The government and military fall out of love in Mosul

Mosul’s ‘day of rage’ on 25 February led to six deaths, eighteen people injured and the province’s council building burnt down. But the most notable development has been the huge rift between the two major authorities in Ninawa: the local government and the army.

The security operation command had originally planned to prohibit demonstrators from moving from one part of the city to the other, by closing the bridges across the Tigris River.

But Ninawa’s governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi, has accused the commander of the Iraqi army’s second division of diverting the course of the demonstration, and causing casualties among demonstrators.

“Military vehicles were seen carrying protesters from the place allocated for the demonstration on the left side of Mosul city to the right side,” Nujaifi told Niqash.

“So the operation’s command did not respect its own plan! There are video tapes to prove this.”

On the right side of the city is situated a number of government departments, including the provincial council building, the police command, Ninawa’s courts, and the central bank.

The governor denied reports that the people guarding the council building, most of whom are members of the local police, fired their machine guns on demonstrators.

“The local police arrested a number of army members dressed in civilian clothes,” he said.

He stressed that the casualties took place far away from the council, and that most of the injuries were to the head.

“There were infiltrators who targeted the demonstrators in order to create confusion and to divert the demonstration’s course,” he said.

The army’s second division fully controls the left side of the city of Mosul, and large areas in the right side. There are some 22,000 troops under its actual command.

Only a small part on the right side of the city, specifically in an area called the government department complex, is under the control of Ninawa‘s local government police.

The speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Usama al-Nujaifi, was at the Council building, together with his younger brother, Ninawa’s governor, when it was stormed by demonstrators.

He said that orders had been given to protect the staff, but not the protesters, despite the fact that they were looting the building, destroying its contents and eventually burnt it down.

He added that he had seen demonstrators using the army’s vehicles to ram the doors to enter the building.

“The attacks on the protesters were well-organised,” he said. “The aim was to remind people of the conditions that prevailed in Ninawa’s province in 2004, when the authority collapsed and military rule was imposed.”

He demanded the removal of the army’s second division commander, Major General Nasser Al-Ghannam, whom he claimed had committed human rights violations. He alleged that the army had arrested several people without a warrant and had even tortured one of them in detention.

Generalr Al-Ghannam denied that his troops had taken any part in Friday’s demonstrations.

He said that the governor was fabricating pictures of the army’s vehicles, using old photographs taken during the last election of troops transporting people to polling stations, or to holy places during religious festivals.

Major General Abdul-Karim Hassan Khudair, Ninawa’s security operations commander, also maintained that the army had not helped demonstrators go to the other side of the city or injure anyone.

“The local police was in charge of security in the area of the demonstration at the request of the provincial administration,” he added.

"Ninawa’s governor blames the army for his own mistakes and for his failure to administer the province’s affairs.”

Relations between the current governor and the military leaders have always been strained. But this is the first time that Atheel al-Nujaifi has demanded the removal of the army’s commander.

The two sides have accused each other of interfering in each other’s affairs. The army says that the local government does not cooperate in security-related affairs as it should do and does not carry out its security instructions.

For his part, the governor claims that the army’s leaders violate civil rights by blocking the roads, imposing a siege over residential neighborhoods and randomly arresting and torturing people in detention camps under the army’s command.

He also claims that the military commanders do not share their security plans with him.

A few hours after the Mosul demonstration, Prime Minister Maliki asked the Speaker to dismiss his own brother from the post of governor of Ninawa.

According to sources close to the Speaker, Usama al-Nujaifi had first asked Maliki to dismiss the second division’s commander. The prime minister agreed on condition that the governor resign first.

But at a press conference, the Speaker said that the governor had been elected by the people and it was not possible to bow to the demands of a small number of people who want his dismissal.

He called for early local elections in all Iraqi provinces to be held within four months, "so that people can elect their representatives in a legitimate and constitutional manner.”

When Niqash asked Ninawa’s governor about those calling for his resignation, he replied: “I do not care much for the post but will not withdraw while the fire still burns in my province.”

He said he would stand if there are early provincial elections and that he was sure he would win.

A number of public figures have also called for the governor’s resignation, including the Kurdish leader, Mahmoud al-Surji, who is a member of the political forces’ conference in Ninawa, composed of fifty groups which oppose Ninawa’s local government.

Surji said that demonstrations would continue in Ninawa until the governor was removed. “People are despairing of the current administration."

Surprisingly, there has been no statement by representatives of the Kurdish Brotherly List, which has opposed recent measures taken by the Governors’s al-Hadba party.

Khaled Shaalan, a writer on political affairs, believes that the Brotherly List is committed to its truce with the Hadba National List and is not accusing it of perpetrating the events in Mosul.

“There were two demonstrations in Mosul on Friday”, Shaalan says. “The first was peaceful with demonstrators expressing their needs that have been ignored for a long time.”

“The second was bloody and politicised and shows the clear divide between those who support the army and those who support the local government.”

Meanwhile, Ninawa’s 34 representatives in parliament have kept silent. The central government is turning a blind eye and its only reaction is to send investigation committees to the province.

Shaalan does not believe they will achieve anything.