Daggers Drawn in Maliki’s Office
There are two strongmen in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office: “Abu Mujahid” and Tariq Najm al-Abdullah. Both are Da’awa Party insiders who were played out of the power dynamics of that party in the 1980s and 1990s, and were left without powerful patrons. That’s why Maliki picked them to run his office in 2005. Abu Mujahid (real name: Gati’ Njeiman al-Rikabi) used to live in Syria (where Maliki was based) and later found refuge in Australia, while al-Abdullah came from Da’awa’s London scene (same as his other ally in the office Sadiq al-Rikabi).
Now it seems that there is a power struggle going on that can have serious consequences for Maliki.
The background to this all is a struggle over money, and it involves the Kuwaitis although I am not certain how. Abu Mujahid is allegedly facilitating the business dealings of Namir Karim al-‘Uqabi (a Kuwait and Amman based Iraqi businessman whose family has many shared business interests with Nadhmi Auchi, the shady London-based Iraqi billionaire who’s been linked to Barack Obama), while al-Abdullah is associated with Global Security, the British company that runs Baghdad Airport.
Thrown into this toxic mix is Ahmed al-Maliki, the PM’s son who has taken over his father’s “private” office and is currently allied with al-Abdullah against Abu Mujahid. On the margins one finds Ali al-Dabbagh, the official spokesman, who is pushing Turkish business interests allied with the Erdogan’s AK Party.
Fortunes are being made and nerves are getting frayed as accusations of corruption bounce around Maliki’s office. As Maliki becomes more powerful and popular, there is a struggle to control access to him and all that entails concerning which investor gets a favorable hearing at that office.
There is so much that I can’t put into print: nymphomaniac daughters, mistresses, and the occasional murder conspiracy. Truly macabre stuff adding to the toxicity in the air.
But now the fight has gone public with an article attacking Abu Mujahid appearing on a Belgium-based Iraqi website under the byline of “Dr. Basima Abdul-Hussein al-Janahi”—I have no idea who this person is—with the title “Who Rules Iraq: Maliki or Abu Mujahid al-Rikabi?” (Arabic text). Al-Janahi literally delivers plenty of below-the-belt blows; accusing Abu Mujahid of having a gypsy mother (the article provides her name as “Sabriyeh”, and the gypsy stuff carries the usual connotation of prostitution) and of playing pimp to Iranians intelligence officers in Damascus as well as Saddam’s spies!
Abu Mujahid stands accused of being an informer for Saddam’s mukhaberat (the article promises original documents proving this accusation), running death squads for the Iranians, being responsible for the abduction of the Egyptian ambassador in 2005, and being a front for Zain Telecom, the Kuwaiti giant that is trying to monopolize Iraq’s mobile phone network.
Although the article makes it seem that it is coming from Maliki’s relatives, that is, his son Ahmed as well as another cousin, but my hunch that this had Tariq al-Abdullah’s fingerprints all over it.
At this point, Abu Mujahid seems cooked, but al-Abdullah has a major handicap: he’s suspected of being very close to Britain’s spooks, and nowadays many Iraqi politicians consider British influence on the Iraqi state (as well as Petraeus’ office) to be as damaging to Iraq’s future prosperity as Iran’s infiltration of the state. The conventional thinking on this is that the Brits as too entangled in Gulf money to come up with a policy of their own, and that whatever the rulers of Dubai have in mind for Iraq translates into British actions in Iraq.
Why is this important? Well, Maliki is turning more and more paranoid; he seems convinced that someone will try to kill him soon, and hence has become far less accessible, including to the Americans. Maliki does not seem personally involved in the corruption surrounding him, but whoever comes out on top as his gate-keeper will have tremendous influence on Iraqi policy.