It hasn't been two weeks since the American military pulled out of Iraq. But it is clear that Iraq is at the crossroads.
At this point in time Iraq can go either way: towards building a democracy – or the other way, towards a "strong man" government, where decision making predominantly lies with one man – In this case Maliki. And the evidence on the ground- unfortunately – favours the latter.
The situation now: The two most senior Sunni politicians are "in trouble". The first, VP Hashimi, is accused of involvement with "hit squads" according to "confessions" aired on state TV approved by Maliki himself. He has fled to Kurdistan region where he is demanding to stand before a neutral tribunal. And the other, Deputy PM Mutlag, has been relieved of his duties by the PM because he publicly accused Maliki of consolidating personal power and failing to deliver services to the people after more than six years in office. Mutlag's deposition is pending the approval of the parliament. When asked, in a press conference, what would happen if the parliament did not vote to depose Mutlag, Maliki said, "There's no problem – He is on open leave until further notice."
A politician in Maliki's own National Alliance told McClatchy yesterday that Maliki holds "complete" sway over the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court's "interpretation" of the constitution that enabled Maliki to retain his position as PM and form a government after the last elections, although Iraqiya bloc had the highest take. It was also through the Supreme Court that Maliki all but stopped the legislative powers of the parliament by its "interpreting" the constitution to say that legislation can only stem from the executive branch (cabinet and presidency) and that the parliament could only make "suggestions".
The PM, last year, made a move to put the independent establishments under his authority, also by exercising influence over the Supreme Court to "interpret" the words of the constitution to say that the "independent" establishments are indeed "independent" in their work – BUT should be "linked to" and "supervised" by the government. These establishments include the High Electoral Commission, The Supreme Audit, The Integrity Commission among others.
Little by little, free thinkers and journalists who, for a little while, were able to speak out and criticize fearlessly are becoming silent – or conformists. And the government is making it very difficult for the foreign media to be present by giving them a really hard time on visas and residency permits. And if the international media should give up and leave – we will have no more neutral witnessess.
Taking a second look at the points above – I am alarmed indeed.