U.S. spy agencies warned Maliki was 'alienating' Iraq's Sunnis

WASHINGTON Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:46pm EDT

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki prepares to vote during parliamentary election in Baghdad April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki prepares to vote during parliamentary election in Baghdad April 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned top government officials that Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki and his policies were gravely antagonizing his country's Sunni population, two U.S. security officials said on Friday.

The officials said the warnings were contained in secret intelligence reports and analyses presented in the last two years to policymaking officials, including President Barack Obama.

The reports concluded that Maliki and his government were creating so much animosity among Iraq's Sunnis that this would empower and embolden violent militant groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Obama is sending 300 military advisers to Iraq to help stop the offensive by the Sunni militant ISIL and is demanding a more inclusive government be formed in Baghdad.

But he has stopped short of calling for the replacement of Maliki, who took over in 2006 during ferocious Sunni-Shi'ite violence three years after the U.S.-led invasion.

Intelligence agencies explicitly warned that Maliki's policies in recent years "alienated the Sunni population and gave ISIL space to operate," said a senior intelligence official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information.

Spy agencies also warned that Maliki was "failing to reconcile differences festering" between Iraq's rival Muslim communities and said that all of Iraq's leaders needed to do more to address the growing sectarian tensions, the senior intelligence official said.

This contrasted with public comments by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who in his annual presentation to Congress on "worldwide threats" in January made only bland references to religious tensions in Iraq.


Clapper said that Iraq's national elections this April would be a "pivotal event," and said: "The Sunni population in particular must be convinced that the elections will be fair in order to keep them committed to the political process and help check Iraq's rising violence."

Clapper added that Syria's protracted civil war was "destabilizing Iraq, hardening ethno-sectarian attitudes, and raising concerns about the spillover of violence."

The presentation did not mention Maliki by name or say that his government had contributed to the alienation of Sunnis although warnings in classified reports by U.S. agencies were intensifying about that time, the security officials said.

U.S. officials have been worried about Maliki's sectarian approach to governing and lack of action to reconcile with Sunnis since not long after he took office.

A former U.S. intelligence official said that while CIA director in 2006, retired General Michael Hayden told policymakers in briefings that Washington would be "asking a lot of Maliki and in one sense he's going to have to govern beyond his life experience."

The former official said that President George W. Bush held personal videoconferences every 10 days or so with Maliki to offer guidance. Obama stopped such conferences after he took office in 2009, the official said.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by David Storey and James Dalgleish)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (13)
fred5407 wrote:
The White House and Congress would surely not listen. They have money to collect from everyone and that is top priority.

Jun 20, 2014 6:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BanglaFirst wrote:
Let us hope Maliki listens before he is removed by the alleged Saudi financed band of ISIL thugs! For sake democracy, Maliki should form an inclusive Government and he should seek Turkish and Iranian assistance to secure Iraqs border plus they should also get rid of these Kurdish thugs in the North who are also a painful thorn to whole of Iraqi people.

Jun 20, 2014 6:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
But they didn’t warn him the US trained and equipped ISIS/ISIL was on its way to slaughter more Iraqis. Maliki would be better of not listening to the US military advisers under the circumstances – they’re probably on the side of ISIS/ISIL.

Jun 20, 2014 11:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.