coalition — consisting of the Sadrist Movement, Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Halbousi’s Progress Party — that competed against the pro-Iran Shiite parties under the umbrella of the Coordination Framework, of which Al-Maliki’s State of Law is a part.

Al-Sadr ordered all 73 of his MPs to resign in mid-June after months of trying to form a majority government without the Framework, which favors another consensus-type government that has been the norm in post-2003 Iraq.




The audio recordings, released by Iraqi journalist and activist Ali Fadhel on Twitter, appear to be at least two months old. (Twitter screenshot)

The mass resignation of the Sadrists brought an end to the Save the Homeland alliance and the prospect of a majority government in Iraq along with it.

The Framework has been negotiating the formation of another government with the remaining parliamentary blocs ever since.

Iraq held early parliamentary elections in October 2021 but still has not been able to form a new government. The country is currently governed by a caretaker government led by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the incumbent prime minister.

INNUMBERS

39.3 million Population of Iraq.

3.9% GDP growth rate (PPP).

12.8% Unemployment rate.

$708.3 billion GDP size (PPP).

Source: The Heritage Foundation (2021)

On the surface, Iraq appears on the verge of more instability. The Sadrists are out of Parliament and back on the street, where Al-Sadr has repeatedly demonstrated his capability of swiftly mobilizing hundreds of thousands of devoted followers, most of them poor and angry with the political elite.

The political deadlock in Parliament continues, and the prospect of forming a new government remains distant despite the passage of about 10 months since the last election. Now, Al-Maliki’s incendiary pronouncements have been added to the mix.

Is Iraq at risk of severe conflagration, or even a civil war of some kind, if this state of affairs persists?




Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group escort a funeral procession in Baghdad on Oct. 26, 2019. (AFP)

“Al-Maliki’s comments seem to point towards him believing things would escalate to possible street clashes, which have happened before between Shiite factions,” Joel Wing, author of the “Musings on Iraq” blog, told Arab News.

Wing believes the recordings are authentic, noting that only Al-Maliki and his allies have claimed otherwise.

He pointed out that the Framework has already resorted to political violence since the October election, including bombing the houses and offices of rival political parties. A series of rocket and drone attacks have also been carried out against Iraqi Kurdistan to pressure the KDP.

“The political parties are growing increasingly frustrated over not being able to form a government,” Wing said. “Al-Maliki’s comments just add more fuel to the fire, and his talk of political violence shows what lengths some leaders are willing to go to defeat their opponents.”

Wing does not see any sign that the present political deadlock will end anytime soon, which will only increase tensions and the possibility of armed clashes. Nevertheless, he is doubtful that the current situation will degenerate into an intra-Shiite conflict or civil war in Iraq.




An Iraqi protester lifts a giant flag of of the Hashd al-Shaabi during a rally to mark Al-Quds (Jerusalem) day on Baghdad's Aba Nawas street on April 29, 2022. (Sabah ARAR/ AFP)

“I don’t see a civil war coming, but the Framework and Sadrists have already resorted to violence, which could escalate given the current inability of the political parties to come to any compromises,” he said.

The political deadlock will likely persist given the continued failure of the Framework and Kurdish parties to select the country’s next president and prime minister.

A candidate for the presidency, a largely symbolic role in Iraq reserved for the Kurds, must be nominated before Parliament can elect the next prime minister. However, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan have so far failed to agree on a common candidate.




Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group escort a funeral procession in Baghdad on Oct. 26, 2019. (AFP)

Furthermore, as Wing pointed out, “there are deep divisions within the Framework itself over who should be prime minister.

“That’s the reason why there’s increasing talk about either having new elections or just keeping the present incumbent in office,” he said.

Wing’s opinion that the Al-Maliki recordings are authentic is seconded by Kyle Orton, an independent Middle East analyst. 

“The leaked recordings are indicative that Al-Maliki retains his belief in the legitimacy of political violence, which was the Dawa Party position since it was co-opted by the Iranian Revolution in 1979,” he told Arab News.

“Within Iraq, this is not so unusual a position: Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, many in the political elite have done politics by day and terrorism by night.”




The audio recordings, released by Iraqi journalist and activist Ali Fadhel on Twitter, appear to be at least two months old. (Twitter screenshot)

Orton too doubts the leaks could lead to “anything like a civil war” in the near future. On the contrary, he believes the main thing that “they show is that Iraqi politics is played within limits set by the IRGC (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

“This is a factional fight between Iranian clients, even if the game is being played a bit rougher than in the past,” he said. “But the IRGC controls the security architecture in Iraq, and its militias have the streets ultimately, so it will not allow a collapse of that kind.”

Summing up the situation, Orton said: “In terms of the outcome, again, the question really leads back to Tehran: Whether the Iranians are affronted by Al-Sadr overstepping the bounds or judge that Al-Maliki is too politically damaged by this to be viable.”

Unlike Wing and Orton, Nicholas Heras, the deputy director of the human security unit at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, believes that an intra-Shiite civil war is a strong possibility.




Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary group escort a funeral procession in Baghdad on Oct. 26, 2019. (AFP)

“Al-Sadr knows Al-Maliki hates him, with or without any new recordings,” Heras told Arab News. “Nouri Al-Maliki is the type of Shiite politician that Muqtada Al-Sadr has made a political career out of bashing for being out of touch with the needs of the Iraqi people, especially the Shiites.

“Iraq is on the verge of an intra-Shiite civil war. The situation in Iraq is too far gone, and the most tensions are among the Shiites.”

Looking to the future of Iraq, Heras said: “It is boiling down to a dispute between Al-Sadr and his allies and an entire range of Shiite politicians and their affiliated militias.

