In what could be part of a power struggle within the government in Baghdad, forces from the Iraqi National Army flooded the so-called Green Zone. Despite calls for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to fade into the background from President Obama and considerable loses of territory to ISIS, Maliki seems determined to stay in power. Obama blames Maliki for the breakdown of relations among the Shiite dominated government and the Sunni minority. Maliki may fear that the US, along with some local allies, is looking to push him out the hard way.
US forces, meanwhile, has been busy bombing their own military equipment now in the hands of ISIS with expanded airstrikes Sunday. The equipment was initially given to the Iraqi National Army but subsequently captured by ISIS. One of the reasons ISIS has proved to be so effective is the group’s use of sophisticated weapons much of it taken off US-backed fighters in Syria and Iraq. Without the US, ISIS would likely not be as powerful as it is today.
The standoff in Baghdad appears to be linked to a specific threat Prime Minister Maliki sees from his own head of state – President Fuad Masum.
“You’ve got Nuri al-Maliki refusing to step down. Now he’s mobilized not just security troops loyal to him, but now he’s mobilized army units to put tanks in the streets,“said retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a CNN military analyst. “Some of the bridges have been closed. It looks like he’s trying to lock down the city in some sort of confrontation with the President, so this does not portend well.”
Choosing a prime minister is a key next step for Iraq’s leaders. Critics of al-Maliki have called for him to pull his name out of the running, but he’s repeatedly refused. Al-Maliki has accused Masum of violating the country’s constitution by extending the deadline for Iraq’s biggest political coalitions to nominate a candidate for prime minister.
Whether the lock-down of Baghdad is to stop Masum, ISIS, or both is unknown. What is known is Maliki has completely lost the confidence of the US who wants another prime minister to deal with – giving Maliki both internal and external threats.
For its part the Obama Administrtion says there is “no end date” for military operations in Iraq which combined with the push for regime change vis a vis Maliki makes this whole Iraq affair seem strangely familiar.