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Al Maliki must weed out corruption

The latest scam over a Russian arms deal offers the Iraqi president an opportunity to stem the rot

Gulf News

The recent cancellation of a $4.2 billion (Dh15.44 billion) arms deal that Iraq had signed with Russia highlights the endemic corruption that has plagued the corridors of power in the war-torn country. The deal had been inked during a visit to Moscow by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al Maliki, in October. Russia offered to deliver 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir Zenit missile-launch systems to Iraq.

Corruption in all government dealings, let alone something as potentially lucrative as an arms contract, is routine in Iraq. Transparency International ranked Iraq at 175 in a Corruption Perceptions Index of 182 countries last year. This cancer is eating away Iraq’s future prospects, infecting its body politic. But every crisis, they say, is also an opportunity. This is Al Maliki’s chance to stem the rot and set an example. His government must set up an independent commission to investigate this deal. This commission must be empowered to root out the middlemen and government servants who sold out the interests of their nation in exchange for money. It is very likely that such a probe may lead to some of the highest offices in the land. If Al Maliki is really serious about the investigation, then he must uphold the results of the inquiry and implement its recommendations, even if his own office is implicated. Sadly, given his government’s past record, this may be wishful thinking.