Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Damascus Summit: Crunch Time for the Dialogue between Iraqiyya and INA

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 July 2010 20:01

Today’s meeting with Muqtada al-Sadr in Damascus means that for the second time within a week, Ayyad Allawi, the leader of the secular Iraqiyya party, has had talks with leaders of the Shiite Islamist Iraqi National Alliance (INA) that are described as “fruitful”.

Unfortunately, the initial reports from the meeting have been short on details about areas of agreement and with vague talk about “programme committees” dominating, but for Allawi the real answer should be utterly simple since there is only one outcome that can satisfy Iraqiyya in its dialogue with INA: That they declare the Shiite super-alliance between INA and State of Law (SLA) null and void, and accept the claim by Iraqiyya that they should form the government as the biggest bloc in parliament. Any other outcome, including a premiership by Adel Abd al-Mahdi or some other, less known INA candidate (as reportedly favoured by Syria and Iran) would be worthless: If next Sunday (when another meeting of political leaders has been scheduled) INA is not prepared to sign up for the practical scheme reportedly proposed by Iraqiyya for implementing their preferred vision – giving a second term as president for Jalal Talabani of the Kurdistan Alliance and the speakership of parliament to Humam Hammudi of ISCI within INA – Iraqiyya would be better off by returning to its negotiations with Nuri al-Maliki and his SLA. INA has been dithering in its attitude to the pan-Shiite alliance for weeks now, and if they cannot declare it dead then Iraqiyya is only deluding itself by continued talks.

Meanwhile, there are unfortunately signs that even as Washington is giving up its leverage in Iraq by the day, what little remains is being employed for entirely useless purposes. During a recent press conference, Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi made it clear that during his visit to Baghdad Joe Biden reportedly voiced concern about a government scenario in which none of the three leading positions (president, prime minister or speaker of parliament) would be given to a “Sunni personality”! In a healthy sign, Hashemi told him not to worry, reflecting the fact that with the exception of the Kurds, most Iraqis are generally unhappy about the idea of enshrining ethno-sectarian identities in the administrative structure of the state. Nonetheless, this is in fact the scenario that currently seems to be on the cards, and it is deeply worrying that Washington appears to spend energy at the highest level of government worrying about the least troublesome aspect of it all. It is of course not the least surprising after the string of failed US attempts at understanding sectarianism in Iraq: The search for a “Sunni region”, the Sunnis as the sahwat, achieving Sunni satisfaction through gas finds in Anbar, the importance of getting Tawafuq back in government, the Sunnis as Ayad al-Samarraie… The list goes on and on. But this situation is particularly disconcerting at a time when politicians from both Iraqiyya and SLA like Izzat Shabandar and Haydar al-Jawrani explicitly protest against the Biden paradigm when they advocate an anti-sectarian approach, Shabandar even making it clear that it is the perpetuation of Biden’s way of thinking in the shape of a “Shiite” alliance between his own SLA and INA that would cement Iranian dominance in Iraq.

There are many things to worry about concerning the proposed INA-Iraqiyya alliance, perhaps not least related to procedure: Is it really wise of Iraqiyya to surrender control of so much of the process (i.e. both the presidency and speaker of parliament) in a context when people may suddenly change their minds and the Shiite alliance could re-emerge? But few others than Biden need worry about the absence of a Sunni figurehead from the proposed line-up of state leaders; instead the key question should be whether INA is truly prepared to move in the direction Iraqiyya wants within the coming week.

58 Responses to “The Damascus Summit: Crunch Time for the Dialogue between Iraqiyya and INA”

  1. Ali MM said

    Would this coalition even need to include the Kurds and give Talabani the presidency? They would only be 2 seats short of a majority.

    Although SLA are ideologically closer to Iraqiya than INA, I think four years in opposition will be healthy for Iraqi democracy and stop Hizb al-Dawa from entrenching itself in the state apparatus. Maliki was already beginning to act like an autocrat and his clinging on to the premiership highlights the need for him and his party to be distanced from government for a while.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Well, they still need those two seats and then some to feel secure. If the Kurds get difficult they would have the option of including Tawafuq or Unity of Iraq or both. It doesn’t matter much which one they choose since the alliance is already ideologically inconsistent, though I think Allawi and Hakim would be happier with Samarraie than with Bulani/Abu Risha, who were quite close to joining Maliki at one point.