“The Kurds and Sunnis are, for all intents and purposes, bystanders to this looming conflict.”

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Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
Updated 18 August 2022

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
  • Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”

CAIRO: Nevin Al-Kabbaj, Egypt’s minister of social solidarity, met with Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of international development, to discuss cooperation in various fields.
Al-Kabbaj reviewed her ministry’s programs and activities, including those focusing on the rights of women and the disabled.
Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”
Al-Kabbaj expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the Canadian Embassy and the Canadian Development Agency to support development in Egypt and her ministry’s economic-empowerment projects.


Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
Updated 18 August 2022

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
  • Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense

CAIRO: Egypt has sent five military transport planes loaded with tons of relief aid to Sudan, where floods have killed 77 people and injured more than 30.

A spokesman for Egypt’s military said the aid comes “in the framework of Egypt’s support and solidarity with the brotherly Sudanese people.”

The aid includes tents, blankets, foodstuffs, medicines and medical supplies provided by the defense and health ministries.

Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense.

Heavy rains usually fall in Sudan between May and September, a period when the country experiences flash floods that damage housing, infrastructure and crops.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 38,000 people across Sudan have been affected by rains and floods since the start of this season.


Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid
Updated 18 August 2022

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid

Morocco: 13 migrants sent to prison for Spain crossing bid
  • At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede
  • The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described the ruling as a “very harsh verdict”

RABAT, Morocco: A Moroccan court has sentenced 13 migrants, mostly from Sudan, to 2 and a half years in prison over a mass attempt to scale the border fence separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
The decision Wednesday in the northern Moroccan city of Nador was the latest — and toughest — ruling handed down after dozens of people were arrested for the June 24 crossing attempt. At least 23 died that day in what Moroccan authorities called a stampede, as hundreds of people stormed the fence in a desperate bid to reach Europe.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights described Wednesday’s ruling as a “very harsh verdict which shows how the judiciary was mobilized in the service of migration policies at the expense of asylum-seeking migrants.”
The 13 were convicted of various charges including illegal entry into Moroccan territory, violence against public officials, armed gathering, disobedience and joining a gang to organize and facilitate clandestine immigration abroad and arson. The court also ordered each of the defendants to pay 1,000 dirham (nearly $100).
Most of the 13 were from Sudan, and others were from Chad and South Sudan, according to activists who followed the case.
Last month, another Nador court sentenced 33 people to 11 months in prison over the June 24 crossing attempt. That court also sentenced 14 people earlier this month to eight months in prison in the same case.


Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say
Updated 18 August 2022

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say

Israeli forces kill Palestinian in West Bank clashes, medics say
  • Witnesses said the clashes erupted when Israeli forces arrived to guard Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph’s Tomb
  • Palestine Red Crescent: Four Palestinians were shot and one of them was killed

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in predawn clashes in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday, Palestinian medics said. The Israeli army said he was armed and shooting at soldiers, something the Palestinians denied.
Witnesses said the clashes erupted when Israeli forces arrived to guard Jewish worshipers visiting Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish shrine that has been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Four Palestinians were shot and one of them, an 18-year-old, was killed, the Palestine Red Crescent said. At least 30 Palestinians were wounded in all.
Later in the day, in a separate development, Israeli security forces raided seven non-governmental organizations in the West Bank, confiscating computers and equipment before sealing off the entrances, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.
This followed a decision by Israel to designate the groups as terrorist organizations, accusing them of funneling donor aid to Palestinian militants, a move that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and human rights watchdogs. The designation was ratified on Wednesday.
Nine European Union states have said they would continue working with the groups, citing a lack of evidence for the Israeli accusation.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterated Israel’s position that the organizations had operated undercover to serve the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has carried out deadly attacks on Israelis and is on US and EU terrorism blacklists.
“They also assist in raising funds for the terrorist organization via a variety of methods that include forgery and fraud,” Gantz said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, said on Twitter that the “storming of civil work institutions ... is a dangerous escalation and is an attempt to silence the voice of truth and justice.”
“We will appeal to all official international bodies and human rights institutions to intervene immediately to condemn this occupier behavior and place pressure on them to reopen the institutions and to be able to exercise their activities freely,” Sheikh said.


Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 

Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 
A few days after the video was shared, Rashno disappeared. (Social Media)
Updated 18 August 2022

Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 

Iranian activists stand with woman jailed over hijab rule in viral video 
  • The video expresses their solidarity to Sepideh Rashno, the 28-year-old Iranian writer and artist who was arrested for refusing to wear a headscarf

A video posted online by a group of Iranian female activists supporting a woman, who was arrested for violating Iran’s mandatory hijab rule, has gone viral days after she was seen confessing to the crime allegedly under duress, Radio Farda reported on Wednesday. 

Prominent Iranian activist Masih Alinejad shared a video online on Aug. 16, in which she and other female activists recited a poem entitled ‘The Confession’ by an anonymous poet. 

 

The poem expresses their solidarity to Sepideh Rashno, the 28-year-old Iranian writer and artist who was arrested on June 15 after a video of her arguing with another woman over her refusal to wear a headscarf was posted online. 

Mooniter, the pseudonym of one of the female activists who participated in the video to support Rashno, said the poem was aimed at “raising the voices of women like Sepideh” and “women and people who have been taken hostage in Iran,” according to Radio Farda. 

Rashno was riding a bus in Tehran without a hijab when a stranger took a video of her and threatened to send it to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Radio Farda reported.  

A few days after the video was shared, Rashno disappeared. Iranian state television then aired a clip of Rashno’s “confession” on July 30 where she appeared to be in a poor physical state, the report added.

The 28-year-old had allegedly been beaten prior to appearing on TV and was later hospitalized immediately after confessing to breaking the hijab law, according to reports.