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WikiLeaks: 2009-05-28: 09BAGHDAD1396: Parliamentary Actions Increase Tension with PM Maliki

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD1396: May 28, 2009.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 07:47 PM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD1396 2009-05-28 09:21 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #1396/01 1480921
O 280921Z MAY 09 ZDK
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001396 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/27/2029 
BAGHDAD 00001396  001.3 OF 002 
Classified By: DCM Robert Ford for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) SUMMARY: With the recent resignation of Iraq's Trade 
Minister following high-profile questioning by Parliament on 
corruption allegations, Parliament's budget maneuvers to 
restrict prime ministerial power, and indications that 
Parliament will continue questioning senior officials on 
corruption and malfeasance, Iraq's Parliament is emerging as 
an institution that can effectively check executive power. 
It also appears to be the latest arena for the high-stakes 
struggle between new CoR Speaker Ayad al-Samarraie and Prime 
Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Anti-Maliki personalities suggest 
that the Prime Minister accepted the Trade Minister's 
resignation to cut his losses but retaliated by ordering 
arrests of Sunni politicians in Diyala and asking Parliament 
to lift the immunity of Sunni Arab MPs.  Samarraie has 
clearly stolen some political momentum from Maliki, and 
Maliki loyalists fear Samarraie will methodically target the 
PM's allies in government in an effort to weaken the PM as 
national elections approach.   Maliki's concern over his 
weakened political position may affect his willingness to 
travel to Washington while Parliament remains in session. End 
Exercise of Oversight? 
2. (C) Efforts in the Council of Representatives (COR) to 
question ministers on corruption and malfeasance continue, 
led by the newly elected Speaker, Ayad al-Samarraie, and 
encouraged by those parties -- Sunni, Shi'a and Kurds -- that 
elected Samarraie to lead the COR just one month ago. These 
efforts led to the May 25 resignation of Trade Minister Abd 
al Falah al-Sudani (septel), following intense public 
questioning of the minister on corruption charges, and 
Parliament will persist in investigating senior GOI 
officials.  Several MPs described to poloffs the process of 
parliamentary questioning of ministers as "beautiful" and 
noted that such a display of "real democracy" against a 
government is unheard of in the Arab world.   Newly elected 
Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) Secretary General Osama Tikriti 
told us he had advised Samarraie to work with Maliki to 
ensure an effective anti-corruption agenda because it would 
be better for all of Iraq.  Tikriti said Samarraie and Maliki 
have had a "couple of meetings," although he declined to 
characterize them. 
3. (C) Many CoR members characterize Samarraie's leadership 
as strong, and applaud his handling of the process, although 
at least one (Sunni Arab) Hewar MP, Mustafa Hitti, suggested 
that Samarraie might be using the oversight card to 
strengthen the IIP.  Kareem Yaqoobi (Fadhila ) Shi'a) also 
said that Samarraie was handling the process well.  IIP 
members have indicated strong support for Samarraie, and some 
told us they favor an even more aggressive attack.  IIP MP 
Abdal Karim al-Samarraie (no relation to the Speaker), told 
poloff that it was time to hold more ministers accountable 
for corruption.  He insisted that Sudani's resignation was 
unconstitutional and said the CoR would pursue a 
no-confidence vote against him despite the resignation, 
insisting that Sudani be held accountable.  The Shi'a Islamic 
Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), in a May 24 statement, 
praised the COR's questioning of executive officials as an 
example of MPs' following their constitutional obligations. 
Dawa, Dawa Tanzim and some ISCI/Badr MPs, however, have 
expressed opposition to further debate on Sudani's 
resignation, suggesting a desire to put an end to the issue. 