    My main fear is that all of this will take a lot of time, and then derail. It is more than 4 months since the elections and Sadr and Allawi are talking about activating some committees? Is that all they can do after their top-level meeting??

  3. bb said

    Been truly fascinatng for these weeks to read all the speculation as to which of the shiite blocs will accept Allawi as prime minister when between themselves they command a near majority on the floor of the parliament.

    Meanwhile,6 months after the election, Maliki and co still running the govt? Talabani still president? Same Speaker?

  4. Daniel Graeber said

    Why didn’t Sadr bother going Iraq? I get that Assad has some say in things, but why have everyone to Damascus? If Sadr was really trying to make a splash, it seem everyone should have maybe went to Najaf instead.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, to be fair, the speaker of parliament has stepped down. Fuad Masum is in charge for the time being in his capacity as the eldest member willing to do the job (Hasan al-Alawi of Iraqiyya declined).

    Dan, this is pure speculation on my part but I suppose Muqtada does’t mind keeping alive the idea of a sinister American plot to capture or kill him. Possibly he is calculating that seclusion and aloofness plays better than getting involved in (and bogged down by) the nitty-gritty of day-to-day politics in Iraq.

    What worries me the most is the continued, short-sighted refusal by all sides to see the bigger picture. Juxtaposed to each other in today’s headlines in Iraq are reports that ISCI discusses how the Shiite alliance (INA+SLA) will go about forming the next government, whereas Iraqiyya is making a big point of the fact that Muqtada did not categorically rule out Allawi as premier!

    المجلس الاعلى يناقش تحركات التحالف الوطني لتشكيل الحكومة

    سلمان الجميلي : مقتدى الصدر لاتوجد لديه اي اعتراضات على تولي اياد علاوي رئاسة الحكومة المقبلة

    Obviously, it cannot be both ways and the truth is that Iraqiyya leaders appear to be burying their heads in the sand and relying on wishful thinking only. I think the whole process is really looking like a joke now and the Iraqi electorate should do more to make their leaders aware about the urgency of the situation.

  6. JWing said

    I’m sure you’ve read the reports that say that the Syria meeting wasn’t about an INA-INM alliance at all. The counter reports say that Sadr and Maliki have finally come to an agreement and the meet in Syria was to tell Allawi that he could joint or not.

    As for me, I don’t see any deals at all yet, and all these reports and conferences, etc. are just more attempts by the various lists to pressure each other rather than having any real dialogue.

    Plus most of what I’ve been reading is that the U.S. wants Maliki and Allawi to join together, and that’s their top priority rather than pushing national unity or ethnosectarian quotas, which I’m sure they also talked about, but are secondary.

  7. bb said

    It took 5 months for the shia party to find a PM acceptable to the kurds and Accord in 05/06.

    Now we wait for the shia parties to decide which one of them is going to support an Allawi/Iraqiyya led government? Is that the proposition?

    btw perhaps the answer to this vexatious question of PM and President is also to appoint the next eldest members willing to do the job?

  8. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, the INA cannot and will not declare it’s alliance with the SLA void unless there is a proper agreement with the INM. Allawi is trying to lure away the INA from the SLA to ensure his position as PM rather than Nouri al-Maliki, for the talks alone he cannot put conditions that they stop the alliance with Maliki completely, it is true these talks he can offer them a deal better than what Maliki offers them.

    As for the process as a whole, it seems to be taking much to long and having made no process at all, but than many were saying it would probably take 6 months, so maybe by September they will have a government. But what for government… Probably eventually they’ll settle for another useless unity government which is good for nobody at all and that just as most people were happy this election could bring an end to the current unity government.

    But in the end I think the election results themselfes are the biggest problem.

