Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Federal Supreme Court Goes Incommunicado over De-Baathification, Compensation Seats

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 1 April 2010 12:21

It has emerged that one possible explanation for the recent decision by Iraqiyya to challenge the jurisdiction of the Iraqi federal supreme court could be sheer exasperation. After a period of long silence, and without much attention from the media, the court has over the past few days quietly issued a series of opinions which must have done little to inspire confidence in its ability to act as a neutral arbiter in Iraqi affairs.

The first is the much-anticipated and long-overdue response to a query from Salih al-Mutlak and Nasir al-Ani that was transferred by Ayad al-Samarraie, the parliamentary speaker, to the court on 28 February, i.e. more than one week ahead of the parliamentary elections. The two deputies were asking about the permissibility of their exclusion from the election which was based on a reference to article 7 of the constitution, which outlaws glorification of the Baath, racism and sectarian cleansing, but which also calls for a special law to implement those red lines in Iraqi politics. Mutlak and Ani asked whether one could be excluded with reference to this article at a point in time when the actual piece of legislation called for by the constitution has yet to be passed by parliament.

The court’s decision is not particularly sophisticated. It simply says, the query does not call for an interpretation of article 7/1 of the constitution; accordingly it is outside the jurisdiction of the federal supreme court! And that’s it. It is not unlikely that this striking attempt by the court to avoid constitutional interpretation at those junctures when it finds it suitable to do so (the query clearly does relate to constitutional interpretation, and the ruling is indeed classified under this heading in the announcement by the court) may have played a role in the recent breakdown of trust between Iraqiyya and the Iraqi legal system and the decision by the former to question the prerogatives of the court more broadly. The long period that lapsed from the initial query, and, obviously, the fact that the elections took place in the interim – without Mutlak and Ani – all suggest that the court is now under so much political pressure that it cannot anymore be identified as an independent power broker in Iraqi politics.

It is interesting, too, in this regard, that the court refused to have anything to do with a query from the election commission, IHEC, about how to apportion compensation seats. In this case, one can perhaps to a greater extent understand the court’s reluctance, since the issue at hand concerns the relationship between the electoral law and IHEC regulation 21 on the apportionment of the 7 compensation seats. Back in 2005, IHEC applied a fundamentally undemocratic procedure of simply allotting the compensation seats to party leaders who could do with them as they saw fit (i.e. remunerating loyal but not necessarily popular non-winning candidates within their list), and in that sense IHEC regulation 21 of 2009, which gives the seats to the non-winning candidates with the most votes, was clearly a step in the right direction. Articles 17 and 18 of the old election law specifies a procedure whereby party leaderships provide a list of nominees for the compensation seats, but IHEC has objected to this as a remnant of the closed-list system; hence the uncertainty and the struggle between powerful party elites and their protégées on the one hand and the candidates that did well among voters on the other.

Once more, the court says it has no jurisdiction in the matter. Unable or unwilling to communicate, or perhaps a combination thereof.

51 Responses to “The Federal Supreme Court Goes Incommunicado over De-Baathification, Compensation Seats”

  1. Ali Wasati said

    This is a disgrace, if the federal court does not have jurisdiction then who does? Dont they even attempt to answer that question.

    I’m all for banning Mutlaq and Ani for their praise of the Baath, but I thought it can be done by legal means, witht eh support of the courts.

    Did’nt the court of appeal upheld the decision to ban them? So if the court of the appeal has thr jurisdiction, how comes the federal court which is a higher authority does’nt?

  2. Reidar,
    Excellen observation, the Supreme Court contradicting itself.. The Supreme Court should be the guardian of the political process, it is surprising how little interest it raises among the Iraqi political parties. I hope whoever forms the new Iraqi government will start with fixing the supreme court!

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, the appeals court has an explicit mandate to deal only with appeals under article 6 of the AJ law, which has to do with positions in the bureaucracy and therefore does not relate to glorification (which is the charge against Mutlak and Ani). In fact, if the challenge is under article 7 of the constitution, it would be explicitly illegal for the special AJ appeals board to deal with it.

  4. Mohammed said

    Hi Reidar:

    Thank you for pointing out these very unfortunate trends that are moving away from the rule of law. You are more knowledgeable regarding Iraqi law and procedures than anybody else I have seen on various web blogs.

