In the week before Iraq's
election began, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad warned that Maliki and his
office "directed the removal" of security and intelligence officials,
including "some of the highest quality personnel" and "some of the most
experienced intelligence officers," over dubious allegations of ties to
the long-defunct Baath party. Maliki, the cables say, then replaced
those officials with "political officers" from Maliki's Da'Wa party who
"lack intelligence or related backgrounds." They cite "troubling"
concerns that Maliki's changes were designed "to eliminate internal
opposition in the run-up to the elections."
The purges and
political replacements targeted the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of
Interior (which oversees intelligence), the Iraqi Joint Headquarters
Intelligence Directorate, and the Iraqi National Intelligence and
Investigation Agency. Those agencies handle much of Iraq's internal
security and the ongoing battle against still-present sectarian and
terrorist groups, both roles that are increasingly important as the U.S.
reduces its troop presence. "The politically linked command changes are
corrosive to Iraqi Security Force command and control integrity and
unit readiness," a February 2010 cable from Baghdad warned. Maliki, they
say, was likely "trying to hedge post-election fall-out by seeding
security forces and intelligence services with allies."
officials are described as having dubious qualifications and making
negligible contributions to Iraqi security. "Many lived in Iran during
the previous regime where they may have received some intelligence
training," one cable notes. Some are thought to have forged their
education credentials. "Their contributions to intelligence work within
[Iraqi intelligence] appear limited thus far." They are described as
loyal to Maliki and his political party.
have not been limited to government ministries. In January, hundreds of
Iraqi politicians -- mostly members of Sunni political parties
competing with Maliki's party -- were banned
from running for office for their alleged ties to the Baath party. A
U.S. embassy cable from February details a meeting with two of the
banned politicians. One, the mayor of a town north of Baghdad, said
Iraqi officials told him that accusations against him would be dropped
if he agreed not to run for reelection. The second man, a Parliamentary
candidate, waved an old photo of him with former Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld to prove he was not a Baathist. According to the cable,
he "received numerous phone calls from a foreign source telling him to
pay up to $100,000 to get himself reinstated."
elections in March, Maliki's party managed to win 89 of 325 seats in
Parliament, two less than challenger Ayyad Allawi's party. But neither
party was able to organize a ruling majority coalition, deadlocking
Iraq's government for seven difficult months. In November, a
U.S.-brokered compromise kept Maliki as Prime Minister.
Image: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki votes in the March elections. By Ali Abbas/Getty.