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Joel, I think we need to start by throwing in the dustbin every report that does not quote a named source (“extremely well-informed aides” etc.) One of the results of the mushrooming of this kind of reporting in the Arab press and blogosphere is the idea that the US supports an INM/SLA government. There is not one piece of evidence to suggest that is the case except that Biden has called for the inclusion of all winning lists (or at least the 4 big winners) and that SLA/INM rapprochement is seen as desirable in a partial step towards that end. But after the Sadrists labelled the SLA/INM scenario as a “US plot”, many Iraqi media and bloggers took this notion at face value without asking any critical questions about the underlying source base.

  10. Daniel Graeber said

    Reidar: I’m told by folks here in the states that Washington officials sat down at the table with Sadrists around the same time that Biden was in Baghdad. I get that he may be wary of assassination/capture threats, but it seems that if he is going to be the political powerhouse he is touted to be, then he would take the chance. Otherwise, as one ambassador told me, he just sort of looks like a coward.

  11. Salah said

    If there is any chance if things go so long that Iraq have to set new election scenario?

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, no, I think that scenario is completely fantasy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the election results, which renders a number of possible government scenarios possible, including at least a couple of logical ones. The problem is with the hapless negotiation tactics.

    Dan, I think what you refer to (the “coward” thing) is a typical Western assessment of the situation. Within the Shiite tradition it is in fact perfectly cogent for Sadr to decamp to Qum for some years for purposes of studying in the hawza and, in principle at least, this needs not be at variance with his ambitions to play a certain role in Iraqi politics. But the longer he stays, the more questions will materialise with regard to his policy ideas and whether they increasingly converge with the interests of his Iranian hosts.

  13. Thaqalain said

    Biden’s Paradigm:

    “at least the 4 big winners”

    Why US want to dictate and interfere in making governments, should we expect America to be ruled by installed democracies like Karzai, should we expect White House and State Department represent all ethnic and religious communities, should we hope White House to be ruled by 3 Preseidents to bring justice, peace and security on this planet?

  14. observer said

    I have been stating here that there is no trust between SLA/Da3wa and anybody else. Nobody trusts them. So try as hard as you might to get the 180 solution implemented – it is not going to happen because there is no trust.

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, please feel free to state your position but can you also explain the following to me: Just before the meeting this evening between Allawi and Maliki, Muhammad Allawi unhelpfully stated that he was “pessimistic about the meeting because SLA does not recognise the right of Iraqiyya to lead the formation of the government”.

    Are there any credible signs – and I am not referring to smiles between Muqtada and Allawi on photographs – that INA, the current favourites of Allawi, recognise the right of Iraqiyya to lead the formation of the government?

    It would be tragic if Iraqiyya would be prepared to give up influence in the next Iraqi government just for the sake of being in the company of people that they feel they can “trust” but who ultimately are bound to betray them.

  16. JWing said

    Reidar, here’s one named official from the SIIC who said that the U.S. wants a SLA-INM alliance:

    Al-Saghir: the USA wants to share out the posts on Al- Iraqiya and the State of Law only

    Baghdad, July 19 (AKnews) – A member of the National Alliance and the leader in the Supreme Islamic Council, Jalaluddine al-Saghir says there is an American will to distribute the posts on Al-Iraqiya and the State of Law lists, outlining that its proposal was to give the PM post to Nuri Al-Maliki and the President post to Iyad Allawi.

    Jalaluddin al-Saghir”The U.S. will to distribute these positions on some of the political blocs is not easy and can not be achieved,” Al-Saghir said.

  17. Reidar Visser said

    As said, INA enthusiasts mostly Sadrists but also ISCI preacher Saghir, have been making this point repeatedly. That a man of Saghir’s calibre says something doesn’t mean it is true.

    My question about sources related to the first part of your comment.

  18. Thaqalain said

    Recent events shows,dumped politicians making overnight alliances to come back to power, their is no agenda except to get short cuts to power.
    It’s like Afghanistan of 1980s where we have seen one president get power after sun rise and by the sunset he was hanged.
    What should we expect in nation, who is being thrown in to wars and invasions? I am sure Iraqis are fed up of this kinda “dicto” democracy show. Frustration will continue and public will not trust rulers to serve the nation.
    Allawi was ousted in first tenure, them Jaafari dumped and now Al-Maliki want to stick to power, intra-confrontation will lead to more chaos, turmoil and the result will be like that US Ambassadors will be signing oil drilling rights deal in a lawless central Government, Kurdistan feels happy to have liberty for signing MNCs deals. Finacially Iraq is fragmented on Arab/Kurd lines, its immaterial who will represent them as a token of Biden’s State Department Formula.