    Unfortunately, all the Iraqi political parties are getting increasingly desperate. While these legal matters are interesting, in the end, I think regional politics will dictate who will be the next PM.

    I think that the Saudi and American strategies in Iraq are rather short-sighted and counter-productive. Instead of supporting Allawi, adopting a neutral stance, or even a more pro-Maliki stance could have peeled away State of Law from Iran’s sphere of influence. I very much doubt that Maliki wakes up each morning with the thought: “How do I make the Iranians happy today?” Iraqis are proud and do not want to be dominated by either Iran or Saudi Arabia.

    Maliki is going to Iran not out of strength, but out of weakness. It is ironic that Maliki and Allawi are both supposed nationalists, and centrists, but have to resort to cooperating with extreme opposing elements in order to attain power, rather than working with one another. By all accounts, Maliki was weary of Iran and did not want them meddling in Iraqi affairs. But, if you are Maliki, and see that your chief rival Allawi is getting supported by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other Arab countries, then what recourse do you have?

    I think that it will be inevitable for State of Law to combine with INA. Together, they will only need a handful more seats to form a majority (perhaps working with small list like Bolani, Tawaffuq, or peeling away a couple of MPs from Iraqiya). I cannot see either State of Law or Iraqiya ever agreeing to give up Kirkuk. I don’t think Iran or Turkey would want that either. Thus, the Kurds will either have to get on board by not pressing the Kirkuk issue, or not be part of the winning coalition. It is ironic that the people Allawi chose to include in Iraqiya made his list garner more votes, but in the end, these same characters make Iraqiya a very unsavory list to partner with the Kurds or INA.

    Thus, even if the law is pursued correctly to its end, it seems politics will dominate the day.

  5. Salah said

    Maliki and other sectarian and religious parties who changed their skin before running to last election have nothing change with their believes and love to Iranians.

    Why should we presume these guys truly have changed? The change not in spoken word they separated on air, nothing changed at all they still believe what they learned and trained before 30 years ago.

    It’s not a matter of weakens or strength these guys go to Iranians asking for support? They not asking they are getting Wilayat al-Faqih orders what the next step.
    Maliki went the Iranians after winning 2005 election so why he did is a singe of weakness or strength?

    Back to the court refused to have anything to do with a query from the election commission, I thing this is not surprising because these judges are not up to their job firstly, secondly they are may influenced by their handlers, you may think they are independent and they are on their own but in Iraq this is far to be the true case to believe watching carefully the past and today politics behaviours.

    This reminded us by another example of Iraq Anti-Corruption and Transparency headed by former Iraqi Judge Radhi al-Radhi and others after he left/pushed how these independent bodies works in Iraq and how really they have expressed their professional work. I think you give these institutions to much emphasis about their works but they are still under heavy influences from the tope also has themselves some maturity of professionalism work.

  6. David said


    What’s your analysis on why Bolani’s Unity Alliance did so poorly? What does this mean for his future?

  7. kevin J waldroup said

    Key Shi’ite support for Allawi bloc

    BAGHDAD: Iraq’s former prime minister Iyad Allawi received a major boost to his hopes of regaining the post yesterday when the leader of a key Shi’ite bloc said it would not join a government without him.

    Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc narrowly edged out the State of Law Alliance of sitting premier Nuri Al Maliki in Iraq’s March 7 parliamentary election, but both are battling to be the first to form a parliamentary majority.

    “We will not participate in a government that does not include Iraqiya,” Ammar Al Hakim said on the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council website.

    Iraqiya secured 91 seats in the 325-member Council of Representatives, complete preliminary results show, with much of its support coming from secular Shi’ite Muslims in the south and Sunni Arabs in the north.
    © Gulf Daily News

  8. Reidar Visser said

    David, I think we need to remember that UOI and INM to a considerable extent cater for the same electorate and that the nucleus of UOI, the Iraqi Constitutional Party, performed quite badly in Jan 2009 despite making the right kind of noises. So maybe the voters decided Iraqiyya was the better alternative despite the many similarities.

    Kevin, as I see it, any Allawi-Hakim alliance would be the least interesting and most contradictive scenario of the many combinations that are being talked about involving INM and INA. Hakim’s ISCI will have 8 seats, which is about the same size as Tawafuq, and what they are saying today is a lott less significant than it was in 2005.

