|The office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused WikiLeaks of politically timing its release of the data.|
WikiLeaks data prompt Maliki doubts
BAGHDAD — New documents detailing alleged prisoner abuse by Iraqi security officials prompted fresh doubts yesterday about Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bid to remain in power for a second term.
The trove of nearly 400,000 WikiLeaks papers details US military reports of alleged abuse by Iraqi security forces — some of which happened after Maliki became prime minister in May 2006. They were released as Maliki scrambles to keep his job, nearly seven months after national elections failed to produce a clear winner.
In a statement, Maliki’s office lashed out at WikiLeaks, accusing it of creating a national uproar by releasing documents that it said were being used “against national parties and leaders, especially against the prime minister.’’
Maliki’s office questioned the timing of the release, but expressed confidence in “our peoples’ awareness regarding such games or media bubbles that are motivated by known political goals.’’
The statement said the documents did not present any proof of detainees being improperly treated while Maliki has headed Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government.
Cases of prisoner abuse were also widely reported in Iraq before Maliki took the top job.
The 391,831 war documents date from the start of 2004 to Jan. 1 of this year, providing a ground-level view of the war written mostly by low-ranking officers in the field.
The documents were made public in defiance of Pentagon insistence that the action puts the lives of US troops and their coalition partners at risk.
At a news conference in London yesterday, WikiLeaks said it would soon publish 15,000 additional secret Afghan war documents.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell called the release of the Iraq war material by WikiLeaks “shameful, and said it “could potentially undermine our nation’s security.’’
“The biggest potential damage here, we think, could be to our forces,’’ he said, “because there are now potentially 400,000 documents in the public domain for our enemies to mine, look for vulnerabilities, patterns of behavior, things they could exploit to wage attacks against us in the future.’’
He said that about 300 Iraqis mentioned in the documents are “particularly vulnerable to reprisal attacks’’ because of the documents’ release and that US forces in Iraq are trying to protect them.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that charge. Speaking to reporters in London, he said the Pentagon statements were “simply not true’’ and said he was confident that Iraqis weren’t named in the documents.
Maliki’s political opponents quickly seized on the documents to highlight their long-standing concerns about a possible second Maliki term as prime minister.
A spokeswoman for the Sunni-backed Iraqiya political alliance that won the most seats in the March national election said the WikiLeaks documents show why it’s important to have a power-sharing system of government in Iraq.
“Putting all the security powers in the hands of one person who is the general commander of the armed forces [has] led to these abuses and torture practices in Iraqi prisons,’’ Iraqiya spokeswoman Maysoun al-Damlouji said.
Most of the victims of abuse at the hands of Iraqi security were believed to be Sunnis. In March, Sunnis turned out in droves to vote for the secular Iraqiya bloc led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, a Shi’ite.
The Sunni push gave Iraqiya a narrow two-seat win over Maliki’s State of Law bloc, but Iraqiya still fell far short of capturing enough support to control Parliament and oust him. The close vote touched off a scramble as each sides seeks backing from other parties to secure a majority in the 325-seat Parliament.