Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for July 11th, 2010

Shiastan Strategist Criticises Maliki-Allawi Rapprochement; His Boss Meets with Hill

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 11 July 2010 20:14

Predictably, the signs of increasing dialogue between Iraqiyya headed by Ayad Allawi and State of Law (SLA) led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are met with alarm not only by the Kurds, but also by the Iraqi National Alliance, the more sectarian Shiite group of parties that received 70 seats in the new parliament.

The latest contribution to this chorus is from Basim al-Awwadi, a political adviser to Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). In a statement to the press, Awwadi suggests that SLA and Iraqiyya cannot cooperate because their political programmes are incompatible and “180 degrees from each other”.

Clearly, Awwadi is not a supporter of the “180 solution” ! Also, he is not very good at analysing political programmes. The fact is that SLA and Iraqiyya agree on a number of salient issues in Iraqi politics, including the importance of a strong centralised state including a powerful oil ministry, respecting Islam but without giving clerics too much power (unlike Awwadi’s own INA, State of Law does not have adherence to the diktats of the Shiite priests as part of its official programme), boosting Iraqi oil production (even in a situation where Iran may not like this because prices may go down), and not ceding the mixed city of Kirkuk to the Kurds. In fact there is greater agreement on these issues between Iraqiyya and SLA than there is internally within INA (where at least some Sadrists are more centralist and anti-Kurdish than the rest).

But there is also some more interesting background to this. Awwadi, who has become more prominent as a Hakim adviser lately, used to be a strong advocate not only of the idea of a Shiite federal entity stretching from Baghdad to Basra, but indeed for full Shiite independence. In articles written back in 2004 and 2005 and published on websites such as that of the “Committee for the Independence of the Shiites of Iraq” (on which more here), Awwadi claimed that “the Shiites of Iraq are a separate nation, totally distinct from the others”. He advocated emulating the Kurdish strategy of independence, aiming for the liberation from the rest of Iraq of the territory in the triangle between Fao, Samarra and Kirkuk/Diyala. He strongly criticised the Allawi government and suggested the Shiites do more to get on par with Sunnis and Kurds with respect to military capability.

Little wonder, then, that Awwadi is critical to an alliance between SLA and Iraqiyya that could once more push his beloved sectarian identities slightly to the background. Meanwhile, however, his primitive kind of thinking still appears to command some interest in American circles, not least as far as Ambassador Chris Hill is concerned. He made sure to follow in the footsteps of Joe Biden and UNAMI representative Ad Melkert to make his nth meeting with Awwadi’s boss, Ammar al-Hakim, over the weekend. Characteristically, the ISCI communiqué from the meeting said the meeting resulted in “reassurances… that a government would be formed of all the political forces of all the factions of the Iraqi community”. In fact, that sounds very 2004, but some players apparently still want to keep the idea of a “factionalised” Iraqi society on the agenda…

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Posted in Iraq and soft partition, Iraqi nationalism, Sectarian master narrative, Shiite sectarian federalism, UIA dynamics | 3 Comments »