Felicity Arbuthnot UNObserver & International Report 1/04/08

The cynic might think the timing of Iraq “Prime Minister” Nuru al Maliki’s rush for treatment for his health in London was curious. Reports differ as to his affliction. One was that he was suffering from “mild exhaustion”. For most, a couple of early nights would fix that.

Then there were reports of a physical check up with emphasis on his heart. On Sunday (30th December) Mafkarat al-Islam reported, Maliki had been flown out, amidst rumours of his complete collapse after his third stroke in seventy two hours. (http://www.uruknet.info?p=39680 )

Whilst cowering in the Green Zone in Baghdad with its often daily mortaring by the resistance, knowing that to step outside would present an irresistible temptation for the nearest passer-by to kill you as a quisling traitor, would test the most lion hearted – and the malleable Maliki is certainly not that.

He left for London betwixt two potentially politically earth shaking dates. Two days after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, another staunch friend of the United States and Britain, her stance in defiance of the will of many of her country men and women – and the day before the first anniversary of the lynching of Saddam Hussein, whose execution warrant Maliki willingly signed, when even Iraq’s puppet “President”, Jalal Talabani, refused. He also signed those of Saddam Hussein’s half brother Barzan al Tikriti, former Judge Awad al Bandar and Vice President Taha Yassim Ramadan.

Saying there would be “no review or delay” of the sentences, he concluded of Saddam Hussein: “Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him.” Some anniversary.

Perhaps he reflected that a private army of five hundred failed spectacularly to protect Ms Bhutto, thus, in a spot of bother, would his private militia do any better – as across the globe, regimes seen as America’s friends are viewed by the majority of their compatriots as their enemies – and fair game.

To add to Maliki’s woes, 84% of Iraq’s Shia and 96% of Sunni, reportedly, want the United States and their army out of Iraq. Should they be forced out, the inhabitants of the Green Zone would near certainly suffer a similar fate as the last Nuri to be a puppet prime minister (under the British) dragged through the streets until there was so little left, he was referred to as shish kebab.

Maliki has added effortlessly to his towering unpopularity by recently cutting Iraq’s meagre food ration from ten items a month, to five, in spite of the $Billions Iraqi’s are told the United States had donated to their well being, which appears to have vanished from Bremer’s regime to Maliki’s. With seventy percent unemployment, this is condemning swathes of a nation, “floating on a sea of oil”, to potential death by starvation, debillitation and disease.

During the embargo, when the food ration was cut, in a bleak era where all seemed to be collapsing, I was in a car with a friend who interpreted for me; the radio was on. Suddenly the driver pulled the car over to the side of the road and she and he looked at each other clearly stunned. Tears started to drip on to her immaculately arranged hijab, silently, soblessly, streaming down her face. “This is disaster, this is disaster”, she repeated over and over. The rations had been halved.

She taught at Baghdad University. The driver was also an academic. Both were working for extra money, to survive. Then, as now, a high proportion of the population existed on the food rations which, with care, lasted between twenty and twenty five days a month. This, in a country where, prior to the embargo, food was so cheap and plentiful that obesity was a health problem. Rations, as inflation became stratospheric, were so vital to survival, that families then – as now, no doubt, often did not report a death. It meant losing the extra rations; thus guilt was also heaped on unbearable grief.

During the embargo, however, the food distribution was praised by the United Nations as uniquely efficient. Now it is reportedly not alone inefficient and inadequate, but used as a coercive tool by the “government” of the man who has been spirited away for special treatment in London, as those he is supposed to represent die from both simple and complex ailments, through lack of equipment and pharmaceuticals, which his Health Ministry seem unable to either acquire or deliver.

Further, under his watch, militias allegedly with close ties to his government, have routinely pulled the sick from their beds, ripping life support and drips from their bodies and taken them to their execution.

Nevertheless, Maliki is spirited to London to either have a sleep, or be treated in intensive care in the best facility money can buy ( with Iraq’s money? It should be asked) as even the few in Iraq who have the money to leave for treatment, mostly dare not have a relative enter the relevant Ministry for an exit visa or correct passport, for fear they are never seen again.

In any case, few countries will take them, Iraqi passports are now shunned by most.

Maliki allegedly travels on a western passport.

Maliki of course did not recently become a quisling. He moved to Iran in 1980, backing Iran against his country during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). Indeed, he was sentenced to death by Saddam Hussein for his involvement in the pro-Iranian Dawa party, which had moved its headquarters to Tehran in 1979.

He subsequently moved to Syria, where he reportedly headed the party’s Jihad Office, sending in insurgents to Iraq to destabilise Saddam Hussein’s legitimate regime, whilst he sat in safety.