    The actual rule and control of Iraq sits in the hands of OIL, COMMISSION & CORRUPT CARTELS who like stalemate to continue signing as much deals as possible before a stronger Government take writ of law in their hands . We need a token government to show Iraq is liberated and have fair democratic government.

  19. Reidar Visser said

    Well there is a material difference between an oversized govt and a minimum-winning one as far as oil deals are concerned. What Shahristani managed was a package of deals that are good for Iraq and not particularly profitable for the foreign companies.

    At any rate, can we please go back to the main issues outlined at 15 above, i.e. the relevance of the “INM-INA rapprochement” and tonight’s talks between Allawi and Maliki?

  20. observer said

    I am not sure, any longer, of how well you know the psyche of Iraqis. In many ways, Iraqis have not moved far from the value of tribes. This includes all, Sunna, She3a and even Kurds. A word of honor must be complied with and you only need to violate once and your credibility is gone. If we accept this, then we can understand the machinations between Chalibi and the rest. Talabani vs. Allawi, ALlawi with Barzani, Hakim with Kurds, and why nobody trusts Da3wa any longer. Da3wa gave written assurances to the Kurds in 05 and Da3wa hardly delivered on any of the promises.

    I have yet to understand the events that lead to the trust that certainly exists between Allawi and Hakim’s family. I suppose they never promised him anything that they reneged on. It does not mean that they have said that they would support Iraqiyya for PM. But the continued discussions may also indicate that thy have not said NO either. In return, Iraqyya has stated often enough that they have no problem with adel abd mahdi for PM. The bottom line is the government program.

    What is problematic to me is the contineud assumption here (and elsewhere) that SLA is not sectarian, when in fact Da3wa is sectarian to the bone. I am not aware that Da3wa has changed its mission statement, which focuses on Sh3a predominance ad not the centrality of “Iraiqism” to their core mission. I think it is better for Iraqiyya to deal with a self declared sectarian than try to deal with those who would say one thing to your face and do (and intend to do) something else.

    I think at the end of the day, it is quite plausible that Da3wa will let go of Maliki just to retain the PM within the NA, but I am also sure that INA will work to undermine the tightening grip of Da3wa cadre on positions of power. There is an understanding between INA, Iraqiyya and Kurds that letting Da3wa continue in their present course will end up marginalizing the rest and freezing them out as the Baathis did in 1968 through 1975.

  21. Ali W said

    In my humble opinion, INA would never join up with INM and give Allawi the PM position.
    There are two scenarios that are possible in my opinion.

    1- Government of the big four, or how Reidar describes it as an over-sized weak government with either an SLA or INA candidate PM.

    2- SLA-INM alliance, which now seems to get more possible as time goes by.

    INM has a big anti Kurdish contingency and are unable to ally with INA and KA alone because they would be forced to meet the demands of KA.

    INM’s only option is SLA in order to keep Kirkuk from splitting from Iraq.

  22. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, you only answer my question by providing information that to the best of my knowledge is incorrect, i.e. that Iraqiyya is prepared to accept an Abd al-Mahdi premiership. This acknowledgement would be sensational – and also a rather pathetic and totally unnecessary capitulation to an Iranian agenda of a weak, oversized and Iran-leaning government. I mean, Iraqiyya supporters voted for a nationalist agenda, not for dalliances with the Badr Brigades?! I cannot remember having seen anything in this direction except for the rather ill-considered statement many weeks ago, I think by Jamal al-Batikh, that Iraqiyya would support Abd al-Mahdi if they were first given a shot at forming the govt themselves only to be rejected. In other words, “just be patient, and we will give you the government…”