  9. Salah said

    وكانت المحكمة الاتحادية اكدت في وقت سابق أن تفسير المادة 76 من الدستور العراقي حول تكليف الكتلة النيابية الأكبر عدداً بتشكيل الحكومة بأن المقصود من تعبير «الكتلة النيابية الأكثر عدداً» هي التي تتكون داخل مجلس النواب وليست الحاصلة على أكثر الأصوات في الانتخابات، الأمر الذي أثار ردود أفعال عدة من قياديين الذين اعتبروه مسيَّساً وغير قانوني.

    Please Reidar, what’s your view s about the above?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, please see the previous post:

  11. Gösta Grönroos said

    Kevin, I think Hakim’s announcement must be seen from the point of view of the INA/SOL talks. The same goes for Sadr’s “referendum”. Apparently, Maliki is not prepared to step down, and SIIC and the Sadrists want to signal that he, and SOL, is not indispensible. On a more positive note, perhaps it’s beginning to dawn upon the players that a government without Iraqyia is likely to face major security problems, up to the point where even the US withdrawal is in jeopardy.

  12. Kermanshahi said

    Gösta, I agree with you that al-Hakim is probably saying this to pressure Maliki because ISCI and al-Iraqiyya basicly disagree about everything so I don’t see how they can work together. Security concerns I think are not that big. The civil war is over because the Shi’a won and the Sunnis lost, there are not many Sunnis who feel for a return to violence anymore, currently the difference in military strength is much bigger than then and if they go for another confrontation, their community will take even bigger losses.

  13. Ali Wasati said

    Maybe Ammar Hakim said this because it would be a serious it would seriously marginalise the Suuni community without the participation of Iraqiyia. The Sadrists have also said this.

    What would be best is a Prime Minister neither from Iraqyia or SLA or INA. A shia respected by all, and the forming of government can then proceed. Because ALlawi is simply just not acceptable to the majority of Iraqis.

  14. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, regarding de-Ba’athification, I wonder if you have seen this interview with Ahmad Challabi, he seems to be making a quite good case here in defending what he did. What are your view on what he said here?

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, could you please spell out why the PM has to be a Shiite?

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, that is 48 minutes of Chalabi from 26 February so it won’t be on the top of the pile… I’ll look at it if I get the time, but it would be helpful if you could summarise anything you find that is particularly convincing. To this date, I have never seen anyone make a coherent, legal argument for the approach adopted by Chalabi and Lami, and I have listened to quite a few of their past statements.

  17. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, the video is actually only 23 minutes but something apparently went wrong with the uploading as it’s repeated twice after each other. I skimmed through the second half, it’s exactly the same as the first half.

  18. Mohammed said

    Dear Reidar:

    You have to remember that nearly 50% of the electorate voted for what you would consider “sectarian” lists including SOL and INA. On top of that you have the kurds form another 15-17%, and you can see that the overwhelming majority of the country would not stand for a pro-Baath prime minister. Can you please point out a leading sunni candidate for PM that is sufficiently popular enough with the Sunnis and is also anti-Baath?

    Although, the sunnis voted for Iraqiya, it wasnt so much as voting for Allawi (a secular shiite) as much as it was for voting for the sectarian sunnis that are aligned with Allawi. For example, Iraqiya and State of Law were close in total number of seats in Baghdad. But when you compare Maliki head-to-head with Allawi, Maliki gathered more votes by a landslide in Baghdad.

    I just don’t see any Sunni who is popular and can be trusted to control the military. Iraq is not yet a mature western democracy where the military is loyal to the constition of the country. In practice, any new PM would simply sack all the military leaders in place today with generals, colonels, etc that will be loyal to him and his consituency, not the Iraqi state.

    Sunni arabs represent no more than 20-25% of the Iraqi population. If a government emerges where sunnis occupy 80-90% of the important seats, I would deem that to be far more sectarian than today’s Iraqi government.

    There is a basic lack of trust between the communities that needs the process of reconciliation. Until that happens, Shia and Kurds still have fresh in their minds the dark days of Saddam, and needs strong checks and balances to ensure that they are not once again dominated by the minority.

    Let me be bold enough to predict that if Saddam was still alive and allowed to run in the last elections, he would have won the sunni vote by a landslide. What does that tell you about sectarianism in Iraq?

