Iraqi militias and Iran 'back' Maliki over possible prosecution

Iraqi militias and Iran 'back' Maliki over possible prosecution
Iraq's parliament on Monday referred to the prosecuting authorities a report implicating former PM al-Maliki and other top officials with the fall of Mosul to IS last year.
5 min read
17 August, 2015
Maliki has been criticised for his devisive policies as PM [AFP]

Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces have threatened to revolt if the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is prosecuted for his role in the rout of Iraqi forces by the Islamic State group last year.

Figures from the pro-government militias have told al-Araby al-Jadeed Arabic that they might withdraw their fighters from all fronts in Anbar and Salah al-Din if the former prime minister is prosecuted.

The Popular Mobilisation Forces are fighting with the Iraqi army against IS, but are widely viewed as the government's most effective fighting force. There recent campaigns have also given them a reputation for ruthlessness and sectarianism.

A source close to the militia umbrella's leadership, who spoke to al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic service on condition of anonymity, said most armed factions of the militias have agreed to communicate this threat to the government.

Iraq's parliament on Monday referred to the judiciary a report calling for the trial of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and dozens of other top officials in connection with the fall of Mosul to Islamic State last year, two lawmakers said. 

Lawmaker Mohamed al-Karbouli said the vote in parliament was taken by a show of hands and passed by a majority. He said the report was now due to go to the public prosecutor and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has the right to refer officers for court martial. 


The prospect of Maliki being prosecuted has also sparked anger from Iran.

Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, has warned Iraqi Prime Minister of possible "consequences" if the former prime minister is brought to trial, according to al-Waie news.

Maliki had made a surprise visit to Iran that many observers saw as an attempt to circumvent Abadi's reforms.

Al-Waie has been accused of having links to Velayati, and said that the Iranian adviser has extensively contacted Iraqi leaders - including Supreme Islamic Council leader Ammar al-Hakim - over the past two days to "contain the political crisis" in the country.

One of Maliki's allies in parliament - Ali al-Murshidi - has criticised the investigation committee as unconstitutional, stressing its decisions are not binding on parliament.

Yonadam Kanna, a member of the investigation committee, said that the number of officials that could be prosecuted for the loss of Mosul is upwards of fifty.

Kanna also said the judicial investigation would be summoning others.

Failure findings

The parliamentary panel's report, the most drastic step yet taken by Baghdad to provide accountability for the loss of nearly a third of the country's territory to the Islamist insurgency, alleges that Maliki had an inaccurate picture of the threat to the northern city.

This is because he chose commanders who engaged in corruption and failed to hold them accountable, the panel found. 

The investigation found ex-premier Maliki and other officials responsible for the Islamic State group's capture of Iraq's second city Mosul in June 2014, in a report being sent for possible legal action, lawmakers said Sunday.

Various top commanders and political leaders have long been blamed for IS' disastrous takeover of the capital of Nineveh province, the investigative committee's report is the first time they have been named officially.

Committee member MP Abdulrahim al-Shammari said that Maliki, who was prime minister from 2006 until last year, was among those named, as did another member who declined to be identified.

The inclusion of Maliki's name - who is now vice-president - was a source of controversy on the committee, with his Dawa party pushing for it to be left out.

Various former senior officials were also named in the report detailing the committee's findings, which has not been publicly released.

An MP on the committee said these include defence minister Saadun al-Dulaimi, army chief of staff Babaker Zebari, his deputy Aboud Qanbar, ground forces commander Ali Ghaidan, Nineveh operations command chief Mahdi al-Gharawi and the province's governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi.

The report was presented Sunday to parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi, who said it will be sent to the prosecutor general for legal action.

"No one is above the law and the questioning of the people, and the judiciary will punish those responsible," Juburi said in a statement.

Mosul takeover

IS launched a devastating offensive on 9 June last year, overrunning Mosul the next day and then sweeping through large areas north and west of Baghdad.

Multiple Iraqi divisions collapsed during the initial assault in the north, in some cases abandoning weapons and other equipment which the extremists then used to further their drive.

Maliki is widely viewed as having exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq with widespread discontent among Sunni Arabs. They say they were marginalised and targeted by Baghdad. This was said to have played a major role in aggravating the security situation in Iraq, culminating in the IS rout.

Maliki is also accused of appointing commanders on personal loyalty rather than competence, and was commander-in-chief of the armed forces during two years in which the Iraqi military did not carry out necessary training, leading to a decline in skills.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office announced that he had cleared the way for the military prosecution of senior commanders responsible for a military disaster in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad.

He also announced the removal of 11 of 33 cabinet posts Sunday, the first concrete step in a reform drive to curb corruption and streamline the government.

IS seized Ramadi in May, after government forces had held out against militants there for more than a year.

Abadi approved "decisions of the investigative commission on the withdrawal of the Anbar operations command and units attached to it from the city of Ramadi", his office said in a statement.

Those include "referring a number of the leaders to the military judiciary for leaving their positions without orders and contrary to instructions (and) despite the issuance of a number of orders not to withdraw", it said.

Abadi previously said that forces in Ramadi "had to resist, and if they had resisted, we would not have lost Ramadi".

And a senior British military officer in a US-led anti-IS coalition, Brigadier Christopher Ghika, said the city "was lost because the Iraqi commander in Ramadi elected to withdraw".

"In other words, if he had elected to stay, he would still be there today," Ghika said.