With the stage set for a major parliamentary battle Sunday over efforts to ban nearly 500 candidates from March’s election, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cast US Ambassador Christopher Hill as the primary opponent of the ban.
Maliki has expressed outrage over a court decision to overturn the ban on opposition candidates ostensibly tied to Ba’athists, and says it was inappropriate for Ambassador Hill to praise the court on the move.
The bans came as a result of a secret list submitted by Ahmed Chalabi’s Justice and Accountability Committee (JAC), and the names of the candidates were never released, though top Sunni opposition MP Mutlaq and other members of Maliki rival and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s faction were among them.
Court opposition seems to have been based on the secret evidence against the candidates, but Maliki insists that the ban should be put back into place to show that Iraq “won’t bow to US pressure.”
US opposition to the ban seems mostly pragmatic: a threatened Sunni boycott of the election would do enormous damage to American claims of success in the nation. But that opposition might give the Maliki government fodder to convince parliament to restore the ban, if only to spite them.