Hoshyar Zebari faced a vote of no-confidence in the Iraqi parliament on Wednesday. AP file photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Kurdish MP in the Iraqi parliament believes the vote of no-confidence against Iraq’s Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari this week is part of a plot to bring down the government. Iraq analysts concur, saying this is all being schemed by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“The no-confidence vote in Finance Minister Zebari was done as part of an attempt to bring down this government,” Beriwan Khailany, a Kurdish MP in the Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw English.
“The manner in which they questioned Zebari was in clear violation of the rules of procedure for the House of Representatives,” Khailany said.
Zebari, she explained, was asked a total of 11 questions, “10 of which were leveled against his character rather than on his conduct as Minister of Finance.”
“They brought him down in the same manner they brought down the Minister of Defense [Khaled al-Obeidi],” she added. “The withdrawal of confidence Zebari negatively affects a lot on work with international resources for finding loans for many projects in Iraq.”
Zebari, a veteran politician in Iraq, was arranging a large loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Iraq’s beleaguered economy, which has been badly hurt by both the ongoing war against ISIS and the sharp drop in the world price of oil.
“These no-confidence votes are also obstructing the current war on terror,” Khailany explained, referring to Iraq’s efforts to recapture Mosul from Islamic State (ISIS) militants before the end of the year.
As Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi successfully oversaw the recapture of the key Qayyara airbase in July and the oil-town of the same name in August before he had to step-down as a result of the no-confidence vote in late August.
Both votes against these two key ministers were carried out with secret ballots and both were done with the conscious aim of bringing down Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government, Khailany said.
She went on to predict that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is "the next target" in this campaign against the government. If he is removed before any of the others posts are refilled this would likely weaken Abadi’s government more, perhaps even fatally, and, in doing so, further undermine efforts to shore-up the Iraqi economy and defeat ISIS.
Iraq analyst Joel Wing also shares a similar view of the situation to Khailany’s; he sees the withdrawal of confidence in both these ministers via secret ballot as the work of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s “Dawa Party operatives in parliament.”
“Maliki’s goal is to undermine the Abadi government since he is a political rival and took the premiership from Maliki,” Wing told Rudaw English, referring to Abadi’s replacement of Maliki back in September 2014.
“When Maliki was Prime Minister he was masterful at playing factions in parliament off of each other. He played on splits within the United Iraqi Alliance to emerge on his own with State of Law, he played on the Arab-Kurdish split to go after the latter, especially [Kurdistan Region President Masoud] Barzani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP),” Wing explained, “Also, he played all the Sunni factions off of each other and he’s doing the same now in parliament.”
“In Obeidi’s case it was the split between the Islamic Party and Muttahidoon (the United for Reform Coalition) after Obedi went after the former,” Wing explained, “With Zebari it is the split between the KDP and PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan]-Gorran coalition.”
“From the number of votes and public statements it looks like the KDP and Muttahidoon were the only blocs that really stood against the no-confidence vote against Zebari. Most of the other blocs, including PUK-Gorran and the Kurdish Islamic parties all voted to remove him,” Wing explained.
Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and Lafer Fellow of the Washington Institute, also sees this as part of what he calls “Maliki’s very effective “guerilla war” against Prime Minister Abadi.”
“This kind of political scheming fits Maliki’s background when he was part of the clandestine external opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime,” Knights told Rudaw English, “The same politicking skills that allowed Maliki to survive the competitive, dangerous opposition scene in Tehran, Beirut and Damascus in the 1980s and 1990s now arced him well as he builds coalitions against Abadi.”
Paul Iddon is a Rudaw reporter based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region.