From top to bottom, Iraq reeks of corruption

What Iraqis received at the barrel of US tanks was not democracy but a Frankenstein’s monster of a democracy.

Dawafication. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (C), flanked by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (L) and Iraqi President Fuad Masum, attending a meeting of ambassadors in Baghdad. (AFP)

2017/07/30 Issue: 117 Page: 9

The Arab Weekly
Tallha Abdulrazaq

It is amazing that, in the modern information age, people are surprised when I provide them with hard evidence of the pervasive and destructive corruption that has festered in Iraq since democracy was rammed down Iraqis’ throats in 2003. People are so caught up with the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) that they are prone to turn a blind eye to the conditions that contributed to the rise of ISIS and Shia jihadist gangs.

What Iraqis received at the barrel of US tanks was not democracy but a Frankenstein’s monster of a democracy that would have more in common with a bad joke if it were not so devastating to the lives of normal Iraqis. In modern Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist dictatorship was replaced with an illusory democracy that has nearly enough of the same faces and the same names circulating positions of power, pilfering from Iraq’s riches as the people starve and suffer.

A case in point is Foreign Min­ister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. In June, Jaafari revoked the diplomatic status of 40 experienced Iraqi diplomats and ordered them back to Baghdad before sacking them. While it has been suggested that they were mostly Sunni Arabs, the key common ground among them was that they had no affiliation to the ruling coalition led by the Shia Islamist Dawa Party of Prime Min­ister Haider al-Abadi and sectarian pro-Tehran figures such as Vice- President Nuri al-Maliki.

The Iraqi Forces Alliance, a mostly pro-government coalition of Sunnis, issued a news release con­demning the move and saying the allegations against the diplomats were unrelated to their profession­alism. They said that the Foreign Ministry was being purged of civil servants, alongside the intelligence services, national security coun­cil and other key ministries and institutions.

In effect, what is happening in these key institutions of the state is a “Dawafication” process, in which nepotism leads to unquali­fied people being appointed to key positions. This Dawafication of Iraq’s power structures appears to be the inverse of the US-instituted and Baghdad-executed de- Ba’athification process, in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were stripped of their jobs and pensions usually on trumped-up charges of being part of the former ruling regime.

One can talk about a Dawafica­tion process but must also bear in mind that Iraq’s woes extend far beyond the Dawa Party. Among its chief allies is the Badr Organisation, led by known Shia jihadists such as Hadi al-Amiri. His men have not only infiltrated the Federal Police, including the Emergency Response Division whose atrocities were exposed by Der Spiegel in May, under the Interior Ministry’s command but Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji is a card-carrying member of the jihadist group.

Ironically, the Dawa Party and its allies are revealing themselves to be the new dictators of Iraq, despite claiming to have been at the spearhead of Iraq’s so-called liberation in 2003.

The removal of Saddam’s regime was touted as a kind of rebirth for Iraqis but the reality has shown that things have not improved. The situation in Iraq has become so unbearable, some people look back on the days of the Ba’athists with rose-tinted glasses.

As Kadhim al-Jubouri, a Shia Iraqi famed for taking a sledge­hammer to Saddam’s statue in 2003, told the BBC in July 2016: “Saddam is gone but in his place there are 1,000 Saddams.”

If there were ever an indictment of the post-2003 corrupt political order, it is this man’s words.

Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.

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