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Is the story of Al-Halbousi over?

November 21, 2023 at 10:30 pm

Iraq Council of Representatives Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi speaks at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, DC, on 29 March 2019. [JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images]

In an unusual precedent in the Iraqi political process, the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives was dismissed, based on an order issued by the Federal Supreme Court, as Mohammed Rikan Al-Halbousi, the most powerful Sunni political leader in Iraq, was convicted of the crime of forgery. This is considered a “crime against honour” according to the Iraqi Constitution and, therefore, he has been dismissed as a member of the Iraqi Parliament as well.

The story of Al-Halbousi’s overthrow began several months ago and was sparked by a dispute between Parliament Speaker, Mohammed Al-Halbousi, and Laith Al-Dulaimi, one of the representatives of the Sovereignty Alliance. Al-Dulaimi was dismissed from Parliament based on a resignation submitted by him, but he appealed the resignation, and the issue was settled after political pressure from the allies in the Sunni Sovereignty Alliance in Parliament. Al-Halbousi retracted his acceptance of Laith Al-Dulaimi’s resignation, after which the MP returned to his parliamentary role for a full legislative term, as if nothing had happened.

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The problem erupted between the two, once again, at a later time, and the media covered the details of the story and referred to the details of the crime that toppled the Speaker of the Parliament. It seems that the heads of the political blocs in Parliament, including Al-Halbousi, are forcing the representatives of their bloc to sign a blank paper and hand it over to their leader, and he can use it as an insurance of trust at a very high price, in the event that the MP tries to leave their party, bloc or even disobeys the order of their leader. When new disagreements arose between Al-Dulaimi and Al-Halbousi on 15 January, the latter used the white paper signed by Laith Al-Dulaimi and printed a new resignation letter on it for Al-Dulaimi. He then cut 3-5 cm from the top of the paper because it was addressed to Al-Halbousi in his personal capacity, because this paper was meant to be used to write a deposit receipt on it, but Al-Halbousi decided to print the resignation on it. Laith Al-Dulaimi’s parliament membership was officially terminated, which prompted him to resort to the Federal Supreme Court and accuse Al-Halbousi of having forged this resignation because it was not dated by the person resigning and that the length of the paper was shorter than the standard length.  The Court considered Laith Al-Dulaimi’s arguments and was convinced and, therefore, convicted Al-Halbousi of perjury and forgery, and his membership in Parliament was terminated in accordance with the provisions of the Iraqi Constitution, because he was convicted of a dishonourable crime.

The Federal Supreme Court also ordered the termination of Laith Al-Dulaimi’s membership following the first resignation. The first reaction of Mohammad Al-Halbousi, when he was informed of the Court’s decision, was to adjourn the parliamentary session and leave the Parliament hall. He then made media statements in which he challenged the constitutionality of the rulings of the Federal Supreme Court. The Taqaddum party, led by the sacked Speaker of Parliament, considered that the Federal Court’s decision regarding Al-Halbousi was a “blatant constitutional violation and clear politicised targeting”. Three ministers from Al-Halbousi’s bloc, namely Minister of Planning, Muhammad Tamim, the Minister of Industry, Khaled Battal, and the Minister of Culture, Ahmed Al-Badrani, also submitted their resignations from Prime Minister Al- Sudani’s government, in protest against what happened.

Meanwhile, the President of the Federal Supreme Court in Iraq, Jassim Al-Abboud, said in an official statement that “the Federal Court’s recent decision, which includes terminating the membership of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mohammad Rikan Al-Halbousi, and the membership of MP, Laith Mustafa Al-Dulaimi, is now binding for all authorities, in accordance with Article 94 of the Constitution.” Al-Abboud added, “This decision is not subject to any means of legal appeal”, noting that “the Federal Court specialises in looking into such cases in accordance with Article 93 of the Constitution.”