  19. Ali Wasati said

    There is no constitutional requirement for a prime minister being shia. However i was just stating what is deemed realistic in the new Iraq.

    There seems to be an invisible unspoken rule that PM role for shia, presidency for kurds and speaker for Parliament for sunni arab.

    Also the I cannot see a non shia PM in Iraq for a long time, until things heal. The shia who have been oppressed for 35 yrs and marginalised for 1400 years, and are not likely to allow a non shia PM, and i think Reidar its unfair of you to expect them to accept that.

  20. Salah said

    Because ALlawi is simply just not acceptable to the majority of Iraqis

    Give me a break, This is just laughable statement by one looks selling his …… agenda.

    He spoke about the maturity of Iraqi politicians and democracy and now himself looks very similar to what he talk about them.

    How on earth Alawi not acceptable by majority of Iraqi while he and his “Kutla” win the election?

  21. Ali Wasati said

    Mohammed you put it well. Unfortunately many who have not suffered as the shia and Kurds, people for example who dont have family members in the hundreds of mass graves, just simply dont understand our fear.

    God willing the next government will include some members of Allawi, as long as the military/interior and security portfolios go to those who struggled for change in Iraq not those who were a part of the old regime or sympathise with them.

  22. Salah said

    Looks Maliki running out of his options to stay as PM, Reported today Maliki offer Kirkuk to Kurds to be part of there region and accepting Jalal Talabani as next president…? Is this due to Ammar happy to joint Allawi to form new government?

    المالكي : ضم كركوك اداريا للاقليم سيجعلها مزدهرة ونؤيد رئاسة طالباني للعراق

    In same taken ISCI start internal fights between his members on what went wrong with disasturs election for the given them on 18 seats wre they hade 40 in the 2005 election

    وتساءل «ما هو التأثير الذي احدثته اكبر مؤسسة اعلامية حزبية في العراق وتملك 13 صحيفة وقناتين فضائيتين؟» في اشارة الى اعلام «المجلس الاسلامي الأعلى».

    Ali Wasati
    The shia who have been oppressed for 35 yrs and marginalised for 1400

    Looks you need to reread the history well before keep victimising stories here to get support for your very hateful attitude obviously one never believe in the basic rules of democracy, he keep talking about a land have long history of ethnics diversions lived along 5000yesr not just 1400 years with same.

    However to correct some of your wrong own creted history these are two historical events that prove your are wrong in reporting Iraq history:

    1- Harun ar-Rashidhis his “PM” in today style position was Yahya followed by Ja’affar Al-Barmaki he is Shiit?

    Harun ar-Rashid was strongly influenced by the will of his mother in the governance of the empire until her death in 789. His vizier (chief minister) Yahya the Barmakid, his sons, and other Barmakids generally controlled the administration.Wikipedia

    2- Shiit State was established in Iraq and called The White Sheep State(الصفوية الدولة “دولة الخروف الاسود “و

    As for the past 35 years, Shiites represent 70% of Ba’ath party also the Iraqi military almost had 75% Shiites been the structural of Iraqi military, let keep in mind Saddam’s security forces and intelligence force were different from Iraqi Army.Reports saying it was consisted 250,000 personal, that was for regime’s defending forces it was not Iraqi Military personal.

    Coming here today and talking about one single religious ethnics rights is just exactly follow the same footprints of the old oppressed regime and you need to countdown to your death then from now and on.

    Although, the sunnis voted for Iraqiya, it wasnt so much as voting for Allawi (a secular shiite) as much as it was for voting for the sectarian sunnis that are aligned with Allawi.

    Same thing can be said with other Shiites and sectarians blocks were much as it was for voting for the sectarian Shiites, isn’t Mohammed

    let me be bold enough to predict that if Saddam was still alive and allowed to run in the last elections, he would have won the sunni vote by a landslide. What does that tell you about sectarianism in Iraq?

    First Saddam have no religion he was a tyrant, bastards and ugly killer so counting him as Sunni just a dream of mindless, keep in mind that many Shiites are changed their minds now after seven years with uncovered truths about those Mullah who were long carrying for them and their misfortune, they found that the have worse time with today Mullah, look to death of “Shiites journalist and many more who gunned for no reason just the voiced out tier minds and their communities

  23. Kermanshahi said

    Salah, do you have a source which sais Maliki offered the Kurds Kerkuk?

