Iraq in 2012, a Dictatorship Worse Than Saddam?

As the last US Forces pull out of Iraq before Christmas, this already troubled country sinks in even more violence and mayhem.

As the last US Forces pull out of Iraq before Christmas, this already troubled country sinks in even more violence and mayhem. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki whom President Obama earlier this month praised for "leading Iraq's most inclusive government yet", seem today to have only the neighbouring dictatorships of Iran and Syria as remaining allies.

On the day of Maliki's return from Washington, bodyguards of the prominent Sunnite Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi were arrested on allegations that they were involved in assassinations. Hashimi fled to Kurdistan and has refused to return to Baghdad. Maliki then called for his own deputy, Saleh Al-Mutlaq who had told CNN that Maliki was "biggest dictator ever", to be fired by the parliament. Mutlaq had accused him to be "worse than Saddam."

Iran's notorious terrorist Qods Force sent a delegation to convince Kurdish leaders to extradite Hashemi to Baghdad. An official close to the Prime Minister said that they are "contacting Iran to mediate over the Hashemi issue."

A week after Maliki's trip to Washington, as last US troops had left Iraq, coordinated bombings killed scores of people and wounded hundreds in central Bagdad during a morning rush-hour. A total of 16 detonations went off on that day, but not a single bomber or suspected explosive device was reported to have been detected, raising speculations that the pro-Iran Shiite government needed this "to settle scores with its Sunni rivals."

Even Iraqi Prime Minister's key ally, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has now called for dissolution of parliament and early elections.

In another development, Iraq finally backed down from its intention to close Camp Ashraf, home to 3400 Iranian refugees 60 miles north east of Bagdad by the year's end. Under international pressure, Maliki declared that the deadline will be extended six months on condition that several hundred of the residents leave Ashraf to a former US base near Baghdad airport before the end of December.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the UN and the Iraqi government on December 25 includes "a clear commitment from the Government of Iraq" that it is "exclusively responsible for the safety and security of the residents both during their transfer and in the new location."

Ironically on the day the MoU was signed, about 8pm local time, Katyucha rockets hit Camp Ashraf. The attacks repeated on the following nights.

Struan Stevenson, President of European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, who was involved in brokering the peaceful solution for Camp Ashraf, regretted the "inability" of the Iraqi authorities to honour their commitments under the MoU: "Unfortunately, during the past few days, Iraq has repeatedly failed to prevent missiles being fired at Ashraf from a near distance, despite it being in an area where Iraqi forces are patrolling day and night."

"These repeated acts of blatant terrorism, make a mockery of complaints about Ashraf being a threat to Iraq's sovereignty, when in reality it is the sovereignty of the Iranian regime that seems to be dominating Iraq."

More ironically when the UN complained to Iraq about the daily rocket attacks on Ashraf, they got a promise that "they will be stopped."And it did stop! So the level of coordination between Iraqi authorities and those who commit these terrorist acts continue to amaze observers.

A statement by the Iranian exiles in Ashraf said that as a first step, a group of 400 are ready "to move to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and moveable belongings on December 30."

The transfer, however, did not happen as Iraq seem to require that people do not carry more than a travel bag to the new looted camp which now lacks basic infrastructure and drinking water.

The fate of the refugees in Ashraf is far from clear. Maliki's growing internal isolation and the failing security situation in Iraq added to his improved contacts with the dictatorship in Iran, following the evacuation of the US troops will keep it a hot potato for the Obama administration in 2012.


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