Maliki behind removal of Iraqi finance minister: analysts

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Iraq’s finance minister Hoshyar Zebari. File photo

ARA News

ERBIL – Iraq’s finance minister Hoshyar Zebari has lost a parliamentary vote of confidence, and lost his position on Wednesday. Analysts on Iraq suggest the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is behind it.

Lawmakers on Wednesday voted 158 to 77 against Zebari after a parliamentary inquiry last month into charges of corruption and misuse of public funds. Zebari denied the charges, and suggested it was a political assassination attempt.

Zebari, a member of the Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was the second minister to be ousted. Zebari is also Barzani’s uncle. Previously, Iraq’s parliament ousted Defence Minister Khaled Obeidi over corruption allegations, although the minister reportedly exposed corruption, and was close to the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

According to analysts, the ousting of both Obeidi and financial minister Zebari was a plot by Maliki’s anti-Abadi Reform Front.

“I know a guerrilla war when I see one, and Maliki is mounting a very effective political insurgency. Back on his clandestine home turf,” Michael Knights, a top Iraq analyst said on Twitter. “Maliki is mounting a counter-stabilization insurgency. The aim is to stymie progress on any front, build frustration.” 

“Zebari was an unmissable target b/c: KDP and relative of Barzani (bonus points). HZ was far from the worst minister,” Kirk H. Sowell, a political risk analyst based in Amman, Jordan, said. “We followed the case v. H. Zebari closely. It was a political play, mostly driven by Maliki. And they played up his Kurdish ID quite a bit.”

Most likely, the next target will be the Iraqi PM Abadi himself, although it will be more difficult to impeach a Prime Minister in Iraq. “There will be an effort to question PM Abadi. Note a true absolute majority (165 MPs) is needed to remove a PM. A minister, simple majority,” he wrote.

Iraq-analyst Joel Wing, who runs the popular Musings on Iraq blog, also confirmed it was a plot from Maliki.

“Maliki’s anti-Abadi Reform Front is behind ouster of both Def Min Obeidi and Fin Min Zebari,” he wrote on Twitter. But it was only possible to ouster Zebari due to internal divisions among the Sunnis and Kurds.

“Reform Front took advantage of Islamic Party/Jabouri – Mutahidun/Nujafi split [Sunnis] over Def Min & PUK/Gorran – KDP split over [Kurdish] Fin Min,” he said.

For over a year, the three main Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran (Change movement), and the KDP failed to reach an agreement over the post of the Kurdistan Region’s president, his constitutional powers, and his term in office.

Currently, Barzani is still the president, while Gorran and PUK now work together against the KDP. The Kurdistan Region’s parliament does not function anymore after Gorran politicians were expelled from government after being accused by the KDP of instigating violent protests. As a result, some Gorran and PUK politicians also voted against Zebari.

Patrick Osgood, the Kurdistan bureau chief of the Iraq Oil Report, said that the ouster of Zebari could endanger the Iraqi economy and IMF loans to Iraq.

“About $18 billion in soft loans, IMF program may hang in balance. Even by Iraqi standards, absurdly self-destructive,” he said.

The internal divisions post another challenge for the US-administration that wants Iraqis to focus on the fight against ISIS and cooperate for an offensive that is being soon planned on the city of Mosul.

reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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