Tit for Tat 
4. (C) During a May 23 meeting, the Prime Minister's 
Q4. (C) During a May 23 meeting, the Prime Minister's 
Political Advisor Sadiq Rikabi told Emboff that Parliament's 
anti-corruption efforts were directed at Maliki's State of 
Law Coalition.  He repeated this allegation to the DCM on May 
25.  Rikabi said that the ministers in line for questioning 
(Trade, Oil, Transportation) were Maliki coalition ministers, 
and that the questioning was a strong-arm tactic by Samarraie 
personally.  Rikabi and PM Chief of Staff Tariq Abdullah Nejm 
also told Emboffs that Maliki's planned trip to the U.S. 
might have to be delayed because the Prime Minister was 
reluctant to leave the country while this parliamentary 
debate was ongoing, presumably from concerns about increased 
parliamentary activity in his absence. 
5. (C) On the other side, Saifaldin Abdul-Rahman (strictly 
protect) an advisor to DPM Rafi Essawi and VP Tariq al- 
Hashemi told poloff that Essawi had recently hosted Maliki 
and Samarraie for a meeting.  During that meeting, Maliki 
told Samarraie that if he did not cease the questioning of 
ministers, Maliki would "go after his people."  Abdul Rahman 
said Essawi believes the arrests in Diyala of newly elected 
Sunni local officials (reftel) are retaliation for 
Parliament's actions.  On May 27 Samarraie described his 
BAGHDAD 00001396  002.2 OF 002 
meeting with Maliki to MNF-I POLAD.  Samarraie said the PM 
asked him to behave in the same way as (former Speaker) 
Mashadani and to stop questioning the Trade Minister. 
According to the Speaker, the PM said "we cannot always do 
things in a legal way," and "if you raise the stakes, I will 
raise the stakes."  Samarraie said he understood the PM to be 
warning him that if the questioning continued, Maliki would 
arrest people in Diyala.  Samarraie's office also confirmed 
to Poloff that the PM has asked the CoR to lift the immunity 
of seven to ten MPs (including seven Tawafuq members). 
6. (C) Among the wider CoR membership, there is a sense of 
tit-for-tat. PUK MP Friad Rwanduzi told EmbOffs May 21 that 
the PM's Advisors had threatened to call Kurdish ministers in 
for questioning.  Kurdish parliamentary leader Fuad Masoum 
(PUK/KAL) called their bluff, telling them that if these 
ministers were corrupt, the Kurds also wanted them out of 
Elections - and Ratcheting up the Stakes 
7. (C) Rikabi's comment about targeting Maliki coalition 
partners suggests that corruption will be an attractive 
election issue.  Among the parties jumping on the 
anti-corruption bandwagon, is Fadhila, which according to 
Yonadem Kanna (Assyrian/Rafidayn) and Ahmed Mofeedh, Chief of 
Staff to Da'wa CoR leader Ali Adib, is one of the most 
corrupt parties in Iraq.  Both insist that it is an election 
gambit by Fadhila, which did poorly in provincial elections. 
8. (C) The clash between Parliament and the Maliki-led 
administration is moving toward a pitched battle between the 
Iraqi Islamic Party and Da'wa, and perhaps a personal battle 
between Samarraie and Maliki.  Some Iraqi interlocutors - 
both MPs and their staff - have told poloffs that the current 
debate harkens back to the struggle during the Speaker's 
election.  Samarraie's marshaling of CoR opposition to the 
GOI during the budget debate identified him as a strong 
leader, in limiting the discretionary funding of the Prime 
Minister's Office, and opened a political space that the IIP 
has exploited since Samarraie's election as Speaker. 
Significantly, both the Kurdish alliance and ISCI have joined 
with the IIP to check Maliki. 
9. (C) Maliki appears to be responding, both in public 
anti-corruption efforts  (including the recent arrest of ten 
Trade Ministry officials) and his actions against Sunni 
political leaders (reftels).  He may fear a no-confidence 
vote in Parliament, although a more likely scenario is 
one-by-one targeting in the COR of Maliki loyalists to force 
the prime minister either to overreact or concede some 
political ground to rival parties.  Rikabi's comments likely 
indicate Maliki's nervousness about Samarraie's intentions. 
Whether Samarraie intends to methodically go after Maliki's 
government  or not, the fact that Maliki believes this will 
shape his future political maneuvers toward Samarraie and the 
IIP, and even his travel schedule.  End Comment. 


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