The Iraqi opposition accused Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, yesterday of purging the American-trained security apparatus so that he could attain quasi-dictatorial powers.
Mr al-Maliki, who is facing a tough election battle, has dismissed three high-profile members of the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the fight against insurgent groups. He has also forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and replaced several police and army commanders in the last few weeks. The moves provoked outrage among political opponents, who worry about the rise of a new police state and accuse the Prime Minister of using the aftermath of last month’s massive bomb attack in Baghdad to make a power grab. The sacked officials are expected to be replaced by al-Maliki loyalists.
Maysoon Al-Damluji, a liberal MP, said: “We mustn’t forget what we went through under Saddam. Power should not be in the hands of a few. What we see now is the preparation once again for something sinister.” Mr al-Maliki says he is trying to improve the security services, but has not explained why he sacked the officials, who include Mohammed Shahwani, the head of Iraqi intelligence for five years, and Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, the operations commander of the interior ministry. [continued…]