By Gavin Jones, Director of Iraq Business News, and Partner at consultancy firm Upper Quartile. This article was originally published on the Emerging Economics blog. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Last week hundreds of people were arrested all over Iraq in an operation launched by the security forces against members of the Ba’ath party. Fair enough – it is a banned Party. However the authorities have used the membership list of the old party to find the people worth arresting, and claimed that the Party had revived its old structure.
The crackdown came a few days after Barack Obama announced that U. S. forces will pull out from Iraq by the end of 2011 and the sweep was one of the biggest of its kind in post—war Iraq. Iraqi officials introduced it as a pre-emptive strike against a sneaky plan by the pesky Ba’athists to overthrow the government. However this has not rung true and has just heightened tension throughout the Government. It was reported that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a verbal encounter with one of his Deputy Prime Ministers — Saleh al-Mutlaq — over the issue during a cabinet session. He needs to be careful as he is losing the trust of Deputy Prime Ministers more quickly than he can replace them.
For months the Iraqi parties debated whether they should ask U.S. forces to stay or not. The Kurds were for the extension and Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was against – with the rest of Iraq’s leaders looking for political advantage before choosing sides.