Former Iraqi PM Blames Kurds and Turkey for Losing Mosul to ISIS

AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

A recent report by the Iraqi parliament blamed former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for losing the vital city of Mosul to the Islamic State, going so far as to recommend criminal charges against Maliki and his colleagues.

Maliki responded by trashing the report as holding “no value,” because the parliamentary panel was “neither objective nor impartial.” He blamed the fall of Mosul on the Turks and Kurds, not merely due to military negligence, but as an active conspiracy between the two.

This will come as surprising news to the Turks and Kurds, who do not get along terribly well, with the Turks’ greatest strategic fear being the rise of an independent greater Kurdistan that would rip a sizable chunk out of Turkey. The Turks are currently rendering their opinion of Kurdish separatists by dropping bombs on them.

Maliki, however, claimed the fall of Mosul was “a conspiracy planned in Ankara, then the conspiracy moved to Erbil,” referencing the Turkish and Kurdish capitals, respectively. The Kurdish government in Erbil is significantly more friendly with Ankara than the Syrian Kurdish leadership of the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, but nonetheless at odds with Turkey in advocating for a sovereign Kurdistan.

Reuters elaborates on the portion of the parliamentary report fueling Maliki’s conspiracy theory: “The report criticized the Turkish consul in Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, for alleged links to ISIL, and Kurdish peshmerga fighters accused of confiscating weapons and ammunition abandoned by the military. The consul was seized after Mosul’s fall but released three months later following negotiations. Turkish officials from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu down have repeatedly and categorically denied supporting radical groups including ISIL.”

The Turks are furious at Maliki over his accusations, with their Foreign Ministry declaring that nothing about his remarks should be taken seriously, and accusing him of harboring a “sense of guilt stemming from having played a part in the invasion of one third of Iraq by Islamic State, the deaths of tens of thousands and the dislocation of millions.”

The Kurds, for their part, reportedly “respected the panel’s findings and accused Maliki of trying to shift blame away from himself,” noting that their leaders warned that ISIS was a serious threat to Mosul and offered to help defend it, but Maliki refused their offer of assistance. His insistence on using his own military forces to hold the city ended with all those abandoned American weapons scattered around the empty battlefield, waiting for the fierce but chronically under-supplied peshmerga fighters (and, unfortunately, ISIS thugs) to pick them up.

The report accused Maliki of incorrectly assessing the threat to Mosul because he “chose commanders who engaged in corruption and failed to hold them accountable.”

As Reuters observes, the report is part of an effort by the current Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to clean up corruption in the Iraqi government—he sacked a third of his cabinet over the weekend, and he’s already cut down on the number of executive positions and perks within the government.

It is also a bid to heal sectarian tensions between the Shiite government and Sunni Muslims. Mosul was a Sunni stronghold, and many feel one of the reasons Maliki botched the crucial early stages of the ISIS invasion is that he was more concerned with using his resources for the benefit and protection of Shiites.

Maliki isn’t exactly helping to dispel that notion, fleeing to Iran while the parliamentary report circulates. He is hiding out in Tehran right now and might never actually return to Iraq if he thinks his odds of being prosecuted are higher than his chances of getting back into parliament.