    But as said, other than that, I cannot remember having seen any such statement in favour of Abd al-Mahdi and would be grateful if you could guide me to one. It would be quite remarkable since it means giving up everything Iraqiyya has been talking about regarding priority right to form the govt/ahaqiyya for the past months. Also, since you touch on the ideological, it would mean getting a couple of ministries in an oversized government led by people (INA) who officially have “adherence to the directions of the Shiite clergy” in their programme, i.e. a light and informal variant of wilayat al-faqih. SLA, by way of contrast, published a political programme that did not give any particular role to the Shiite clergy and generally focused on moderately centralist/nationalist aims. I see no reason to be ditrustful of that; Maliki and others in the SLA are the only Shiite leader that have dared criticise the 2005 constitution for beeing too decentralising, and they took a lead in charting a course towards an issue-based politics through the idea of a political majority capable of transcending ethno-sectarian quotas. You seem to have forgotten entirely that ISCI and Chalabi invented Shiite federalism and extreme variants of de-Baathification.

    And more importantly, I get back to my original question, which is based on the assumption that Iraqiyya is still fighting for its right to form the government. This question does not require longwinded answers since it is so utterly simple: Where is the proof that INA is prepared to accept the right of Iraqiyya to form the government? Show me the money, please!

  23. Ali W said

    Observer I really question your views about Iraq’s still existing tribal mentality. Maybe it still exists in the remote areas and outside major cities but Iraq has moved from this. In fact its accepted in politics that promises can be broken in Iraq.

    You speak with this confidence that you are correct and everyone else is wrong, I respect your opinion but I would have to disagree.

    SLA is not sectarian to the core. In fact many people within INM such as Hashemi are far more secterian. Hiwar and Hadbaa are all in favour of stronger Sunni arab intervention. SLA has tried to form an alliance with Sahwaa groups in Anbar as Reidar has mentioned before and only pressure from the SECTARIAN Saudi Arabia (Allies of Allawi) put pressure on them to stop. Also they fielded notable sunni candidates but they failed to get elected.

    As for government program rather than power, i think thats not the reality. I can assure if that was the case then they would have allied with SLA, because their government program just dont fit with either INA or KA. Its all about the PM job.

  24. “Where is the proof that INA is prepared to accept the right of Iraqiyya to form the government? Show me the money, please”
    Not to be argumentative.. here is an interpretation which runs counter to my oprediction and seems to imply a deal between Allawi and Sadr to recognize Allawi’s priority in return for no Baathists in future gov’t.
    Reidar, I agree INA/ISCI dislikes Allawi much more than Maliki, but Maliki in his siege mentality is repeatedly shooting himself in the foot, soon it will be impossible to include him in any gov’t.

  25. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, please feel free to be argumentative, that’s what the blog is for! The link doesn’t work but I assume you are referring to the following story:

    اتصل اياد علاوي رئيس القائمة العراقية ليلة أمس فور انتهاء اجتماعه مع نوري المالكي رئيس دولة القانون بكل من مسعود البارزاني رئيس اقليم كردستان وعمار الحكيم رئيس المجلس الاعلي ومقتدي الصدر زعيم التيار الصدري علي نحو منفصل واطلعهم علي نتائج اجتماعه مع المالكي. وكان علاوي المالكي رئيسا اكبر قائمتين فازتا في الانتخابات عقدا اجتماعاً داخل المنطقة الخضراء ببغداد امس بحثا فيه نتائج مباحثات علاوي في دمشق مع مقتدي الصدر والقيادة السورية ووزير الخارجية التركي. وقالت مصادر مطلعة ان المعضلة لا تزال قائمة في تمسك كل جانب بترشيح نفسه لرئاسة الوزراء واضافت ان علاوي يدخل الاجتماع بامتياز يتفوق به علي المالكي من حيث انه تمكن من كسر العزلة مع زعيم التيار الصدري مقتدي الصدر في حين ان وفد المالكي لم يستطع مقابلة الصدر في طهران فضلا عن المالكي لم يجتمع مع الصدر الذي يضع اعتراضاً كبيراً علي ترشيحه. ولفتت المصادر الي ان شخصيات ايرانية دعمت لقاء علاوي مع الصدر في دمشق. وحضر مع علاوي حسين الشعلان ومحمد علاوي ومحمد تميم وعزالدين الدولة وكامل الدليمي. وحذر نائب الرئيس العراقي طارق الهاشمي من وجود مخطط وصفه بالخبيث يستهدف الصحوات في العراق وعددهم مائة وعشرون ألف مسلح متهما أجهزة مخابرات وأجهزة أمنية لم يسمها بتنفيذ هذا المشروع

    I would say it just makes the point that Allawi was given a small advantage by being allowed to meet with Sadr whereas Maliki wasn’t. As said before, that INA does not rule out an Allawi premiership probably just means they are playing for time while manoeuvering to get their own candidate in place.

