Sunday, October 15, 2006


Sunni politician seeks to replace Maliki's government

Iraq's fragile democracy, weakened by mounting chaos and a rapidly rising death toll, is being challenged by calls for the formation of a hardline “government of national salvation”. The proposal, which is being widely discussed in political and intelligence circles in Baghdad, is to replace the Shi’ite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, with a regime capable of imposing order and confronting the sectarian militias leading the country to the brink of civil war. Dr Saleh al-Mutlak, a prominent Sunni politician, travelled to Arab capitals last week seeking support for the replacement of the present government with a group of five strongmen who would impose martial law and either dissolve parliament or halt its participation in day-to-day government.
Other Iraqis dismissed the idea that a unilateral change in the leadership would be desirable or even possible. Any suspension of the democratic process would be regarded as a severe blow to American and British policy.
Anthony Cordesman, an influential expert on Iraq at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said there was a “very real possibility” that Maliki could be toppled in the coming months. “Nobody in Iraq has the military power to mount a traditional coup, but there could be a change in government, done in a backroom, which could see a general brought in to run the ministry of defence or the interior,” Cordesman said. “It could be regarded as a more legitimate government than the present one as long it doesn’t favour one faction.”
This weekend Mutlak, who leads the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, the fifth largest political group in the national assembly, vowed to press ahead with his plans. “Maliki must step down. He has done nothing up to now. Hundreds of Iraqis are being killed almost daily and thousands are being removed from their homes in sectarian purges, and he takes no action.” The main focus of a new regime, Mutlak said, would be to bring security back to Iraq by “cleaning out” the ministries of defence and the interior, widely seen as having been infiltrated by sectarian militias. He said he had the support of four other parties including al-Fadila, a Shi’ite party based in Basra.

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