On Monday, Michigan Democratic Party Senator Carl Levin–who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee–called for the removal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Levin–speaking after a press conference held following a recent trip to Iraq–declared the Iraqi government to be “non-functional” and said “I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government.” According to reporting in the corporate media, Levin has suggested that Maliki be removed within a matter of days if there is not a compromise between rival factions.
Juan Cole, a respected analyst on the Middle East at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has raised concerns that last time a new prime minister was chosen in Iraq, it took months to form a new government and that there are no obvious candidates to replace Maliki. Cole also raises the issue of whether or not Senator Levin–and by extension the United States–should even be intervening in Iraq’s internal politics. Regardless of what one thinks of the Iraqi government, the current government was elected via a popular vote and has some legitimacy based on this fact. Despite this, Levin has consistently advocated such intervention over the past couple of years (1, 2, 3), arguing repeatedly in favor of having some mechanism by which the Iraqis would be required to make “political compromises” at the behest of the United States.
Unfortunately, none of the articles circulating about Levin’s call or Levin’s call itself take into consideration the position of Iraqis who elected Maliki. On today’s edition of Democracy Now, journalist Nir Rosen. who has reported extensively from Iraq since 2003, offered his insight on Levin’s call:
It’s stupid for several reasons. First of all, the Iraqi government doesn’t matter. It has no power. And it doesn’t matter who you put in there. He’s not going to have any power. Baghdad doesn’t really matter, except for Baghdad. Baghdad used to be the most important city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled Iraq. These days, you have a collection of city states: Mosul, Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Irbil, Sulaymaniyah. Each one is virtually independent, and they have their own warlords and their own militias. And what happens in Baghdad makes no difference. So that’s the first point.
Second of all, who can he put in instead? What does he think he’s going to put in? Allawi or some secular candidate? There was a democratic election, and the majority of Iraqis selected the sectarian Shiite group Dawa, Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, the Sadr Movement. These are movements that are popular among the majority of Shias, who are the majority of Iraq. So it doesn’t matter who you put in there. And people in the Green Zone have never had any power. Americans, whether in the government or journalists, have been focused on the Green Zone from the beginning of the war, and it’s never really mattered. It’s been who has power on the street, the various different militias, depending on where you are — Sunni, Shia, tribal, religious, criminal. So it just reflects the same misunderstanding of Iraqi politics. The government doesn’t do anything, doesn’t provide any services, whether security, electricity, health or otherwise. Various militias control various ministries, and they use it as their fiefdoms. Ministries attack other ministries.
President George W. Bush responded to Levin’s call stating that it is the Iraqis’ decision to keep or remove Maliki, although he did express some frustration with the government. The call also represents a strategy by Democrats to assign blame for the situation in Iraq on Iraqis rather than acknowledging their own role in both supporting the illegal invasion as well as maintaining the ongoing occupation.
Levin’s call for Maliki’s resignation came after Senator Levin, along with Republican Senator John Warner, released a statement summarizing their findings on a recent trip to Iraq. In that statement, Levin and Warner share their belief that President Bush’s “surge” strategy has “produced tangible results in making several areas of the capital [Baghdad] more secure” and that there are “continuing positive results” in areas outside of Baghdad. However, Levin and Warner argue that the military component–which they assert was designed to give Iraqis “breathing space” to achieve political reconciliation–has not been accompanied by successes in that arena. The two Senators conclude that they have little hope for the success of that process with Iraq’s current political leadership. According to the statement, Levin and Warner met with Iraqi political leaders and “told them of the deep impatience of the American people and the Congress with the lack of political progress, impressed upon them that time has run out in that regard, and told them of the urgent need to make the essential compromises” while expressing their opinion that upcoming meetings between Iraqi political leaders “could be the last chance for the Iraqi government to solve the Iraqi political crisis.”