As we reported yesterday, the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has fired the electricity minister, Raad Shallal, following highly questionable energy deals conducted almost a year ago.
It was thought that the sacking may be politically motivated, because the minister had been appointed by a top rival to the prime minister.
Now the picture gets more complicated, as the prime minister’s own name, and that of his deputy for energy affairs, Hussein al-Shahristani, have been dragged into it.
The al-Iraqiya Coalition – the leading rivals to the prime minister’s own party, has accused all three men, and said that the prime minister is ultimately responsible, according to Aswat al-Iraq.
All three men had signed the “illusionary” $1.7bn contracts, but the prime minister. A statement from a representative said:
“If there had been any mistake in those contracts, they can’t be burdened by the electricity minister alone, because the mechanism of signing such contracts is discussed in the Energy Committee, led by Shahristany and after that they are signed by the minister and then raised to the Council of Ministers, to be discussed and signed by the prime minister.”
He continued: “The first person, behind the electric power crisis in Iraq over the past few years has been Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and if we want to burden responsibility for the crisis, the first official would be Maliki himself.”
The statement goes further to allege a different political cause for the dodgy deals, suggesting that they were faked to help Maliki consolidate his power at a time when his position was looking increasingly untenable: “Maliki wanted, through his announcement about the signing of the contracts to fool up the Iraqis that he was able to settle the electric power crisis, in order to suck-out the anger of the Iraqi street.”
Deputy prime minister Hussain al-Shahristani explained that at least one of the companies was a fake with no offices, no employees, no manufacturing equipment and it does not have the ability to carry out the work contracted.
He said: “These contracts damaged Iraq’s reputation, but this does not mean that key projects to build large plants will be affected.”
The sacking of the electricity minister must be confirmed by a simple majority in parliament under the Iraqi constitution.
(Sources: Aswat al-Iraq; Iraq and Gulf Analysis)