  26. Daniel Graeber said

    It seems if the claims on the Baathists are true, the Sadrists would be more likely to move closer to Iraqiya than to Maliki. Sadrists are still upset over the Charge of the Knights offensive and none of the major players seem to be backing Maliki to any great extent. It’s a tough call though and both grudges are valid in terms of talking points.

    Meanwhile, Iraqiya is heralding the talks with Sadr as a success while talks Wed. between Allawi and Maliki went nowhere fast, so it seems Sadr is putting his money behind whoever seems to be in favor for PM on any given day. Could change tomorrow – however, nobody said this thing was going to happen overnight, so time will tell. A non-prediction is probably the safest one.

  27. Reidar Visser said

    I don’t think we should get too carried away about what Sadr said about Baathists. First he totally excluded any participation in the political process by Baathists. He then went on to sketch out his own de-Baathification process by indicating a possibility for the participation of those who are prepared to disown Saddam:

    واوضح الصدر في مؤتمر صحفي أن “ادخال البعثيين والامريكيين والارهابيين سيخرب العملية السياسية بل سيؤججها”، مبينا ان “الوفود المفاوضة هي من تحدد شكل العملية السياسية القائمة الان”.
    واضاف “اذا تبرأ البعثي من صدام وافعال صدام حسين ، فمن الممكن ان يكون هناك حل بالافق”.

    But Sadr is expected in Arbil today, which is kind of interesting…

  28. Ali W said

    Faisal I really doubt any government can be formed with just INA-INM-KA. For this to work, INM would have to make too many concessions to KA such as ceding land in Mosul and Kirkuk, both unacceptable to a massive % of INM members.

    As for INA-INM + smaller parties would make the alliance to unstable and most likely SCII would not accept.

  29. Jason said

    Two points:

    First, many here speak of ISCI as though it continues to have significant political power with leverage in the negotiations. That does not appear to be true any more after it got walloped in the election.

    Second, I don’t believe that anyone can give the Sadrists what they want, which is (1) important ministries to loot and turn into personal fiefdoms, (2) a return to de facto Mahdi Army control of Sadr City and Basra, including (3) restoration of their profits from oil smuggling of which Maliki deprived them. It bugs me that people are so fearful of Maliki’s hold on power, and seemingly discount the much greater corruption and power-grabbing that would take place if the Sadrists gain significant power.

  30. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, the way ISCI is continuing to exercise influence quite out of proportion to its modest bloc size is impressive indeed, if not new. What is more remarkable is the more limited influence of the Sadrists on the process beyond saying “No” to Maliki – unless of course they end up in the unlikely kingmaker role for Allawi that some in Iraqiyya appear to believe in.

  31. Reidar,
    I was referring to Azzaman article title which is explicit, here is the link:

    An Iraqi would not be surprised by Hakim’s bigger role! We know who is backing him.. And I think the Sadrists have more realistic expectations than what you give them credit for.

  32. Reidar Visser said

    OK thanks I skimmed very quickly it but couldnt find anything beyond the usual (and useless) “no objections to Allawi” and the committee cooperation already referred to above. Could you please cut and paste the para that contains explicit support for Allawi’s candidature by the Sadrists?

    I assume you are referring to this article?
    علاوي ينتزع من الصدر اعترافاً بالاستحقاق الانتخابي ويتسلم منه خطاً أحمر علي البعثيين
    The headline appears to go much further than the text in itself, which appears not to contain anything to support that far-reaching conclusion. But this is not unusual for Al-Zaman.

