Loss of Mosul threatens Iraqi PM`s hold on power

The disastrous loss of a large swath of the north to Islamic militants is threatening to cost Iraq`s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, his job.

PTI| Last Updated: Jun 14, 2014, 04:41 AM IST

Baghdad: The disastrous loss of a large swath of the north to Islamic militants is threatening to cost Iraq`s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, his job as even longtime Shiite backers turn against him and seek an alternative.

During a meeting of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish party leaders, one young up-and-coming Shiite politician angrily told al-Maliki that his "obsession with power" and botched policies were to blame for this week`s debacle.

"Now, I must leave. I have a meeting to go to," a seething Ammar al-Hakim, leader of a key Shiite party, declared before storming out of the session Wednesday night, according to a politician who attended and shared the exchange with The Associated Press in return for anonymity.

During his eight years in office, al-Maliki has touted himself as the only leader capable of safeguarding the Shiite domination won after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein — a Sunni — and defeating Sunni militants blamed for bombings and attacks against security forces and Shiite civilians.

Those claims have begun to sound increasingly hollow since December, when fighters of a breakaway faction of al-Qaida, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, captured the city of Fallujah in the mainly Sunni province of Anbar, as well as parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi. That put the militants just 30 miles west of Baghdad.

But it is the loss this week of Mosul, Iraq`s second-largest city, and Tikrit, Saddam`s hometown, along with vast territory in northern Iraq that could potentially herald the end of his tenure.

For years, the once-powerful Sunni Arab minority has complained that al-Maliki was marginalizing them and discriminating against their community, detaining thousands and turning a blind eye to abuses against them by his security forces.

His fellow Shiites complain that he restricts decision-making to himself and a small circle of confidants. The Kurds, who run a self-rule region in the north, have been at loggerheads with him over what they see as his attempts to meddle in their affairs and curb their freedom.

And the complaints are not restricted to Iraqi politicians.

Without mentioning al-Maliki by name, President Barack Obama criticized the Iraqi leader in an address yesterday from the South Lawn of the White House.