In an unusually frank interview with CNN today, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq warned that the nation is in dire straits politically, and that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is rapidly emerging as a dictator.
“The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship,” Mutlaq warned, adding that “people are not going to accept that, and most likely they are going to ask for the division of the country.”
The problem is not a new one, as since the last election Maliki has had no permanent defense or interior minister, giving him de facto control over the military and internal security forces. Mutlaq warned that leaving the government, often a threat of his Iraqiya Party, is no longer an option because his group might be labeled “terrorists” and arrested instead of bringing down the government.
“We are in a real problem. If we pull out of the government he will be left to do what he wants to do with us.” Yet Iraqiya, which won the largest number of seats in the last election, has almost no role in the day to day operations of the Maliki government, and basically serves as a rubber stamp for his continued rule.
Expressing “shock” at President Obama’s greeting of Maliki as “the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq,” Mutlaq warned that both the US and Iran have been treating Maliki as their puppet, but said Maliki is deceiving both and they will one day regret backing him.
Though his position has no real power, Mutlaq is arguably the most influential Sunni Arab politician in Iraq. Maliki previously sought to have him banned from running in the last election, arguing that he was a “Ba’athist.” The ban was eventually overturned.