It seems Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is no great fan of track two diplomacy — nor, in fact, of anything else that doesn’t emanate from his office.
In a remarkably outspoken Boston Globe op-ed, Professor Padraig O’Malley vents his frustration at how, after two relatively successful rounds of talks between Iraqi political and sectarian leaders in Helsinki, the celebration of the new agreement turned sour:
What should have been an event of celebration became one that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki used to violate every principle of democracy we have been given to believe has taken firm hold in Iraq five years after Saddam’s fall.
His office issued an order: The event was not to take place. His officials ordered the ministry of reconciliation to stop all preparatory work, including printing copies of the agreement. Had we not taken the precaution of having it printed and copied and carrying it to Iraq, there would have been no agreement to distribute to the Helsinki participants, the media, or Parliament.
Maliki’s office ordered the Al-Rasheed Hotel, the only hotel in the Green Zone, to cancel the use of a facility and the catering service that the ministry had reserved. When the co-conveners stepped in and said that we would pick up the expenses, Maliki’s office was unequivocally dismissive.
This leads O’Malley to conclude:
What is most disturbing is that this is not the first time, we learned, that Maliki has acted with such capricious disregard for all institutions of governance with no explanation provided. When his mood hearkens, action follows, rational or irrational, and no one questions his behavior. He is, for all the propaganda about the advances of democratization, a despot in the making with all the appurtenances of power under lock and key.