  24. Jason said

    I admit that I don’t understand parliamentary systems, but from the conversation you all make it sound like the PM has the powers of a king? Don’t parliament and the courts retain substantial powers (“checks and balances”)? For example, how could Maliki possibly promise Kirkuk to the Kurds when an absolute majority of parliament is firmly opposed?

  25. Kermanshahi said

    Jason, yes a majority is needed to give concessions on Kerkuk, but Maliki is trying to form a majority coalition, he needs the Kurds in this coalition, otherwise it’s very unliekly he can get a majority, so he needs to get different parties into his coalition by making agreements with them, when he finally made this majority government, they can do what they want. The parties which would oppose to joining any government which allows a Kerkuk referendum are in al-Iraqiyya, they won’t be forming a government with Maliki anyway.

  26. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, that “unspoken, invisible rule” was introduced in the US-sponsored TAL. In a letter to Lakhdar al-Ibrahimi, Sistani at the time objected to it because of the enshrinement (takris) of sectarian division in the administrative structure of the state and the concomitant dangers of partition (taqsim). I see no reason why Iraqi politicians should continue to adhere to this nonsense rule.

    Jason, that is a good point. Regardless of what promises anyone offers to the Kurds, this will have to pass parliament (obviously in the case of the oil law, but there would also have to be a referendum law for Kirkuk). On top of that, it is likely that the new constitutional revision committee will take up the matter of article 140, and the executive will not be in a position to dictate that process either.

  27. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, on the accountability commitee, today I read the decission had been made by (either IHEC or supreme court, I don’t remember exactly) that if they would “de-Ba’athify” any of the MPs which made it to parliament, they would be replaced by members of the same list, this pretty much kills the point of banning 4 members of Allawis list to make Maliki the biggest.

  28. Ali Wasati said

    Kermanshahi, out of curiosity I read that you said that the shia won the civil war, i have read this else where, would you mind explaining how you have come to this conclusion? thanks

  29. Salah said

    Kermanshahi, the link already there “linked to Maliki”, however thee are more than one sources reported

  30. Salah said

    Kurds and al-Hadba meet to solve problems

    on the accountability committee?

    At a news conference on Monday, the commission’s director, Ali Faisal al-Lami, refused to disclose the names or political affiliations of the 52 candidates the commission is seeking to disqualify. Many were likely to be members of Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition.

    But the accountability and justice commission’s current power is unclear because it is attached to Parliament, which is no longer in session.

    “We do not have to abide by their recommendations because they no longer have authority,” said Sardar Abdul Qadir, a member of the election commission.

    A nother commission member, Sa’ad al-Rawi, said the ultimate decision regarding the 52 candidates rested with Iraq’s court system.

    “The decision is not in our hands,” Mr. Rawi said.

  31. Joel Wing said


    A mature and developed parliamentary system is more democratic than the American system. For example the prime minister often has to go before parliament for debate and questioning, something that is unheard of in the US. In developing countries like Iraq however, whoever is the leader no matter what system they have has a huge amount of power because the legislature hasn’t developed the ability to form real oppositions or provide checks to the leader. It was only last year that Maliki’s opposition even got to question any of the minister’s and even then it was only a few of them.

  32. Kermanshahi said

    @Ali Wasati as you might know, in 2005 Sunnis boycotted the election, a Shi’a secterian government was created and the security forces were almost fully Shi’a, during this time the Sunnis started a public uprising against this government. Unil recently the insurgency was mostly Sunni and the government almost fully Shi’a and some of these insurgent groups like al-Qaeda made no secret of it that they opposed to Shi’a religion. The government has since then taken control of most Sunni areas and Sunnis have mostly abandoned the insurgency and joined the political process, we see Sunnis joining the security forces and the parliament. This defeat of the Sunni insurgency is sometimes referred to as a victory by Shi’a.

