West Worried About Heavy-Handed Iraq PM

Maliki crackdown may herald return to authoritarian rule
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2011 6:10 AM CST
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gestures during his news conference with President Obama yesterday.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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(Newser) – As the US prepares to depart Iraq, some in the West see worrying signs that the country may be sliding back toward authoritarian rule. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who met with President Obama in Washington yesterday, has been moving swiftly to consolidate power as the Americans head for the door. Western companies have been evicted from the Green Zone and hundreds of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party have been arrested in recent raids, raising fears that Maliki plans to crush political foes in the name of national security.

The fate of Iraq's democracy largely rests in the prime minister's hands, but it's still unclear whether Iran or the US will have more influence over his government. "There are two dominant narratives in Washington about Maliki,” an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War tells the New York Times. “Some say he is a nationalist; others say he is a puppet of Iran." Both narratives, he says, are oversimplifications. "Maliki is a Maliki-ist. His religion is the church of survivability." (Read more Nouri al-Maliki stories.)

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