BAGHDAD — Iraq’s former prime minister may face criminal charges for his role in the fall of Mosul to Islamic State militants last summer after an investigation named him among officials responsible.
Nouri al-Maliki, currently one of the country’s three vice presidents, is among dozens of officials named in a parliamentary report on why the city fell with so little resistance, members of the investigation committee said Sunday. He has been widely blamed for allowing corruption to thrive during his tenure as prime minister, including in Iraq’s security forces.
The report comes as Iraq’s current prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, attempts to enact sweeping changes to the country’s political system to stamp out endemic graft and excessive government spending after widespread street protests. Thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand better services and to accuse state officials of siphoning off the country’s money.
Abadi on Sunday axed 11 positions in his cabinet, shrinking it by a third, and said he would close four ministries and merge others.
“No one is above the law and the accountability of the people,” the speaker of Iraq’s parliament, Salim al-Jabouri, said in a statement after receiving the report on Sunday.
When Islamic State fighters launched an assault on Mosul in June 2014, Iraq’s army rapidly collapsed, and the militant group swiftly took control of more than a quarter of the country’s territory, pressuring the capital, Baghdad.
The text of the report is yet to be made public, but the names of those held responsible for the loss of Mosul include Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh province, former acting defense minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi and former army chief Gen. Babakir Zebari, according to two members of the investigation committee.
The full report will be read in the next session of parliament on Monday “to inform the Iraqi people of the truth,” Jabouri said. “The judiciary will punish those who are involved.”
Maliki, who is on a visit to neighboring Iran, may also lose his position as vice president after Abadi said last week that the roles should be eliminated as part of his reform package.
Some Iraqi politicians have accused Abadi of using the reforms to sideline his political rival. The vice president roles were not mentioned as Abadi reduced his cabinet on Sunday, however, with legal experts arguing that cutting all three positions would require a constitutional change.
In a statement, the British ambassador to Iraq, Frank Baker, described the cabinet changes as a “radical reform” of the Iraqi government. The closed ministries included the ministry for human rights and the ministry of state for women’s affairs.
As part of a seven-point reform package announced last week, Abadi also said probes would be launched into corrupt officials and politicians. But analysts have questioned whether real reform will be possible — with the judiciary and government bodies charged with overseeing reform themselves rife with graft.
Abadi has also been attempting to overhaul the military. After taking office last year, he announced that an initial investigation had discovered 55,000 “ghost soldiers” in the army — soldiers who were being paid but did not exist, with those salaries instead going into the pockets of officers. More were expected to be uncovered, he said.
Despite assistance and training from U.S. advisers, the Iraqi army remains plagued with logistical and structural problems and has continued to lose territory to the Islamic State. An investigation into how the western city of Ramadi fell to militants earlier this year is also underway.