  33. Yes, that’s the headline I meant.
    Considering Azzaman Iraqyya friendly attitude I wonder if Azzaman knew more about the meeting than what’s in the text.

  34. Reidar Visser said

    Or it could be just more wishful thinking I’m afraid. Let’s see what happens; there seems to be some kind of meomentum building towards Sunday..

  35. observer said

    Ali W -I need not be lecturing here. You think there is no tribalism – that is your take. Come back and live here for a couple of years, then lets talk.

    Rieder, the position of Iraqiyya vis-a-vis their constitutional right has not changed. But they have to have a second option if the argument hat the “bigger bloc” is actually moved by force through parliament or if the rest actually managed to hold out (unlikely). Adel Abd AL Mahdi is the “last option” in case of loosing all the other arguments.

    At the end of the day, the basic argument that you guys are not interested in accepting is that nobody trusts Da3wa, and all the machinations are based on that factoid. Better let the events take care of this argument.

  36. Reidar Visser said

    But if Iraqiyya loses the ahaqiyya argument then they have no say over who should be the PM designate unless Hakim gets his roundtable, which is unconstitutional. And SLA knows that.

  37. Jason said

    Observer: It is not enough to say that no one trusts Da3wa. You have to also ask, “compared to what other option?” Does anyone trust Sadr and the Mahdi Army to run Iraq or even one of its important ministries? What would you trust them with? Oil? Finance? Interior? Defense? Puhleease!

    Anybody: Let’s pretend that Al Mahdi were to somehow get the PM position (despite his lack of electoral support), how would this play out vis-avis Sadr and the Mahdi Army’s reassertion of power? Would be be a pushover like Jafaari?

  38. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, since Abd al-Mahdi is quite popular among many different Iraqi politicians, I have asked some of them why doesn’t he start his own party to get rid of the Iranian/militia connotations of ISCI and Badr. The answer is always that he does not have an independent base and that he owes his status to ISCI. So I guess the ISCI/Sadr friction could once more come to the fore under the kind of scenario you describe.

  39. Jason said

    I have no doubt but that the Sadrists are going to quickly test the backbone of the new PM. They have done so to every one so far. That especially includes Al Mahdi who, as far as I know, does not have an established record of standing up to them like both Allawi and Maliki.

  40. observer said

    jason, I do not know if you read arabic or not, but I find this article to be quite on the spot.

    It explains why people are afraid of another 4 years of Da3wa — The Baath experience in iraq is traumatic. people are convinced that 4 more years of Da3wa PM-Ship will result in the elimination of all and any contender at least in the south and middle of Iraq and that would even be a danger to Kurds as they become marginal.

    Reidar, the round table is occurring in Hawler – it seems. Based on this article. Constitution be damned. Allawi may be playing along to get all options explored before he and Iraqia decide which option is the best for them. In the end a constitutional stalemate will only allow Maliki and Da3wa more time. People here are making jokes about Da3wa’s hanging on to power. At least their credibility is now heading to the bottom. Recent polls show that fact (sorry can not share publicly).

  41. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, the source base is not very convincing: مصدر مستقل في الائتلاف الوطني العراقي
    Could be anything and anybody.

    At any rate there is nothing new in Sadr, Maliki and Hakim trading accusations about who is really Iran’s stooge. As said previously, all of this means very little until INA stops talking about the prime ministerial candidates of the pan-Shiite “NA” (which it invented), and instead publicly embraces Allawi’s candidature.

  42. Thaqalain said

    If this stalemate unresolved , are not we heading to fresh elections as all parties failed to form a consensus GOV. and all leaders failed their credibility in ongoing power game.

  43. observer said

    It is not about the “source”, but about the idea that everybody in Iraqi politics is afraid of another 4 years of Da3wa holding the reigns of power. If they hold it for another 4 years, everybody else will be marginalized even more than they are now. I would submit to you that even if Da3qa puts up somebody other than Maliki, the others will work at limiting their power and their ability to use the governmental process to enhance their “street” presence. The experience of Iraqis under the Baath is not to be ignored. They know that it is quite possible for a single party and a single leader to re-do what the Baathis did between 68 and 75 and onto 03.

