Iraq and Gulf Analysis

De-Baathification Has Served Its Purpose: 17 Governorate Results Are Sent to the Court for Certification

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 13 May 2010 19:55

Amidst a sea of rumours, probably the most reliable indicator that the de-Baathification purge of Iraq’s new parliamentarians is coming to an end consists of a report to the effect that the electoral commission, IHEC, has sent the results for 17 governorates (all except Baghdad, where a recount is going on) to the federal supreme court for approval and certification.

This act would have been completely pointless had there been any probability whatsoever that political entities might lose votes as a result of ongoing or future de-Baathification proceedings. If that were to happen, the electoral divider would have to be re-computed for the affected governorates and seats distributed anew – and only IHEC has the authority to do  this. The exact status of the appeals of the 7 to 9 winning candidates that have been reported as subject to de-Baathification remains somewhat unclear, but today’s report is the clearest indication yet that IHEC has no intention of stripping political entities of votes whatever the eventual de-Baathification status of individual winners on those lists.

Meanwhile, the name of the eighth and hitherto unknown winning Iraqiyya candidate that was subjected to de-Baathification has emerged from IHEC documents: She is Lubna Rahim Karim of Wifaq and the decision to exclude her was approved by IHEC as late as 28 April. However, rough calculations indicate that even with the loss of her 8,400 seats on top of those of Iskandar Witwit that seemed at risk at first, Iraqiyya would in fact have kept its 3 seats in Babel.

This all goes to show that the main impact of the de-Baathification purge was a sectarian repolarisation of Iraqi politics, rather than a change of the results as such. It is the general atmosphere of Iraqi politics that has suffered, and the coalition-forming process in particular. No doubt, international players will label the latest developments as positive ones, and, to a certain extent, they are correct. But they will overlook the fact that the reason de-Baathification comes to an end is that the authors of its revival in some respects seem to be on the verge of victory. Characteristically, it is not the judicial system but the accountability and justice committee headed by Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami that is once more driving the process, now apparently reversing its own decisions as if two wrongs could make a right  (also with a little help from the presidency council). They have achieved the recreation of the all-Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, and have managed to consolidate the wedge between Maliki and Allawi, the potential alliance that Iran (and, incidentally, the Kurds) feared the most. And now they, alongside their partners in ISCI – whose domestic media was always jubilant about de-Baathification despite sometimes conciliatory gestures in Western newspapers  – will perhaps be seen as “moderates” too, gallantly reversing their earlier threats for the greater cause of government formation! Another result of their actions, of course, is that the two most popular politicians in Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi, are likely to see their positions severely weakened.

27 Responses to “De-Baathification Has Served Its Purpose: 17 Governorate Results Are Sent to the Court for Certification”

  1. Jason said

    Your points are well-taken, but even so it is still a relief for it to be concluded. Despite their success at “repolarization,” it looks like the old UIA still has very strong differences to overcome before they will be able to govern.

  2. Jason said

    Reidar, perhaps you could shed some light on a puzzle that may be relevant to repairing the old UIA. I have been following Bill Roggio’s Long War Journal for a long time. Ever since the “Charge of the Knights” in 2008, there have been almost daily reports of a dozen or more vaguely described “wanted men” being arrested in Basra. It is very tempting to assume that this is an ongoing, behind-the-scenes power struggle between Maliki (w/ govt forces) arresting members of Sadr’s militia. If that assumption is correct, then it could prove a powerful hurdle to reunification.

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Yeah, that’s right, Maliki-Sadrist tension is one of the reasons the new UIA may have problems almost from the beginning, and part of the struggle certainly seems to be going on in Basra.

  4. Ali W said

    Reidar, are you saying that the whole de-baathification process had nothing to do with banning some members who have worked or glorified the baath?

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, if it had to with “working for the Baath” then it was not systematically applied (confer all the ex-Baathists that still work in the government because they are friends of the government).