On 1st April 1980, terrorists from the Dawa party attempted to assassinate Tareq Aziz, still today, in spite of illegal imprisonment, Iraq’s legitimate Foreign Minister. In December 1981, Dawa were charged with blowing up the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut and in 1982, attempting to assassinate Saddam Hussein in the village of Dujail. Those responsible were tried under due legal process under Iraqi law, and sentenced to death. Saddam Hussein was lynched under America’s watch and instigation, just one year ago, after a kangaroo court “trial”, to shame even kangaroo courts, for the attempt on his life at Dujail.

In 1983, the Dawa party were held responsible for the bombing of the French and American Embassies in Kuwait, along with Kuwait Airport and the country’s largest oil refinery. In 1987 they were charged with a further attack with intent to kill, on Saddam Hussein’s motorcade and also that year, with an attack on his elder son Uday. Jamal Jafaar Mohammed, one of those involved in the Kuwait attack, became a member of Maliki’s “government”. Maliki still heads the Dawa party, which any government legal advisory, but America and Britain’s, would surely think a mind bending conflict of interest.

In spite of the above woeful acts of terrorism, the American administration has removed the Dawa party from it’s list of terrorist organisations, in their demented “war on terror”.

Maliki subsequently also joined with the CIA-funded Iraqi National Congress, headed by convicted embezzler Ahmed Chalabi. In spite of his stark links to terrorism, in the perception of most, Maliki was endorsed as Iraq’s “Prime Minister”, from December 2005 to 2010, with the blessing of the United States, Britain and the coalition of the coerced.

Dawa’s especial anathema is secularism. Thus has the U.S. invaded the most secular, non-fundamentalist nation in the Middle East and ushered in, at the top, crazies who behead women for not wearing a headscarf or abaya and have terrorised them away from their professions, work or studies.

The cynic might wonder if quislings run in the Maliki family. His grandfather, Muhammed Hasan al-Mahasin, was Minister for Education under the British imposed King Faisal 1 (of whose inauguration, Gertrude Bell wrote: “At last we have crowned our little king.”)

When he returned to Iraq, in 2003, after the illegal invasion, with his militia army, Maliki became deputy leader of the of the Supreme National Debaathification Commission of the interim “government”, assisted by his pals from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Nearly every professional in the fabric of Iraqi society was fired, if not killed, beheaded or drilled to death with electric tools. This included teachers, accused of having their hands covered with blood. One teacher, Sihama Khalaf, responded: “My hands are not stained with blood. They are stained with chalk!” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59279-2005Feb3.html)

The Ba’ath party aspiration, since its foundation, has, of course, been the entirely legitimate one of a pan-Arab State, the parallel, but far earlier, ideal as the aims of European unity – a pan-European State. The region of the proposed pan-Arab State even all speak the same language, unlike Europe.

However, back to Maliki’s ill health, minor or major. His flight (in both senses of the words) has come at a time when America’s administration, never one to stand by its puppets when they fall short, has been openly mooting Maliki as an expendable political pigmy. Kurdish official, Mahmoud Othman, has dubbed 2008 “the year of Maliki’s government’s downfall”. His “parliament” seems to be rapidly unravelling. Further, as the U.S. trumpets the success of the “surge” and the fall in Iraqi deaths in 2007 and Maliki gives lip service to his masters’ voices, reality is that for 2007: “18,610 Iraqis were killed. In 2006, the only other full year an AP count has been tallied, 13,813 civilians were killed.” (Jordan Times 1st., Jan 2008.) The figures were civilian only and did not count resistance or other deaths.

So, what is the truth of Iraq’s “Prime Minister”’s London visit?

It has to be said that there is a certain similarity to the spiriting out of Najav of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to London, in August 2004, with a “serious heart condition”. He got out just ahead of the American pounding of the holy city, the bombing of the world’s largest cemetery, sacred to Shi’a Muslims across the globe and damage to the Imam Ali Shrine, next in sanctity to Mecca and Medina.

Sistani, it transpired, had come to London for a rest, not treatment for a heart ailment. When the coast was clear, he flew home, clean-handed and somehow free from the label of collaborationist.

Will Maliki fare so well? There are no reports of him in hospital; a number of unverified reports of his being seen dining in Iranian restaurants in London and one astute Iraqi analyst who misses little, says he has come to “check his investments” and to “speak with British and American officials”.

Given the reports of his forthcoming demise as Prime Minister (or even actual demise, given the contempt in which he is held by most Iraqis) there is one other possibility: that like Judge Aref Shahin, who upheld the death sentence on Saddam Hussein, he has fled here ahead of the posse and plans to request asylum. There are no certainties, except that his days as puppet “Prime Minister” are definitely numbered.

It seems the only item he has retrieved since his return to Iraq, is his name. In common with so many others who came in with the US and UK tanks, they had either changed their names or retrieved them. Whilst in Syria, Maliki went by the pseudonym of Jawad al Maliki. in May 2005, he reverted to his given name of Nuri al Maliki. Here’s hoping he wasn’t tempting fate.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq, her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior researcher for John Pilger’s award-winning documentary, “Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq” and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of “Baghdad” in the “Great Cities” series, for World Almanac Books (2006).