Maliki-Nujayfi Showdown in Mosul

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

In 2009, Mosul represented a promising trend for those hoping for rapprochement between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. Today, the city exhibits some of the tensions that could potentially create instability in the country unless more is done to create a solid parliamentary foundation for the second Maliki government.

Back in 2009, local politicians in Mosul opted to work with the Maliki government in terms of challenging what they saw as Kurdish encroachments on the northern parts of the Nineveh governorate. In calling for assistance from Baghdad, the Sunnis of Mosul were requesting the help of a Shiite-dominated army with the declared aim of restoring the territorial integrity of their province. In terms of national reconciliation, it arguably represented one of the more significant steps taken since 2003.

Today, something vastly different is taking place. A few days ago, a new police commander for Mosul, Mahdi Sabih al-Gharawi, was appointed by the interior ministry in Baghdad. This prompted immediate protests by the local council, and yesterday it adopted a consensus motion that expressed disapproval of the actions of the Baghdad government and instead appointed a previous deputy commander as temporary chief of police. Athil al-Nujayfi [Nujaifi, Najafi], the brother of parliament speaker Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya, has been leading the protests against Gharawi.

The subtext of the drama is as follows. The local councils complains that the newly appointed police chief is “not from the governorate.” (He comes from Shiite-majority Wasit.) Moreover, if one looks back at Gharawi’s past career at the interior ministry, it becomes clear that he was frequently accused of acts of torture and association with Shiite death squads during the dark days of sectarian violence in 2006. Against that backdrop, his appointment to Nineveh in the current climate comes across as particularly provocative.

Additionally, the legal procedures seem to have been subverted in this appointment too. It is unclear how Gharawi even became a candidate, since the provincial powers law of 2008 specifies a procedure in which the governor is to come up with 5 candidates, the governorate council limits the field to three and then the ministry in Bagdhad selects one. Today, the head of the security committee in Nineveh indicates that they have not been involved in selecting three suitable candidates so far.

Of course, the ministry of interior – which appears to have orchestrated these developments so far – is currently under the control of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who technically remains the deputy minister of interior. Waiting in the wings is probably Adnan al-Asadi, another Daawa operative who so far has been most successful in attracting support within the all-Shiite National Alliance as a prospective minister of interior. For these reasons, the Mosul appointment could serve as a warning about tendencies that may even grow stronger in the months and years to come. Demonstrations in favour of a US withdrawal have gained momentum in Nineveh lately, and the monster agenda recently adopted for next week’s parliament includes an item called the “law on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq”. In other words, absent any voices of moderation in the last minute, it seems as if both the central government and the people of Mosul are prepared to close their eyes and go ahead with requesting a full US withdrawal according to the SOFA – all in the name of an Iraqi nationalism that is in deep trouble in the real world of Nineveh politics.

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