    If it had to do with glorification/tamjid then it had no legal basis since there is no special law as called for under article 7 of the constitution (and as we have discussed many times before: only *new* arguments please!)

  6. Ali W said

    Reidar I understand about the law not existing, I meant the intentions of the ones who pushed for it, was it not to route out baathi sympathizers?

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Oh I’m sure that’s how they want us to read it, but looking at the highly selective way they applied it, you do get the feeling that political motives played a major part. Why do you think Abbud al-Eisawi (SLA, Najaf) was targeted, for example?

  8. Salah said

    Ali Wasity
    was it not to route out baathi sympathizers?

    Oh I’m sure that’s how they want us to read it

    Ohhhh, that’s what Ali, karmenshahi w\other folks doing here in this blog, which is culturally inappropriate and insulting for all Iraqis.

  9. Reidar,
    “the main impact of the de-Baathification purge was a sectarian repolarisation of Iraqi politics, rather than a change of the results as such.”
    The question is: Is a sectarian repolarization the main intention and cause of the latest de-baathification? I doubt it, I think their strategists are blundering. I think there is another blunder in the making: The ad hoc alliance committees for selecting a PM designate (other than Maliki) will push Maliki and Allawi together because it threatens both. Any alliance choice other than Maliki will spell the end of the alliance, no?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, I find it interesting to see how various forces are reacting to the prospect of an Allawi-Maliki meeting, which now seems inevitable. The Kurds say they worry that their own power will be reduced. Hakim is apparently trying to hijack it, today suggesting the two men should meet at his own house. Of course, if Allawi and Maliki agree, they need neither Kurds nor Hakim, but Hakim is clearly trying to push this towards a big power-sharing deal involving everyone – precisely on the pattern that Washington, Tehran and Riyadh all want (but which is useless for Iraq).

    With respect to the PM question in the Shiite alliance, that too has seen some interesting moves. Apparently some want it to be settled before any Allawi-Maliki meeting. But reportedly the Sadrists are complaining that all the SLA reps in the committee are Daawa! That just shows the point made here earlier that SLA is a lot less fragmented than INA.

    I guess the best hope for Allawi is that Maliki eventually realises that he is unlikely to become the PM candidate of the new UIA and could get a better deal bilaterally with Iraqiyya.

  11. mostafa said

    Hi Reidar,
    Today I read this news on

    قال المتحدث الإعلامي باسم القيادي في الإئتلاف الوطني العراقي الشيخ همام حمودي، ان التحالف الذي اعلن بين الائتلافين “الوطني” و”دولة القانون” لم يحدد الى الآن لجنة وضع آليات الترشيح لمنصب رئاسة الوزراء.
    واوضح عباس العامري لأصوات العراق ان “الائتلافين الوطني ودولة القانون، لم يحددا الى الان اللجنة التي ستضع وتحدد آليات اختيار المرشحين لمنصب رئيس الوزراء”، مضيفا ان “اكثرية الآراء تذهب الى ان تكون اللجنة التي فاوضت لتشكيل التحالف بين الائتلافين هي نفسها التي ستقوم بوضع آليات اختيار المرشحين لرئاسة الوزراء”.
    واضاف انه “لم يتم الى الآن الاتفاق بشكل نهائي على تشكيل لجنة لبحث المرشحين لرئاسة الوزراء، وانما هناك حديث عام وهو يتطرق في بعض الاحيان الى عدد اعضاء اللجنة وشكلها”.

    Do you know who are the members of that committee (who did the negotiations of INA-SLA merger)?

  12. Reidar,
    If the Alliance committee selects a candidate other than Maliki then it is easy to see rapprochement between Maliki and Allawi like you describe, but what if the committee selects Maliki despite the objections of some Sadrists? The difficult question becomes who will be charged to form the government? Even then I don’t think it will be Maliki and Iraqiyya leaders (not just Allawi) are reflecting this in an attitude of cocky confidence whenever they interact with SLA. My basic assertion is this: What’s becoming clear is that Iran cannot afford a decisive win or exercising largest block interpretation of the merged alliance; the legitimacy of such government will be hanging on Allawi’s participation. Perhaps Allawi is calling them bluff.

