Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Thursday blamed the corruption that prevailed during the rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s governments for the disasters that befell Iraq, pledging to move forward in the fight against corruption even if it cost him the fall of his government.
He said, “The fall of Mosul (into the hands of ISIS in the summer of 2014) was caused by corruption, nepotism and mismanagement. In many issues, even those of electricity and other sectors, we find that the reason is corruption”.
He stressed in an interview with the state-owned Al-Iraqiya TV channel that “fighting corruption is a major challenge in Iraq”.
Last August, Kadhimi formed a special committee to investigate major corruption cases and assigned the tasks of executing arrest orders to a special force in the prime minister’s office.
The assets and properties of nine officials, including Maliki’s son-in-law, were frozen over non-payment of debts owed to the state.
Some analysts thought this was the start of a full-fledged battle against corruption. But the influence of pro-Iran militias slowed down the pace of the anti-graft campaign.
Maliki responded by slamming Kadhimi’s Anti-Corruption Committee as “contrary to the constitution.”
رئيس مجلس الوزراء @MAKadhimi : نعمل على تطوير التنسيق في المجال الأمني والإستخباري وبالأخص فيما يتعلق بمواجهة الإرهاب وتمويله، بالإضافة الى التنسيق في مجال التعليم والثقافة وفي مجالات الشباب والرياضة والفنون والصحة.— المكتب الإعلامي لرئيس الوزراء 🇮🇶 (@IraqiPMO) June 27, 2021
He said Kadhimi should “support institutions (already) concerned with fighting corruption” rather than announcing the creation of new outfits.
The fight against graft was at the top of the demands of year-long mass protests in Iraq from October 2019. The government of premier Adel Abdul-Mahdi, in partnership with Iran-linked militias was suspected of involvement in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators and the wounding of thousands of others in order to protect the country’s corrupt religious party system.
For years, Iraq has been listed among the most corrupt countries in the world as illustrated by the Transparency International Index.
On May 23, Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a televised speech that $150 billion had been smuggled abroad in fraudulent deals since 2003.
Kadhimi vowed to continue the fight against corruption saying, “Even if there is a threat to topple the government, we will not stop anti-corruption measures,and we are ready to sacrifice everything.”
Since its formation, Kadhimi’s government has made extensive administrative reshuffles in state institutions, including the security services and the army, in an effort to remove incompetent officials or those suspected of involvement in graft.
During the formation of his government, Kadhimi pledged to fight widespread payoffs in state bodies, which exposed him to a fierce campaign by influential parties and coalitions backed by Iran.
Corruption was a major reason for the failure of successive Iraqi governments to improve basic public services such as education, electricity, drinking water, the health sector, and others.
The Parliamentary Integrity Committee confirmed last January that the volume of smuggled funds outside Iraq is estimated at 350 trillion dinars ($239.7 billion), a figure that exceeds the country’s budget for more than two years. It stressed the existence of political pressures to obstruct the fight against corruption.
Committee member Taha al-Difai said commissions were paid to officials for the purpose of facilitating illicit operations.
Earlier last year, the former member of the Parliament’s Finance Committee, Rahim Al-Daraji, estimated the value of the looted funds in Iraq at about $450 billion.
Kadhimi’s plans do not stop at fighting corruption, even if that in itself is an uphill task for a government without a clear political support base.
Kadhimi is betting on the elections scheduled for next October to win a supportive bloc of deputies not linked to sectarian agendas.
“We do not want to compliment any party and we decided to contain everyone and extinguish the fires, in order to provide a security environment for the upcoming elections, because elections are requested by the people, the religious marjaia, popular forces and political parties,” the Iraqi prime minister said in his interview on Thursday.
He added, “We must fulfil the demands of the demonstrators and hold elections because the October 2019 demonstrations produced 600 martyrs and thousands of wounded, the condition of of many of whom is serious. We chose to fulfil the demands of the demonstrators, the marjaia and the political forces, and focus on the parliamentary elections”.
He renewed his commitment not to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections, explaining, “It is a decision taken from the first moment I took office and I do not have any party and I support all parties equally and do not differentiate between one party or another.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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