BAGHDAD: Iraq’s prime minister said he would sue the president on Monday in a desperate bid to cling to his job, deploying security forces across Baghdad even as violence raged in the north.
A defiant Nuri al-Maliki made his shock announcement after three days of US strikes against jihadist militants in the north of Iraq and in spite of mounting calls for him to step aside.
“Today I will file a formal complaint to the federal court against the president,” Maliki said in an address broadcast on the stroke of midnight on state television.
He alleged that Iraq’s, Kurdish veteran Fuad Masum, had violated the constitution twice, essentially by failing to designate him as the prime minister.
Masum theoretically had 15 days after his July 24 election to pick a prime minister.
Maliki’s Shiite coalition won April polls comfortably but his standing has been undermined by a devastating jihadist offensive launched on June 9 that overran large swathes of Iraq.
The political process has also been complicated by a consti–tutional tussle on how to define the largest parliamentary bloc entitled to nominate a prime minister.
The 64-year-old premier had pledged in a 2011 Agence France-Presse interview he would not seek a third term, but he has since changed his mind despite flagging support from nearly all his erstwhile allies: the United States, Iran, Shiite clerics and even his Dawa party.
“The United States fully supports President Fuad Masum in his role as guarantor of the Iraqi Constitution,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Security sources told Agence France-Presse of a massive security deployment, akin to measures taken in a state of emergency, across the capital Baghdad.
“There is a huge security presence, police and army, espe–cially around the Green Zone,” the highly-protected district that houses Iraq’s key institutions, a high-ranking police officer said.
He said the deployment started at around 10:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. on Sunday Manila time), just 90 minutes before Maliki gave his speech.
While it remains unclear whether Maliki has a valid constitutional argument, the mass deployment of counter-terrorism SWAT teams across Baghdad was an obvious show of force.
“Several streets have been closed . . . as well as some key bridges,” said an official at the interior ministry.
“It’s all linked to the political situation,” the official added.
In his brief address, Maliki said Iraq was facing a “dangerous” situation and urged “the sons of Iraq” to be on alert.