  13. Ali W said

    Reidar, I think Maliki will lose all his shia support if he is seen breaking with INA and joining INM and he knows that. I think I would be one of the few Maliki voters who would be happy with that outcome.

  14. Mohammed said

    Hi Reidar:

    I think the billion dollar question is who is going to be PM? That is what all negotiations are leading to: INA-SOL negotiations and SOL-Iraqiya negotiations (other combinations are probably not serious or realistic).

    Maliki has demonstrated that the position of the PM is a powerful position, and in the hands of a decisive leader, that is where the center of power lies. Thus, I am not sure I agree with your view that Maliki would have more influence in an Iraqiya-SOL merger than an INA-SOL merger. Allawi is a very decisive leader, and Maliki is also a decisive leader. If Allawi becomes the PM, I really think any influence Maliki has will be minimal if any. Furthermore, he will be blamed for enabling the “baathists” to come back to power, and given that he would not even be the PM in such a coalition, then he would be too weak to even defend himself from the partisan, sectarian ridicule, and be laughed out of Iraq. However, if Maliki retains the role of the PM, then he would be able to work with Allawi and Iraqiya as part of a centrist non-sectarian coalition (Allawi may then face the same loss of prestige as I described about Maliki)..

    If Maliki were to be PM with INA coalition, he would still have power, but then be accused of being a sectarian shiite by Iraqiya (in other words, hear the same criticism that he has heard from them from day 1). I think Maliki could live with that. SOL-INA coalition with a different prime minister other than Maliki will result in chaos with a weak PM, and give Maliki time to try to rebuild his base as the iraqi people see that their unity govt is unable to deliver on anything other words, Maliki can live to fight another day…

    Thus, Allawi being the PM just does not seem to be in the cards. I dont see what Allawi could offer Maliki. For the last 3 years, these men have shown deep animosity towards one another (and I dont think it has anything to do with the de-baathification circus atmosphere of the last 3 months).

    When you have 2 strong personalities, they naturally do not want to work together, because there is not enough room for both to operate. And you will notice that Allawi has been far more anti-Maliki than he has been in attacking Hakim, Chalabi, or Sadr…

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, I think I remember having seen details of that committee but am not in my office now and don’t have access to all my files. What I can see based on a quick look at the net is that Qusay al-Suhayl of the Sadrist bloc was supposed to be the INA chief of negotiations and Karim al-Yaqubi (Fadila) was in the committee. I also saw a report of mid-April merger negotiations between these two men plus Chalabi, Nassar al-Rubayie (Sadrist) and Hassan al-Shammari (Fadila) with Ali al-Adib and Khudayr al-Khuzai of the Daawa, but I am not sure if that would constitute the entire INA team (very little ISCI representation). Will post additions if I can find any – it is interesting that both Adib and Khuzai (plus Chalabi, Suhayl and Shammari) were all listed in the initial 10 (or 14)-man committee now being described as non-existent. Perhaps that was some kind of mix-up with the negotiating committee instead?

    Ali, you are certainly not the only Iraqi of Shiite origins that sees problems with an all-Shiite alliance, see for example here:

  16. Ali W said

    Hi Reidar, I know Haider very well, he is a good guy but his views represent a very small minority of shia as far as I can tell.

    Would you not agree that his reputation among the shia would take a hit if he joins Allawi, which would give ammunition to INA to who would say he has betrayed the shia cause and joined with the baathist?

  17. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, I see it differently, Maliki in some respects has proven himself as a leader and should be able to rise above the de-Baathification issue. What he did in 2008-2009 was basically to turn to pragmatism and he relied on many people that should have been de-Baathified according to the Saghir/Lami/Chalabi agenda. I hope he finds back to that pragmatism.

