Time for another round of “Maliki’s being replaced” rumors

posted at 3:53 pm on January 9, 2008 by Allahpundit

Every four months or so, almost like clockwork. The cast of characters never changes, either. The last round was in late August, when Iyad Allawi was lobbying Washington to knock Maliki out and re-install him as the great secularist hope. Before that, last May, word was Maliki was being nudged towards the door in favor of Iraqi VP and SCIRI honcho Adel Abdel Mahdi. Now here’s David Ignatius with the replacement rumor du jour, once again featuring Abdel Mahdi but this time with a power-sharing twist. This one’s special too insofar as it comes on the anniversary of the surge, which Harry “It’s Helped” Reid is marking with typical Democratic perspective.

The anti-Maliki forces would like to replace him with Adel Abdul Mahdi, one of Iraq’s vice presidents and a leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Mahdi’s supporters think they can muster the 138 votes needed for a no-confidence vote in parliament, by combining 53 votes from the Kurdish parties with 55 from Sunni groups and 30 from Hakim’s Islamic Council. Add another 40 votes from supporters of former prime ministers Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim al-Jafari, and you’re close to the two-thirds majority needed to form a new government…

The biggest obstacle to removing Maliki is the Shiite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is said to be frustrated with Maliki’s poor performance but wary of dividing the Shiite alliance. “Najaf [Sistani’s headquarters] is unhappy,” said one top Iraqi leader. But the senior U.S. official said he was “certain” that Sistani had not yet blessed any change of government…

Rather than dumping Maliki, the administration hopes to work around him, by operating through a coalition known as the “three plus one.” That group includes, in addition to Maliki, President Talabani and vice presidents Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi. “Our message to Maliki is that you can’t govern solo. You have to govern as part of a group,” says the second senior U.S. official.

Think of it as the inverse of Bush’s posture towards the Palestinians, where the undesirable elements in the government, i.e. Hamas, are politely ignored and Mahmoud Abbas is treated as though he has absolute power. You can’t freeze out Maliki the same way, not because he’s prime minister but because Talabani, the presumptive Abbas figure, is a Kurd and the Shiite majority would take exception to his being crowned de facto leader. Pay attention to the parliamentary coalition Ignatius describes, too. Who’s missing? Right — the Sadrists, SCIRI’s main rivals. I don’t know how they’d react if Mahdi took the reins of power and I can’t imagine anyone’s real keen to find out, especially since the Iraqi army supposedly includes plenty of JAM who might politely decline to have a SCIRI appartchik as their C-in-C. But here’s something that went up in headlines last week. Does Sadr have the inside scoop on the “three plus one” scenario or some other movement to replace Maliki and he’s trying to make nice with Mahdi and SCIRI before they take power?

Something to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, a huge nationwide anti-jihadi military operation is meeting little resistance according to the military. Quote: “Why now? Because we can. Baghdad is more secure. Anbar is more secure.” Be sure to read Totten today too on how Iraqis regard Al Qaeda. They don’t call it a death “cult” for nothing:

It may appear that some Muslims are being overly defensive by saying Osama bin Laden is not a real Muslim, but there is a solid case to be made that radical Islamism is, in fact, a totalitarian cult unhinged from the religion as it is actually practiced by the majority. It is they, after all, who blow up mosques in Iraq. I know of at least one mosque in Ramadi that is considered “blackened” because insurgents used it as a base. No one will set foot in it now…

When Mahmoud says Al Qaeda does not belong to Islam, he is not speaking theologically. I’m afraid Al Qaeda does belong to Islam if you look at it that way. But he is right that Al Qaeda does not belong to Islam as it is currently lived by the people in his community…

“The Al Qaeda organization has a core philosophy,” Ahmed continued. “When you join the Al Qaeda organization the first thing you have to do is get your parents far away from your mind. Your father and mother have to be away from your thinking. There can be nothing else. Only the Al Qaeda organization. Your kids, your wife, your family, your parents, your beliefs, all have to be out. Only then can you enroll in the Al Qaeda organization.”

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There is a current Jihadi campaign to blow up churches and convents in Iraq going on right now. The Iraqi Catholic Cardinal thinks they are trying to get the attention of the West.

bnelson44 on January 9, 2008 at 3:57 PM

Time for another round of Maliki’s being replaced Ngo Dinh Diem’ed rumors

MB4 on January 9, 2008 at 4:12 PM

Iraqi Prime Minister: Another look at Fred?

froghat on January 9, 2008 at 4:54 PM

Though it may not succeed this time, there is a quantifiable difference in that the Sunni block is at the table and they just signed a Memo of understanding with the Kurds.

The other members of the Anti-Maliki coalition want the Kurd’s oil deals negated. Maliki can’t please everyone, and backing out on promises to the Kurds this time could have them withdraw support in a vote of no confidence with the Sunni’s.

Unless the Shia can come together only someone willing to deliver laws friendly to a federal Iraq with an autonomous Kurdish region would stand a chance of forming a new government.

The Kurds benefit from the political chaos in Baghdad while a new PM is found and as the only truly functioning (albeit corrupt) government they continue to do business and make their case for a partitioned Iraq with a loose federal system with regional government empowerment.

Sunni-Kurdish tripartite alliance in Baghdad press
National – Anti-Maliki bloc against Iraq’s Kurdistan oil deals

BFBurke on January 9, 2008 at 7:01 PM

I have to disagree with Michael Totten quite strongly. In the last 60 years the Iraqi Muslims have run out of the country the Jews, the Christians, the Mandaeans, the Palestinians, the Armenians, the Bahai, Gays and Lesbians… Iraqis are quite capable, with no help from Al Qaeda, of acting radically like al Qaeda, on their own, under the full precepts of Islam. Someone should post what Totten said over at Jihad Watch to give Robert and Hugh a chuckle.

Mister Ghost on January 9, 2008 at 7:03 PM