A tale of two vice presidents

In Iraq, new Vice President Nouri al-Maliki (where have I heard that name before?) has been spending time in his new job making life difficult for the guy occupying his old job:

Attempts by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessor Nuri Al-Maliki have created a rift between the two that is hindering attempts to appoint ministers to key posts, an informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat the conflict between the two men “revolves around a number of important matters, the most important of which is Maliki’s insistence, along with that of his supporters within the State of Law coalition, on submitting Hadi Al-Ameri, the leader of the Badr Organization . . . as a candidate for minister of interior, something which Abadi rejects.”

Before it tries to go straight and redefine itself as a political party, the Badr Organization was known as the Badr Brigades, which maybe gives you an idea where this is leading. Back when it was a brigade, it was attached to a different political organization, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was formed by a group of leading Iraqi Shiʿa figures living in Iran who were opposed to Saddam Hussein. Back then it was known as the “Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,” or in other words the Supreme Council for Repeating in Iraq What Happened in Iran in 1979. It was led

The group was founded in 1982, just as the the Iranians were going on the offensive in the Iraq-Iraq War, and the Badr Brigades actually fought alongside Iranian troops against the Baathist Iraqi army. Amiri was fighting in Badr back then, and he’s got pretty close ties to Tehran, especially IRGC/Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani. Badr is strongly believed to have carried out sectarian attacks against Sunnis during the post-Iraq War period, particularly via their work in the Interior Ministry, so you can maybe see why Iraqi Sunnis wouldn’t want the group’s leader to be given that particular cabinet post. Abadi is probably being pretty savvy in refusing to go along with this “plan.”

Abadi has done a few other things that have upset Maliki, like either eliminating or fundamentally restructuring the position of commander-in-chief, which was created by Maliki so that he could personally direct troop deployments and military activity like any would-be dictator worth his salt would want to do. Maliki also blamed Abadi for a recent Daesh attack on an army base at Saqlawiyah that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers. Maliki argued that the massacre was made possible by Abadi’s decision to suspend airstrikes on Daesh-held areas of the country, which Abadi did because Sunnis made it a condition of their agreeing to join a national fight against Daesh. Abadi apparently responded to Maliki’s criticism by pointing out that it was Maliki who got the country to this point in the first place, so maybe he should just kind of go away and stop talking now? But Maliki didn’t take that too well, for some reason.

Anyway, Maliki is believed to be organizing Shiʿa opposition to Abadi, and his efforts to govern the country more inclusively, behind the scenes, so that seems healthy.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, newly sworn-in President Ashraf Ghani has selected his vice-presidents, and hoo-boy. His second VP, a Hazara leader named Sarwar Danish, seems OK, but his first VP is Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek responsible for the massacre (by suffocation and/or shooting) of over 2000 Taliban prisoners in the 2001 Dasht-i-Leili incident. Dostum has always denied any involvement in the war crime (his spokespeople acknowledge that a few prisoners died, but they consistently downplay the number of deaths and insist that they were accidental), but it’s hard to believe him when he also does stuff like sending bulldozers out into the desert to dig up the bodies of those who died in order to get rid of the evidence. Oh, and Dostum is also up to his eyeballs in the opium trade.

If Dostum’s past indiscretions weren’t bad enough, he’s reportedly already feuding with Afghanistan’s new Prime Minister Premier First Minister Chairman of the Board Captain of the Intramural Football Team Chief Executive Officer (we’re seriously going with that?), Abdullah Abdullah, who had already been threatening to boycott the inauguration (he didn’t) because Ghani had publicly disclosed the final vote count (Abdullah thought they had agreed not to do that) and because he wasn’t going to get to speak at Ghani’s inauguration (why he should get to speak at another guy’s inauguration is beyond me, but OK) when this happened:

Another bad sign occurred Sunday morning, when Mr. Abdullah’s representatives and those of Mr. Ghani’s running mate as first vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, got into a scuffle over office space in the Arg, as the presidential palace here is known, a Western diplomat, who spoke to a witness to the episode, said.

Mr. Dostum is a warlord from northern Afghanistan whose heavily armed followers, wearing civilian clothes, have been much in evidence in Kabul lately.

Mr. Abdullah’s team believed it had been assigned those offices in the Arg for the chief executive officer and his staff, and had already moved in furnishings, when Mr. Dostum’s representatives arrived on Sunday.

“Incredibly enough, they came and cleared them out for Dostum,” the diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivities involved.

Now, I realize that nobody could have predicted that creating a brand new and stupidly named office with no firm portfolio or list of responsibilities in order to pacify the loser in a divisive presidential election would be a bad idea, yet here we are anyway.

When John Adams called the U.S. Vice Presidency “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived,” clearly he wasn’t approaching the office with enough imagination to really see all the possibilities.

“Aw man, nobody told me I could be such a giant pain in the butt as VP”

Author: DWD

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