Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Photo: AP
By ASO FISHAGY
BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is blaming opponents and allies alike for his government’s failures, accusing a deputy of giving him wrong information about power outages and charging that the Shiite Mahdi Army was behind the recent escape of prisoners from Baghdad jails.
In an interview with Al Iraqiya TV, a semi-official channel in Iraq that gathered Maliki and a number of Iraqi political commentators, the premier said that electricity blackouts across the country were not his fault.
“Hussein Shahristani, Iraqi deputy PM for energy affairs, has given me incorrect information about the level of electricity production in Iraq,” said Maliki, whose Shiite-led government has been adrift as attacks and bombings have risen dramatically, and the country’s large Sunni and Kurdish minorities no longer regard him as the man to lead Iraq.
“Unfortunately these mistakes happen at a time when the Iraqi PM has three deputies. Each deputy prime minister should have acted responsibly towards the problems of social services,” said Maliki, providing a glimpse into the turmoil and disunity inside his own inner circle.
In the same interview, Maliki blamed the fellow-Shiite Sadr Movement’s Mahdi Army for this month’s attacks on teahouses and cafes in Baghdad.
“The Mahdi Army is also involved in the escape of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons in Baghdad,” Maliki said. He described Wathiq Batat, leader of the Iraqi Hizbullah and the Mukhtar Army, as “insane.”
Maliki’s verbal attacks have shaken the Shiite alliance, provoking strong reactions.
Habeeb Tarfi, an MP of the al-Muwatin Movement bloc inside the Sadr Movement, said that the alliance would discuss Maliki’s accusations. He did not rule out that Maliki’s intentions behind the accusations was to create disunity among the National Iraqi Alliance (NIA).
“These statements of Maliki represent his own personal views. We decided to discuss them within NIA in the near future,” said Tarfi.
The strongest response came to Maliki’s statements came from Ameer Kanani, secretary general of the Sadr Movement.
“The NIA is not made up of Maliki alone. The alliance consists of many factions and groups. The only rebel in this alliance is Maliki’s State of Law, which does not abide by the directives of the alliance,” said Kanani.
“Maliki’s statements were inappropriate,” Kanani added. “These statements will drive the political groups to better consider whom they elect next time for the position of Iraqi PM.”
“Maliki is trying to escape from his failures in improving security, social services, foreign relations, and eliminating corruption. He even failed to provide Iraqi citizens with food rations, which Saddam succeeded in providing despite the economic embargo,” said Kanani.
“The next government will become the first independent Iraqi government after the withdrawal of the American forces, because the United States and Iran had their roles in appointing the Iraqi prime minister,” Kanan claimed.
“If Maliki becomes the PM again, Iraq will fall into division and civil war,” he charged.
Hashim Haboubi, Iraqi political columnist, said that Maliki’s attacks are related to the upcoming parliamentary elections.
“Maliki has no other option but to attempt to create excuses for his failures in politics, economy, security and social services,” Haboubi said.