Iraq's Embattled al-Maliki Deploys Militia Around Baghdad to Prepare for 'Coup'

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has deployed special troops to the streets of Baghdad and accused the newly-elected president of violating the constitution. 

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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deployed the country's elite security forces to the streets of Baghdad Monday in an effort to quell any attempts to remove him from his seat.

Maliki, who is determined to seek a third term, said newly elected president Fouad Massoum, has committed "a clear constitutional violation" and has accused him of carrying out "a coup against the constitution and the political process."

According to Maliki, Massoum delayed the selection of a prime minister past the Sunday deadline for political reasons and thusly violated the country's doctrine. He accused Massoum of blocking his own nomination for the post.

Later Monday, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the head of Iraq's National Shiite Alliance, said that the group moved forward with a nomination by selecting Haider al-Ibadi as an alternate to al-Maliki.

Witnesses told The Sydney Morning Herald that a tank was stationed near Baghdad's Green Zone, where many of the government's buildings are located.

"He was clearly anticipating a negative, possible coup-like response," a security expert in Iraq told the paper.

The tensions between Massoum and Maliki came to a head Sunday night when the latter announced his challenge in a fiery, televised speech just one day after President Barack Obama's remarks calling for governmental cohesion to fight ISIL.

"Once an inclusive government is in place, I’m confident it will be easier to mobilize all Iraqis against ISIL, and to mobilize greater support from our friends and allies. Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq," Obama said from the South Lawn. "The United States can’t do it for them, but we can and will be partners in that effort."

Maliki, who has been viewed as a major roadblock to unification and stability, has refused to listen to political rivals and allies alike who have tried to persuade him to step down.

“Iraq needs to finish its government formation process," said Secretary of State John  Kerry. “And our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”

The Obama administration is hoping that Maliki will finally listen to those calls to step down and that it will be done peacefully.

“There should be no use of force,” said  in remarks to reporters in Sydney Monday, adding, “no introduction of troops or militias into this moment of democracy for Iraq.”

What may be lost in diplomatic speak, an official State Department statement made it clear that the U.S. had broken all ties to Maliki.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement: 

The United States fully supports President Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi Constitution. We reaffirm our support for a process to select a Prime Minister who can represent the aspirations of the Iraqi people by building a national consensus and governing in an inclusive manner. We reject any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process.

In Baghdad, however, pro-Maliki citizens protested the measure. "We are with you, al-Maliki," shouted supporters while waving larger-than-life posters of the prime minister. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.