Books on Iraq
24,001,816 (July 2002 est.)
Iraqi dinar (IQD)
Update No: 043 - (28/11/06)
Deadlines for Al-Maliki?
Maliki has been fighting with the US embassy as well lately, accusing it of
maintaining a patronising tone and warning the US ambassador to respect Iraqi
suzerainty. It is not clear whether Al-Maliki was reacting to rumours that the
US might be looking for alternatives to a Shiite-dominated government. The
apparent keenness of the Americans to set deadlines for the government to
achieve certain goals, such as disarming the militias, had led to speculation
that Al-Maliki might be forced to resign if such deadlines were not met.
Whatever the case, Al-Maliki seems to feel under pressure: at the beginning of
November Prime Minister Maliki confirmed that he plans a major reshuffle of his
government. It is expected that 7-9 ministers will be replaced. The heads of the
Ministers of Interior and Defence are widely expected to be among those rolling.
Although Al-Maliki has been intensifying the efforts to discipline the
militias and purge them at least in part from the security apparatus, his
success has been limited. Despite some purges, it is still estimated that
militias account for 70% of the police force. Al-Maliki is known to have
confronted his political patrons in the Shiite alliance with the need to rein in
the militias and a consensus seems to be slowly emerging that the militias have
gone too far. Unfortunately, it might be too late as the political leadership of
the factions seems to have lost control over many of the militias. In
particular, it appears that Muqtada as-Sadr faces great difficulties with large
groups of his loyalists, who have largely infiltrated the police. The attempt to
coopt him into the government in order to mollify his radicalism has in a way
worked. He is now part of the establishment and preaches against sectarianism,
but he has not been able to carry all of his followers with him. Sadr's attempt
to discipline his forces and mould them into something more similar to Lebanon's
Hizbollah is clearly failing. He has established new training courses for his
cadres and has been sacking those who were not willing to follow the new line.
However, these rejects have still the option of going it alone and they do.
There are now just in Baghdad 23 different Shiite militias. The trend is
difficult to reverse because the militias are actually popular within their own
communities, as they offer protection and even some benefits while at the same
time preying on other communities. Not only the militias are involved in
intra-sectarian fighting, but they are also beginning to fight fellow
coreligionists, with SCIRI and Sadr's groups being the bitterest enemies.
Economic mismanagement continues
The population has more reasons to be unhappy than the violence alone.
Inflation has been seriously eroding the purchasing power of the ordinary
Iraqis. Fuel and electricity prices have gone up 270% since the invasion, tea
400%, eggs 200%. The health service is in deep crisis because of financial
mismanagement and corruption and because 18,000 physicians have fled the country
since 2003. Corruption is another source of discredit for the government. A
current estimate is that government corruption accounts for 10% of GDP yearly.
Corruption goes so far that it contributes directly to the violence: an
estimated 14,000 weapons have disappeared from the government armouries,
presumably to end in the hands of the militias and of the insurgents. Theft is
not the only aspect of the decay of the Iraqi government. The government, filled
with cronies and political appointees, does not even have the capacity to spend
its own budget, so that this year an estimated US$8-10 billion will go unspent.