- Iraq is "going toward a dictatorship" under al-Maliki, his deputy says
- "This is going to be a disaster," Saleh al-Mutlaq says
- He said he was "shocked" to hear al-Maliki praised in Washington
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is amassing dictatorial power as U.S. troops leave the country, risking a new civil war and the breakup of the nation, his deputy warned Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was "shocked" to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." He said Washington is leaving Iraq "with a dictator" who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country's security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks.
"America left Iraq with almost no infrastructure. The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship," he said. "People are not going to accept that, and most likely they are going to ask for the division of the country. And this is going to be a disaster. Dividing the country isn't going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that."
Neighboring Iran views al-Maliki as its man in Baghdad and has dictated the shape of the current government, al-Mutlaq said. But he said al-Maliki is playing games with both Washington and Tehran.
"There will be a day whereby the Americans will realize that they were deceived by al-Maliki ... and they will regret that," he said.
The last U.S. troops are scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of December, nearly nine years after the 2003 invasion that topped Saddam Hussein. More than 4,000 Americans and an estimated 115,000 Iraqis died in the invasion and the years of insurgency and sectarian warfare that followed.
Al-Maliki won a second term as prime minister in 2010 after a months-long dispute among the leading parties in the country's parliamentary elections. Al-Mutlaq's largely secular Iraqiya movement won two more seats than al-Maliki's party, but a merger of the premier's Shiite Muslim slate with a smaller Shiite bloc put him first in line to form a government.
The standoff raised fears of renewed bloodshed between Iraq's majority Shiite and minority Sunni populations and prompted U.S. officials to work out a power-sharing agreement, bringing al-Mutlaq's Iraqiya movement into the government.
But al-Mutlaq -- a Sunni who was originally barred from running because of allegations that he supported Hussein's Baath Party -- said he has no authority. He said al-Maliki has flouted the deal's provisions by refusing to name permanent ministers to lead the defense and interior ministries, which concentrates control over the military and police in the prime minister's hands. But quitting the government carries the risk of being branded as terrorists and arrested, he said.
"We are in a real problem now," he said. "If we pull out of the government, he will be left to do what he wants to do, with us and with the others."
He said U.S. officials, who brokered the power-sharing deal, either "don't know anything in Iraq and they don't know what is happening in Iraq, or because they don't want to admit the reality in Iraq, the failure in Iraq, the failure of this political process that they set in Iraq."