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Maliki plans to carry bid for power to Iraq courts

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New York Times: Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Wednesday that he would press ahead in the Iraqi courts with his increasingly unlikely bid to retain power, and would not turn to the army. With so many political forces now aligned against Mr. Maliki, including the United States and Iran, and with his retreat from veiled threats to use force, the political crisis that has gripped Baghdad in recent days diminished in intensity.

 

The New York Times

By Tim Arango 

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Wednesday that he would press ahead in the Iraqi courts with his increasingly unlikely bid to retain power, and would not turn to the army.

With so many political forces now aligned against Mr. Maliki, including the United States and Iran, and with his retreat from veiled threats to use force, the political crisis that has gripped Baghdad in recent days diminished in intensity, though it has not been completely resolved.

In his weekly speech, Mr. Maliki said he was refusing to step aside because “we are defending the right of those who have voted” in the country’s election in April, in which his Shiite-led bloc won the most seats, though not a majority, in Parliament.

“They voted in difficult conditions, because they are aware that Iraq cannot be built unless the right people come to office,” Mr. Maliki said, referring to Iraqi civilians.

Mr. Maliki has argued that he has the right to be asked first by President Fuad Masum to try to form a new government, and that Mr. Masum acted unconstitutionally on Sunday when he nominated another Shiite politician instead. Mr. Maliki reacted angrily to the choice on Sunday and deployed extra security forces throughout the capital, Baghdad, raising the specter of a military coup. But it has become clear since that Mr. Maliki has lost much of his former support, both from political allies and on the Iraqi street.

The forces arrayed against him widened Wednesday when the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement of support for a new prime minister and new government. The ayatollah’s statement underscored that Mr. Maliki had lost the support of the Iranians, who have been important political power brokers in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was overthrown and the country’s Shiite majority gained power.

“God willing, by the appointment of the new prime minister of Iraq, the knots of the affairs will be united and the government will be formed and start its work and will give a good lesson to those who were and are going to make sedition in Iraq,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a meeting with Iranian ambassadors, according to a statement published on the leader’s website.

Mr. Masum’s nominee to replace Mr. Maliki as prime minister — Haider al-Abadi, a lawmaker with Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party — was put forward by a broad alliance of Shiite leaders, including many who had defected from Mr. Maliki’s Shiite bloc.

Now, a number of Shiite leaders, including Mr. Abadi, are trying to persuade Mr. Maliki to give way and accept a secondary position in a new government — perhaps as vice president, which would give him continued immunity from prosecution and a security detail, and would allow him to continue living in the relative safety of the capital’s fortified Green Zone.

But Mr. Maliki has insisted that Iraq’s federal court should first decide whether he or Mr. Abadi is the rightful prime ministerial nominee.

Analysts say that, practically speaking, the question is moot because Mr. Maliki has lost so much support that he would not be able to form a government even if given the opportunity. But given Mr. Maliki’s influence over the judiciary in recent years, the court could still decide in his favor, and thrust Iraq into another constitutional crisis that would further delay the formation of a new government.

Mr. Maliki concluded his speech on Wednesday by repeating what he had said on Tuesday, that the army should stay out of politics.

“As I have said earlier, the Iraqi Army is a military foundation and it will stay out of this political crisis,” he said. “Their main objective is protecting the Iraqi people, and the army has nothing to do with the current political situation.”

Mr. Maliki also placed his fight to remain in power in the context of Iraq’s escalating security crisis, and referred to the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June when it was overrun by Sunni militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

He said that if Mr. Abadi’s nomination was allowed to stand, Iraq would “witness worse damage than the Mosul events.”

Ali Hamza contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Thomas Erdbrink from Tehran. 

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