Iraqi PM's refusal to step down increases risk of fighting between
Shia militias in Baghdad
By Meda Al Rowas, Senior Middle East Analyst, IHS Country Risk
Iraqi security units loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were deployed in
Baghdad today (11 August), at locations including the entrances to the
capital and the Green Zone, while key bridges and roads within the city
were cordoned off. The deployments came after Maliki referred Iraqi
president Fouad Massoum to the Supreme Federal Court (SFC) for his
refusal to recognise Maliki as the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc
and appointing him as prime minister. The SFC issued a verdict earlier
today that Maliki's State of Law Coalition (SLC) is constitutionally the
largest parliamentary bloc. However, the SLC is currently divided and has
not yet put forward a candidate. In another development on 11 August,
Muqtada al-Sadr, a religious, political, and militia leader opposed to Maliki,
warned that an attack on Baghdad by Islamic State militants is imminent.
He called on his Peace Brigades militia, formed in June and currently
tasked with protecting Shia religious shrines in Samarra, to take up similar
duties in Baghdad.
Maliki is increasingly likely to use force to protect his political position, even
if the SLC opts to name another candidate for the premiership. Maliki has
consolidated control over the security apparatus by establishing extra-
constitutional security bodies and creating a direct chain of command from
commanders to his office. This increases the risk of Maliki's rivals, who
have access to their own militias, using force to attempt to remove Maliki,
raising the risk of Shia vs. Shia infighting within the capital, and
subsequently civil war risks affecting southern provinces such as Basra,
Najaf, Karbala, and Maysan. De-escalation pathways include Maliki's rivals
endorsing a third Maliki term and Maliki voluntarily stepping down or being
forced out by his own coalition. At present, none of these de-escalation
pathways appears likely.
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