Resigned Iraqi Official Criticizes Maliki’s Power Grabs

Reshuffling of Iraqi government positions exemplifies partisan power plays and corruption

Just days after resigning as head of Iraq’s Integrity Commission, Raheem Uqaili has written an open letter in which he unleashed scathing remarks about Iraq’s government. He blamed interference and apathy from the government as the reasons he resigned from his post. The letter was sent to his former commission and copied to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies.

Despite pleas from the corruption watchdog to keep Uqaili as head, Maliki accepted his resignation on Saturday. Uqaili’s detractors, meanwhile, noting his alleged ineffectiveness, think he should have resigned much sooner.

M.P. Sabah Saadi, who is a former head of the Integrity Commission, however, charged Maliki with forcing Uqaili out as current head. He claims that Maliki wanted Uqaili to open false dossiers implicating political rivals, such as Ahmed Chalabi and Jawad al-Bolani. For months, Saadi has warned of an oncoming dictatorship and was highly critical when Maliki assumed control of the Integrity Commission and other formerly independent institutions.

There could also be a grain of truth in Saadi’s claims. According to a leaked U.S. cable, Bolani and Maliki have been at odds since Bolani formed his own party to unseat Maliki. Since their falling out, Maliki has certainly used his power against his rival.

Bolani had been the head of the Interior Ministry until late last year when a Maliki-picked cabinet reshuffled the ministry posts. In the absence of an approved nominee, Maliki assumed the role of Interior Minister. Last month, under a power-sharing deal that has not been fully implemented, the Iraqiya party nominated Bolani for Defense Minister, another role that Maliki assumed. Instead, the Maliki government swapped Sadoun al-Dulaimi out from the culture ministry to fill the post.

As for Chalabi, who at one time was nominated to replace Bolani as Interior Minister, he has not fared much better. As recently as last year, Chalabi greatly helped Maliki, by eliminating election rivals via his de-Ba’athification Committee. But their long-standing rivalry culminated in a complete falling out just months later.

In June, Maliki, purportedly, had gone to ask for a loan at the Trade Bank of Iraq, which was run by Chalabi’s nephew. When Hussein al-Uzri asked for a government guarantee, an enraged Maliki began to make corruption accusations. Uzri fled the country, and a week later Chalabi was out of his job too, complaining that Maliki ignores other corruption cases in order to carry out his “political vendettas.”