Amid an increasing number of meetings between State of Law and Iraqiyya, it is interesting that there is increasing debate about the stance of the two sides on an issue that could potentially unite them: Article 140 of the constitution relating to so-called “disputed territories”, including most importantly Kirkuk.
Some of this discussion has reflected continued disappointment among Iraqi nationalists about what was perceived as a “soft” (i.e. pro-Kurdish) stance by the State of Law alliance (SLA) headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during the debate on the election law last autumn, when their failure to argue for more robust measures against perceived Kurdish heavy-handedness in controlling the elections in Kirkuk was seen as a reversion to the “old politics” of 2005-2007 with Shiites and Kurds united in an ethno-sectarian alliance against Sunnis. However, there are now also growing signs of another – and opposite – trend within State of Law: Attempts to reassure voters that there will be no “sell-out” as far as Kirkuk is concerned, which is pretty much what many Iraqiyya politicians also demand.
One example of this is Sadiq al-Kaabi of State of Law, who recently told reporters that SLA would rather be in the opposition than do a bargain on 140. Kaabi, who currently has a leading position at the new Najaf airport, has an interesting background: Like many in Daawa, he spent long years in exile, but instead of staying in Iran, he completed his education in Cairo and Beirut, thus clearly preferring the environment of the Arab world. In the 1990s he lived in Syria (also like Nuri al-Maliki).
There is nothing new in this. After all, divisions within the old all-Shiite alliance precisely on issues like 140 and Kirkuk were instrumental in bringing about its demise, with Fadila and Sadrists joining Iraqiyya and Hiwar in the 22 July front, and with Maliki adopting many items on the 22 July agenda when he eventually chose to challenge the more pro-Kurdish ISCI in the January 2009 local elections. But it is interesting that these issues should come to the forefront again at this particular time, after de-Baathification had threatened to kill any prospects of the kind of inter-sectarian alliances based on Iraqi nationalism that were seen in 2008 and 2009.