Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Powers That Be Feel the Pinch – Or Even an Identity Crisis?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 23:59

The contradictions within the Maliki government were of course apparent long before the January 2009 elections, but the results of those elections have certainly accentuated internal divisions. Already in 2008, there were plenty of examples of intra-Shiite competition between Daawa and the Islamic Supreme Council for the Revolution of Iraq (ISCI). In an interesting new development, the remnants of the Tawafuq bloc have recently criticised the decision of the Iraqi federal supreme court to postpone to 8 April its ruling on what constitutes an “absolute majority” (see previous entry), accusing it of being “politicised”, i.e. not supporting their own favourite Ayad al-Samarrai as the new parliamentary speaker. In other words, the “powers that be” bloc (whose nucleus was always KDP/PUK/ISCI/IIP) criticises unspecified other parties for being, well, the powers that be!

Meanwhile, ISCI is employing its favourite weapon, anti-Baathism, to try to recover some of the ground it lost during the local elections. Iran seems pleased at the idea of a return to a more sectarian discourse, and there will always be Sadrists prepared to join this bandwagon – regardless of continued efforts by others in their camp to work in a more cross-sectarian direction. As for Maliki’s opening towards cooperation with Salih al-Mutlak in local government, this is arguably some of the most courageous and quintessentially Iraqi he has done as premier. And while the forces that push in a more sectarian direction remain formidable, Maliki should take comfort from some of the more implicit reactions from other corners. When the Hadba bloc in Mosul calls for Iraqi central government forces to replace the Kurdish peshmerga this is undeniably also a step in the direction of recognising the idea of a non-sectarian Iraqi army as an achievable objective.

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