Corruption in Iraq is at an all-time high, according to a recent US government report, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is demonstrating increasingly authoritarian behavior, even as US support continues to flow to Baghdad.
The report, released Tuesday by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, in part investigated a recent decision by Maliki to fire the head of the Central Bank of Iraq, Sinan al-Shabibi.
“This peremptory and constitutionally questionable move occurred as an audit of the CBI’s foreign currency auctions surfaced. The audit purportedly found that perhaps 80% of the $1 billion purchased at weekly CBI-managed auctions was tied to illegal transactions, with the funds subject to those transactions potentially lost abroad to money laundering,” the report says.
“This development is symptomatic of a troubled year in Iraq,” it adds, “evidenced by increasing corruption, resurgent violence, deepening ethno-sectarian strains, growing apprehensions about the conflict in Syria, and widening divides within the coalition government.”
Special Inspector Stuart Bowen told The Cable that the firing may have been an attempt by the Maliki regime to consolidate more power in his government and to gain access to the vast money the bank held in reserves.
“The facts are that Governor Shabibi was widely respected around the globe amongst financial ministers for building up Iraq’s reserves to about $65 billion. And I did know from my discussions in Iraq there was some desire in Iraq to access some of that money for capital expenditure purposes and Shabibi had exerted a firm hand in preventing its use,” Bowen said. “The government of Iraq wanted to access some of those reserves.”
According to Ayad Allawi, the secular Shi’ite leader of the opposition Iraqiya bloc in parliament, Maliki’s US-trained and backed security forces have detained and brutally tortured more than 1,000 political opponents in secret prisons and denied them access to legal counsel.
US support for dictatorship and human rights abuses in Iraq is expected to continue, aimed at increasing Washington’s influence in the Middle East, following a fiasco war that inadvertently provided Iran with a new Shiite ally in neighboring Iraq.