Pointing out Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s turn towards dictatorship is no longer a fad for opposition members of parliament and voiceless Iraqi subjects. Now it’s so blatant that it’s recognized by everyone. Even the New York Times.
The Obama administration is moving ahead with the sale of nearly $11 billion worth of arms and training for the Iraqi military despite concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is seeking to consolidate authority, create a one-party Shiite-dominated state and abandon the American-backed power-sharing government.
The military aid includes things like advanced fighter jets and battle tanks and, as best I can tell, is in addition to the $82 million in arms and equipment the U.S. sent to Baghdad in October.
It’s true that Maliki has shown signs of solidifying some level of authoritarian rule, and it isn’t particularly new. He has circumvented Parliament, consolidated illegitimate power in a long trend of quasi-dictatorial behavior, harshly cracked down on peaceful activism, harassed and even attacked journalists that were critical of his regime, and has been accused of torturing prisoners in secret Iraqi jails.
In September, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement accusing Maliki of “building a new dictatorship.” That same month, Iraq’s head of the Integrity Commission Raheem Uqaili resigned and wrote an open letter accusing the Maliki regime of unutterable corruption and power grabs. Just this month, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq warned in a CNN interview that Maliki is “going towards dictatorship.” Less than a week later Maliki ordered Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tareq al Hashemi detained on trumped up terrorism charges, in a broader plan to marginalize Sunni authorities in government. Finally, former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi co-authored article in the New York Times this week, along with fellow Iraqiya members Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraq’s parliament speaker) and Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi, warning that Maliki is taking the nation down the path of “sectarian autocracy.”
In light of this, should we be surprised that Washington continues to send Iraq billions of dollars in aid and billions more in military weaponry? No, I don’t think so. In a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, US envoy Ryan Crocker noted in 2009 that Maliki’s turn towards more centralized rule is “in US interest.” Even after Obama’s attempts to extend large-scale military occupation were rejected, ongoing responsibilities after the withdrawal still include carrying out “two of the largest Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programs in the world and to spend the $2.55 billion in Iraq Security Forces Fund (ISFF).”
This is literally what it means to receive U.S. economic and military support in a strategically important region. How many foul, tyrannical, genocidal dictatorships does America have to avidly prop up for people to stop being surprised about it?