On his return trip from the capital to his city in Anbar Governorate, Mohammad Al-Halbousi met with his political audience in the Saqlawiyah district, the entrance to Anbar Governorate. The atmosphere was tense and filled with expectations of him declaring some kind of rebellion, or civil disobedience, in the city, given his dismissal. Instead, Al-Halbousi called on his supporters to remain calm and said, “We do not stand in protest on the highway linking Baghdad and Anbar, nor do we beat the drums of civil war, nor do we disrupt an institution. While some in the past pushed the people to stand before them, we say, no, we stand before the people, and we are their protective wall. We will not block any paths, break any laws nor will we allow black crows to return. We do not want to hear the sounds of gunfire; we want to hear the sounds of construction. I ask you to abide by the law and act as an example to everyone.” He added, “I consider myself a father and responsible, and a father is keen on the security of his family and children, and is keen on their livelihood, and does not allow anything to hurt them. In the event of a tragedy, he says, ‘better me than them’ and I say, ‘better me than you.’”

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The dismissed Speaker of Parliament also made it clear to the people of Anbar that there is a conspiracy that overthrew him, as he pointed out that “those who targeted your project do not want you to participate in the governorate elections,” adding, “the challenges we faced are great challenges, but choosing this timing has a clear message. Our voice remains loud with rights and the law, and the covenant between us and others, which is adherence to the law and the Constitution, and we do not accept anyone who violates the law and the Constitution. I ask you not to allow your will to cast your votes in the elections weaken, and I ask that you participate strongly and with great enthusiasm, both men and women.” He then warned, “There are those who believe that people are taking to the streets to attack official institutions, and there are those who say they will go out for demonstrations, disobedience or that the days of 2013 will return, and this is unacceptable, and we do not accept it. We want our society to be safe and stable, and I ask you to express your opinion without allowing anyone to interfere with your security and the security and stability of your country.”

On a related note, with the escalation of the aggression launched by the Israeli occupation army against the Gaza Strip, voices emerged revealing secret meetings held between Sunni Iraqi politicians from Anbar Governorate and Israeli politicians, in which future plans for transferring a large portion of the population of the Gaza Strip to Anbar Governorate were discussed. However, the credibility of this news has not been proven, and it has not been verified by any reliable sources, but media statements by representatives in the Iraqi Parliament sounded the alarm bell on this point with the overthrow of Al-Halbousi. In the ruling officially announced by the Federal Supreme Court, there was a reference to the fact that there was someone it named as a third person who had submitted a request to the Federal Supreme Court demanding that Mohammad Rikan Al-Halbousi be prosecuted on the grounds of his relations with an Israeli public relations company, and that the real purpose he signed a contract with this company was to promote and facilitate the process of normalising relations with the Israeli enemy. However, the Court rejected the charge and demanded that the third person file an independent lawsuit, and that the judiciary would then look into the case.

The Iraqi media soon published statements by MP, Ahmed Al-Jubouri, in which he accused the former Speaker of Parliament, Mohammad Al-Halbousi, of having a contract with an American company involved in the activities of the Israeli lobby in the American capital, Washington, and with strong relations in the White House. Al-Jubouri stated that the contract, worth $600,000, included providing information to the company. He also said in a televised statement that he looked into the contract between the American company, BGR, and the Taqaddum Party and its leader, Mohammad Al-Halbousi, with the help of specialists and by reviewing the company’s website, and after inquiring about it in the US, he confirmed that it was an Israeli company operating in the US. Al-Jubouri added that the CEO of this company is former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak. As for former MP, Mishaan Al-Juburi, he said in a tweet on X that he has documents regarding a contract between the Taqaddum Party and its leader, Mohammad Al-Halbousi, and an American-Israeli group, one of the leaders of which is former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, to implement his plans in American circles. Observers confirmed that the company, BGR, which Al-Halbousi signed a deal with, is making efforts to normalise with Israel, and it had previously taken similar steps with Gulf and Arab parties in what was known as the ”deal of the century”.

Has the story of Mohammad Rikan Al-Halbousi ended and has his political file been closed, or will the coming days be full of surprises?

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds on 19 November, 2023. 

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