    However more commonly it refers to the unofficial battle for Baghdad that took place during the war. At the beginning of the war Baghdad had a slight Sunni majority, during the insurgency, Sunni insurgent groups seized control of large parts of the city fighting the government for control, there were also Sunni and Shi’a insurgents/militia fighting each other but more importantly the secterian conflict in the city. Sunnis and Shi’as were killing each other in large numbers through suicide/car bombings at the Sunni side and death squads at the Shi’a side. Security forces, heavily infiltrated by militia had an important role in it. We know the end result, large scale ethnic cleansing of Baghdad by Shi’as, today Baghdad is 75% Shi’a and as result the Sunni insurgency has been mostly (though not completely) quelled. Mainly because of this, most Sunnis don’t feel like the return to violence again, that’s why they say it was a Shi’a victory.

    If another round of violence were to break out, the Shi’a have been put at much more of an advantage and there will mostl likely be much higher Sunni civilian casualties than Shi’a and the government which is much more stable now is much less likely to loose control of key cities and provinces.

  33. Salah said


    Your assessments of the sectarian conflicts very shallow and inaccurate.

    Iraqis have nothing between them before and after the invasion. It was very shameful to ask any Iraqi which sect he is belongs, the intermarriages between them up to 38%.

    There isn’t conflicts or hatred between Iraqis themselves, Iraqi Public Opinion Polls and the Occupation were against the invasion of there land this was document in may pools even US polls which reached to %65 asking US to withdraws from their land obviously those number not represent one sect. alone as we can see.

    Iraqis against any interference from their neighbour countries on their life. This was clear and voiced many times.

    Today, however, Iranian interests differ substantially, even if the two states see eye to eye on other issues. Take Iraq, where Iran stands by its Iraqi Shiite allies, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Al-Daawa, and the Mehdi Army. A few months ago, SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim called for a Shiite state in south and central Iraq, in a federal framework. This caused alarm bells to ring in Damascus. Syria fears any partition of Iraq, whether along sectarian or ethnic lines, because of the threat this might pose to its own sectarian and ethnically diverse social structure.

    If you think that both sects have apposing each other then you should saw secretion killing starting on day one when American went inside Iraq not after one or two years later of the invasion.

    The upraising was against American not the sect. government as such, this should very basic fact here and Iraqi rose against those who brought or were puppets to Armenians this were well know facts.

    Before the White House settled on the surge as a solution, national security advisers floated a number of radical ideas—dividing Iraq into three parts; dropping the democracy idea and backing the Shiites, who were in any event the majority; and levelling the playing field and bringing the Sunnis back into the government. In the event it was the third of these ideas that emerged during the course of the surge,

    So spare your time and think more deep before putting words and commenting as if people don’t know the reality what’s when wrong in Iraq after the invasion.

    Btw, there were uprising in most southern Iraq cities in Nassrya when people shoot by guns , in Kut, in Ommara, also Najaf and Karbala don’t you think those who killed and suppressed from which sect, were they? or they are also against Shiites government? the sectarian killing start with ja’afri came as PM afterward

    I leave you with these two link for your temptations of sectarian killing and cleansing in Iraq…

    Resettling Iraq’s Four Million Displaced
    The Seven Deadly Sins of Failure in Iraq

  34. Kermanshahi said

    Salah, what I said was meant to be a simplified explenation of the secterian conflict which did happen. I am well aware of all things you mentioned above and of the fact that a victory is always disputed as long as there wasn’t an official surrander.

    Now we all see secterianism is on it’s way out but that doesn’t mean it was never there and secterian killings still continue (there are still plenty of suicide bombings, by Sunnis, against Shi’as) only it’s all died down a lot and the secterian killings started with suicide bombings by Sunnis, they ended with ethnic cleansing by Shi’a. If you look back at it you can clearly see that the Shi’a won, but now it’s (mostly) over both sides are moving back to the non-secterianism and national reconciliation, Sunnis are joining the political process.

  35. Ali Wasati said

    Kermanshahi thanks for that, i guess i agree with your take on this if we look at it from the outside.

  36. haider said

    kermanshahi, this claim you are making that the ‘shia’ ethnically cleansed baghdad is very irresponsible, because a few militias who do not represent the shia killed sunnis does not mean you can say collectively the ‘shia’ won the war or ethnically cleansed baghdad. and many sunnis are still in baghdad today I really think ‘ethnically cleansed’ is an exaggeration, the mixed sunnis shia areas suffered alot of violence from both sides, and the stronger sect in those areas dominated and the rest were displaced. what sources do you have to say that baghdad was mostly sunni before the war? Half of baghdad’s population is from the slums of sadr city. This ’shia’ won the war crap is from nir rosen, and no one won it.