  18. JWing said


    The people arrested in Basra and the south are a mix of Sadrists, Special Groups, and gang members. Since the decline of the militias, many have turned to crime to make a living and is a major issue throughout the country. Sadr has also made release of his followers by the government a major reason why he opposes Maliki as prime minister.

    Re: Next PM

    It’s not going to be either Allawi or Maliki. The main reason why SOL-INA merged is to keep Allawi out of power. After they’ve finally got that in order, they will then make moves to get Maliki out of the way.

  19. JWing,
    What kind of moves will eliminate Maliki after SOL-INA is already pushing Maliki in?

  20. Kermanshahi said

    I’d have liked to see Maliki out but the problem is, he was voted in, not only did he get the most personal votes by a large margin, he basicly on his own defeated all other Shi’a parties together. Not only have the Shi’a voted that they want him as PM, they have also put him in a position of power where he’ll most certainly become the Prime Minister and It’s starting to look like they’ll never be able to get rid of him either.

  21. mostafa said

    Hi Reidar,
    Yesterday Salah Alobaidi (a Sadrist spokesman) stated that they don’t have objection about Maliki being the PM but they have reservations which can be treated (about the arrested Sadrist cadres).
    does this really mean that the Sadrists no longer have a veto on Maliki?

    What about the Saudi former head of intelligence Turki Alfaisal who accused Maliki of “Stealing” the election results, and nearly threatened Iraqis with civil war if that happens.

  22. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, I found the Ubaydi statement interesting since in the past the Sadrists have tended to take a “never-again” stance in the question of a second Maliki premiership. In general, it seems SLA are rather optimistic that they can regain lost ground in the internal Shiite contest about a premier candidate. This has in fact reached a level where the scattered INA forces complain that all the important SLA negotiators are Daawa. Maliki also refused to meet Allawi at Hakim’s house, dismissing the idea of third-party mediation.

    As for the Saudi statement, well I hope Iraqi politicians will focus more on their relations with other Iraqis than with Saudis…

  23. Kermanshahi said

    Well, Reidar, to be honest if 5 seats are from the SLC only 4 should have been Dawa (3 from Maliki 1 from Tanzim al-Iraq) and 1 seat should have been given to an independent or a member of Shahristani’s bloc, cause in your own figures between 36 and 61 of the 89 are Dawa, that’s between 40 and 70%, so they deserve 3 or 4 seats.

    Within’ the 5 NIA seats, representive of amounth of total seats 3 should have gone to Sadr, 1 to Hakim and the other to Fadhila but than due to the nature of the NIA this wasn’t possible.

  24. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, I presume your comment refers to the 10-man committee, which, as said many times before, has not been confirmed. I don’t think there is any pledge by anyone in the new Shiite alliance to adhere strictly to any principle of proportional representation in the committee. The basic point is that there is now a perception in INA that the SLA comes with a more unified front, dominated by the Daawa.

  25. JWing said


    State of Law is the only one pushing for Maliki to return as Prime Minister and even then some members have said that they are willing to abandon him if he’s the barrier to forming a new government. Despite some recent statements, the Sadrists are still against Maliki.

  26. Hasan said

    Hi Rieder, I think hope is devilish in the case of an intelligence man like alfaisal, the problem is that you always ignore the saudi influance in the way Iraqyia leaders think, they even spend alot more time in jordan than they do in bagdad. (It was always hard to achieve a successful parlimentary work because of their abscence (For me its is a very good way to mesure the honesty of any iraqy deputy by seeing his record of attending the parliamentary activities).
    I think that investigating the saudi influence is more important and dangerous than the iranian influence wich you always discuss.

  27. Reidar Visser said

    Well Hasan, I am not a particularly big fan of Saudi policy in Iraq. I have criticised them for talking to Barzani/Talabani/Hakim instead of to Maliki and for the reported opposition they made to the prospect of an alliance between Abu Risha and Maliki.

    I just heard Haydar al-Mulla said Iraqiyya will criticise the latest Saudi statements, which seems like a good sign.

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