A new movement to oust Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is gathering force in Baghdad. And although the United States is counseling against this change of government, a senior U.S. official in the Iraqi capital says it’s a moment of “breakthrough or breakdown” for Maliki’s regime.
The new push against Maliki comes from Kurdish leaders, who, U.S. and Iraqi sources told me, sent him an ultimatum in late December. “The letter was clear in saying we are concerned about the direction of policies in Baghdad,” said a senior Kurdish official. He described the Dec. 21 letter as “a sincere effort from the Kurdish parties to help the government reform — or else.”
The Kurds are upset that Maliki hasn’t delivered on promises they say he made to them last summer, when he was trying to stave off an earlier attempted putsch. Maliki pledged then that his government would pass an oil law and a regional-powers law, and that it would conduct a referendum on the future of Kirkuk. None of these promises has been fulfilled, and the Kurds are angry.
The strongest anti-Maliki voice is Massoud Barzani, the dominant political leader in Kurdistan. Barzani agreed to back Maliki last summer after a personal telephone call from President Bush. Now, fuming about Turkish attacks across the border last month and the delay on Kirkuk, Barzani is on the warpath. [complete article]