  37. Ali Wasati said

    Kermanshahi, i think the truth was the Baghdad has always been a shia majority. I can only think of a few areas that are entirely sunni, whilst i can anme many that are entirely shia, and the rest are mixed.

    I think the Diala, it could be said that the shia have been ethnically cleansed from there, far more than Baghdad out of Sunnis.

    However i do agree the the shia won, because for the first two years the sunni extremists killed with ease without the fear of reprisals, its only when when shias started to fight back that the sunnis started to stand up against alqaeda and stopped violence.

    However i would add that unfortunate truth, is the civilians from both sides suffered the most, not the actual sunni terrorists or shia militias.

  38. Joel Wing said

    Baghdad was probably Shiite majority. What was different about it before and after the sectarian war however was that before most of the city were mixed neighborhoods with Sunnis and Shiites. After the sectarian war the city divided up amongst distinctly Sunni areas and Shiite areas, the mixed neighborhoods almost disappeared, and the Shiites spread throughout the entire city which is why people say that Shiites won.

    See maps of the demographic changes of the city here:

    Also, you can definitely say that the Sunnis gave up. First in 2005 the tribes in Anbar were caught between Al Qaeda who was trying to take over their businesses and the leadership of the insurgency and the U.S., and the tribes chose to flip sides and turned on Al Qaeda and join the Americans. Then in 2007 most of the insurgency quit and switched sides to the Americans because they were caught between Al Qaeda who was trying to take over, the Shiite militias who were expanding their territory and the U.S. That’s why you had the Awakening and the Sons of Iraq. That’s why the insurgency is only a shell of its former self and only active in certain areas of the country because the vast majority have given up the fight and switched sides.

  39. Kermanshahi said

    @Haider, by no means do I say these militia which numbered several thousand represent 18 milion Shi’a in Iraq or that few thousand al-Qaeda and other wahabi extremists represent 5 milion Sunnis of Iraq but these were Sunni and Shi’a groups which were fighting each other and that’s what I meant with it. Ofcourse I wasn’t saying all Shi’a were involved in the ethnic cleansing or all Sunnis were involved in the suicide bombings.

    @Wasati, Baghdad might have had a Shi’a majority in 2003 however if it did it was a slight majority at the time it was almost 50-50, now Shi’a are over 75% and although there weren’t many fully Sunni neighbourhoods, in the past nonsecterian Iraq they two lived alongside each other and most of Baghdad was mixed. During the secterian conflict Sunni insurgents killed or forcefully expelled most the Shi’a in Sunni areas while Shi’a militia killed or forcefully expelled most Sunnis in Shi’a and mixed neighboorhoods, it was particulary the ethnic cleansing in mixed neighboorhoods which changed the city from a mixed city to a predominantly Shi’a city.

    Cetrainly there were also secterian killings and ethnic cleansing in places like Baquba and Sammarra, specially Baquba since it actually fell to insurgent control but vast majority of it was in Baghdad. Now at first sight the new election results seem to show Diyala is less mixed than we thought but have a look, SLC&NIA together have ~140K votes, the INM has ~230K (these are the 95% figures), in January 2005 SCIRI & Dawa only got 84 thousand.

  40. Reidar Visser said

    Sorry guys, can we please get back to the original subject? To be honest, this crude and futile Shiites versus Sunnis business has me and probably many other readers totally uninterested (and there are a million other places on the internet that specialise in it). I realise that as a moderator I probably should have intervened earlier but I have been travelling all week and only gradually realised how far off topic we were getting. In retrospect I think it all started to go wrong when this idea of Sunnis and Shiites “winning” or “losing” a “civil war” got introduced. That kind of perspective assumes coherent monolithic actors and generally turns Iraqis into herds of animals – an analytical approach that was very popular in the 1920s but is useless in terms of understanding the complexities of Iraqi politics today.

  41. bb said

    Reads to me like the Federal court is doing its best to stay out of these political bunfights until the parliament gives it proper legislation to rule on. Very prudent I’d say.

