As Iraq Loses Ground to al-Qaeda, the Buck Stops at Maliki

MPs Boycott Parliament, Oppose Giving PM 'Emergency Powers'

When a war starts going south, there is usually a lot of passing the buck, from Interior Ministry to Defense Ministry to the head of state. The bad news for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is that he is all of the above.

For the past four years, Maliki has personally and continually held every single government ministry responsible for any troops or other security forces. Now, as his troops are routed time and again by al-Qaeda and a good chunk of the country has been lost, his obsession with centralization has put him in a precarious position.

There is no cabinet to reshuffle, and there are no ministers to fire. Maliki’s back is against the wall, and officials are blasting him for long-standing security failures, which at this point are adding up to a loss of a lot of territory.

Maliki’s instinctive response is to try to centralize even more, seeking “emergency powers” to cope with the situation. He’s not getting them, though, as major boycotts in parliament left him unable to call a quorum to even put the issue to a vote, and opposition figures, who have long accused Maliki of having dictatorial designs, see giving him such powers as incredibly dangerous.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of