Two weeks ago, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and both Vice Presidents Tareq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdel Mahdi issued a statement demanding that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suspend the so-called Support Councils. Today, Maliki announced that he will refuse the demand.
The Support Councils, which were designed to function similarly to the US-created Sunni Awakening Councils, are government-funded militias answerable directly to the Prime Minister. Kurdish officials have expressed growing concern in recent days over the notion of the Prime Minister having his own personal, government-funded militia operating independent of the nation’s security forces. Maliki has expressed doubt that the Support Councils count as militias, in that they don’t receive their weapons directly from the government.
Maliki’s position is likely to be tested in court, with President Talabani saying that he intends to take the case to the nation’s federal court to force Maliki to end funding for the militias. The case is likely to have serious political consequences for Maliki’s party in the upcoming elections of 2009. The perception is that Maliki is using the councils as government funded political auxiliaries meant to buy votes, a level of political patronage which may not sit well with voters.
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