  42. bks said

    Obama has set August 2010 as some sort of deadline. That’s less than six months from now.
    What is the best case scenario in that time frame, assuming that a stable representative
    government is the goal?


    p.s. Thanks for your efforts, Reidar Visser.

  43. Reidar Visser said

    Bks, I just think we are running ahead of ourselves by looking at August. There are so many “ifs” and “buts” before we reach August that I really don’t understand how people can make predictions about the likely state of play at that point.IHEC closed the window for making complaints on Friday and said they would have the elections certified in 10 days. That is, absent any hiccups in the certification process, such as a struggle between IHEC and the AJ committee about how to deal with any post-election de-Baathification. If that goes well, the next crucial step is the selection of the speaker. I still don’t see much in the way of specific debate on that.

  44. Kermanshahi said

    Well Reidar, Maliki boasted he could form a government within two months, if that is true, August will be no problem.

  45. Jason said

    It’s very hard to appreciate this parliamentary system when it can literally leave a country with no leadership for months and months at a time. Looks like a terrible flaw, inviting potential disaster. It also appears to be inherently weak, even after a govt is formed.

  46. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, I don’t think this is necessarily a defect of the parliamentary system as such but rather of its particular Iraqi incarnation, in which the president is elected by the same assembly that forms the government and at the same time.

  47. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, what is the point of holding Presidential elections if the President has a mere ceremonial role? In most parliamentary republics, the president is elected by parliament. The real problem in government forming is that currently there are still far to many parties (and making the parliament larger was IMO, not a very great idea), however this seems to be, becoming less.

    I did however read that Maliki wants to change the system from a parliamentary system to a presidential system. Personally I think that would be a very bad idea, since then not everybody would be represented like they are now and also it’s more likely to bring forwards a dictator. For the last 2 years I’ve been worried that Maliki is becoming (or at least trying to become) a sort of new Saddam and his recent attitude prior to (de-ba’athification) and after the election (not accepting results, coup threats) only highlight this. If he were to become President Iraq could become like Egypt.

  48. Xenophon said


    I must confess, I find your post #40 difficult to comprehend. Your initial point that the Sunni-Shia debate was off topic for a string entitled “The Federal Supreme Court Goes Incommunicado Over De-Baathification, Compensation Seats” is certainly valid, but what followed confused me. How can the ethno-sectarian conflicts at the heart of the post-Saddam Iraq leave one “totally uninterested?” Yes, the inadequacies of the Supreme Court are significant in their way, but they pale beside the macro-dynamics that are driving the overall situation in Iraq. Let’s not lose the forest for the trees, or worse, wish away the existence of the forest, because it’s so unpleasant.

    “In retrospect I think it all started to go wrong when this idea of Sunnis and Shiites “winning” or “losing” a “civil war” got introduced. That kind of perspective assumes coherent monolithic actors and generally turns Iraqis into herds of animals.”

    Were the Roundheads in the English Civil War or the North in the US Civil War monolithic actors? Obviously not, but we have no problem judging them to be the victors of the two conflicts. Warring factions/parties/nations are never truly monolithic (above the tribal level anyway), and identifying (or trying to identify) which major groupings have pursued their interests with relative success and have accrued the power to continue to do so is hardly equivalent to conceptualizing them as herds of animals.

  49. Reidar Visser said

    Xenophon, I don’t know enough about 17th century England or the US Civil War to comment on those parallels, but just to be clear about what I meant: I tend to give up when people introduce crude generalisations like “Shiites want”, “Shiites think”… and “Shiites won”! To my mind those simplistic generalisations are so hopelessly detached from a complex empirical reality that it becomes pointless to try to continue the conversation. Yes, there are important sectarian dimensions to many of these issues, but I think we need to be a little more careful about how we discuss them.

  50. Kermanshahi said

    Well Reidar, I think we can see a clear division between ethnic and religious groups in Iraqi politics, they all vote for parties and candidates of their own sect (yes, Allawi is Shi’a, but his coalition partners are all Sunni and they were the ones to win him the votes in Sunni areas), so secterianism is clearly still important in Iraqi politics.

  51. Reidar Visser said

    Important, Yes; all-important, No. You cannot describe Iraqiyya as a “Sunni” party when it got more than 400,000 votes south of Baghdad and some 800,000 in the capital, and when, as you note, its leader comes from a well-established Baghdad Shiite family.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: