Iraq spirals toward civil war as Maliki moves tanks into Baghdad
Shiite political parties, edging toward a decision on who to choose as prime minister to replace Nouri al-Maliki, woke up to a huge surprise this morning; tanks and troops loyal to Maliki occupying stratgegic areas of Baghdad.
Maliki insists he's not going anywhere and now has the firepower to back up his claim.
Iraqi forces and tanks surged into some Baghdad neighborhoods Sunday as a wave of troops swarmed Baghdad's Green Zone -- the secure area where many government buildings, the military headquarters and the U.S. Embassy are located, two Iraqi police officials said.
Exactly what led to the surge remains unclear. But some believe the beefed up military presence is part of a power struggle between second-term Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and newly elected 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.
But there could be another reason for more troops in the capital. Retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Williams said the stepped up security could be a response to advances by militants from ISIS, the Sunni Muslim extremist group that has now declared itself the Islamic State.
"It could be a show of force. If you're talking about protecting government buildings, there may be a sense that ISIS forces may be closer than everybody thinks at this point," Williams said.
"That could be a great sign for concern. But it may also be a concern that there's a coup afoot."
The high court has already sided with Maliki - big surprise, and the Iraqi president has continued the confrontation by naming a new prime minister.
Iraq President Fouad Massoum on Monday named a replacement for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, upping the stakes in the fierce struggle for political control of the besieged government.
Massoum’s nominee, Haider al-Ibadi, has 30 days to select a new cabinet.
A defiant al-Maliki said Monday he intends to serve a third term. He has bitterly fought efforts by Massoum — and the U.S. government — to replace him. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday reiterated U.S. support for Maliki’s exit, saying the Shi’ite leader has little support in Iraq.
“We believe that the vast majority of the people of Iraq are united in an effort to be able to have this peaceful transition,” Kerry said in remarks made in Sydney. “We believe that the government formation process is critical, in terms of sustaining the stability and calm in Iraq. And our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters.”
What now? Maliki can either step down or start a civil war. If he tries some kind of coup, it will only prove how uttterly insane he is. Those tanks and troops should be out fighting Islamic State forces, not training their guns on their own people.