On ISIS, Maliki criticized by own Iraqi FM
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari blamed on Friday Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his security officials for the Islamist insurgency gaining power in parts of Iraq, in a rare criticism of the Iraqi leader by a government official.
“Surely the man who is responsible for the general policies bears the responsibility and the general commander of the armed force, the ministers of defense and interior also bear these responsibilities,” Zebari said, in a statement to Al Arabiya News Channel.
“There are other sides who bear responsibility, maybe political partners, but the biggest and greatest responsibility is on the person in charge of public policies,” Zebari added.
The Kurdish foreign minister’s comments are likely to further deteriorate relations between Maliki’s Shiite-led government and the Kurds.
Such deterioration would complicate efforts to reach a power-sharing government, capable of combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
ISIS militants and their allies have seized large swathes of Iraq in recent weeks and declared a so-proclaimed Islamic “Caliphate” in their territories.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s most influential Shiite preacher, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appealed to Iraqi politicians not to be “obstacles” standing in the country’s transition of power, as the deadline for naming a new prime minister looms.
In remarks delivered through his spokesman, Sistani’s appeals are seen as an indirect appeal to Maliki to leave office.
The growing power of ISIS has alarmed other Arab states who are concerned that their campaign could embolden militants on their patch.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called on regional leader and religious scholars on Friday to rise against the militants trying to “hijack” Islam.
The king did not name specific groups, but indirectly referred to violence in countries such as Iraq and Syria.
In July, the Kurdish political bloc ended all participation in Iraq’s national government, after Maliki accused the Kurds of allowing terrorists to stay in Erbil, the capital of their semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
Maliki is ruling in a caretaker capacity, after he won a parliamentary election in April but failed to win enough support from the Kurdish, Sunni minorities and some fellow Shiites to form a new Cabinet.
ISIS’ offensive has spiked sectarian tensions and threatened to dismember Iraq. The conflict poses the biggest danger to the stability of the OPEC country since the 2003 fall of longtime dictator Saddam Hussein after a U.S.-led invasion.
Maliki appointed Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite deputy prime minister, as acting foreign minister.