    Unlike others, I am not as sanguine about the 180 solution. Kurds must be a part of the government if we are ever going to cross the Kurdish problem and how it has been used for eternity to destabilize Iraq. One thing I am glad off as result of the current impasse. Iraqis have lost all faith they had with Islamic parties….

  44. Reidar Visser said

    Initial reports of the Hakim-Allawi meeting tonight indicate it was “positive but did not produce any breakthrough”, suggesting that it was in fact “polite but negative” and that the pessimistic take outlined above probably still holds:

    محمد علاوي: لقاء علاوي مع الحكيم ايجابي لكنه لم يصل لحل سحري

  45. amagi said


    Why do you feel the Iraqi public has lost faith in the Islamic parties specifically? If the elections were held today, who do you think would stand to benefit the most?

  46. Kermanshahi said

    Observer, you recognise the importance of the Kurdish problem but believe it is good the Islamic parties were voted out. May I point out that these were the only parties which could ever achieve a lasting peace between Kurds and Arabs within Iraq. Unless it’s a useless national unity government, no government that include’s the INM will ever include any Kurdish party. There is simply no way that Allawi allies like al-Mutlaq, al-Nujayfi and the Turkmen Front will allow this and it’s also these kind of individuals and the “non-secterian” “secular” parties they represent who create most of the ethnic tensions in Iraq.
    Until now, Mr.Allawi’s personal dislike for al-Maliki and his big ego have prevented an anti-Kurdish coalition to be formed and have actually made the INM talk to the Kurds, but Talabani has already said such alliance would be impossible and INM components such as the ITF said they would withdraw from the alliance if any deal was made with Kurds.

    I think it’s a sad thing that the religious parties were voted out, but now it would actually be for the better if they went into the opposition so they could regain some popularity. The problem with that is, them stepping out of power will be disasterous for Iraq. An Arab nationalist Allawi-Maliki government, which includes not a single Kurd and will push for all anti-Kurdish laws, from the oil law (from Kurd-hater Shahristani), to the KRG funding, to the disputed territories, to Talabani not being allowed to be President because Iraq is an “Arab state” – al-Hashemi, to the actual existance of the KRG itself (which you can bet some of the INM’s people would be wanting to disband, given the chance). Kurds will not step aside and allow this majority ruling to deprive them of their rights, it can and probably will lead to a civil war. It’ll also be disasterous on an international scale, al-Maliki has already picked a fight with Syria and under al-Mutlaq & co they will definetly pick a fight with Iran. So what’s gonna happen then? Will Iraq fall into the influence of Wahabi Saudi Arabia? I don’t think that’ll do very well for the Shi’a-Sunni relations in Iraq, either…

  47. bb said

    Are all the ministers in Maliki’s govt still drawing their salaries and perks of office?

    How many ministers from Kurds, ISCI and Accord are still in place? Are there any ministers still there from Allawi’s old List drawing salaries?

  48. Thaqalain said

    Its human nature to see and hope changes. Public is fedup of Al-Maliki and Dawa name, especially as they came to power under barrel of American Tanks and Artillery Power. If you ask an Iraqi, they are ready to vote for an electric pole but they are frustrated of their leadership.
    People need CHANGE and only a real revolution can bring CHANGE, You can’t expect fair democracy and change while American dictation, supremacy is hanging overhead like a sword.

    I think at one moment these leaders have to compromise and they all will be equally paid to serve and prolong American’s interests. At least Iraqis are proud to be not having a Karazi in their rank.

  49. Reidar Visser said

    BB, the government is still in place so its Kurdish, ISCI and Daawa ministers continue to get their salaries. As noted previously, and often ignored by commentators, the constitution does not change the status of the sitting government pending the installation of a new one; it just stipulates a timeline for the latter procedure without imposing any sanctions on the existing government for failure in new government formation. Hence all the idle talk about “caretaker govt” etc, while understandable as reactions based on basic notions of democracy, has no constitutional basis as such. The only institution that is explicitly designated as a caretaker institution in the transitional period by the language of the constitution is the presidency (“will continue to perform its functions”…) but this does not mean much in practice.

  50. Salah said

    This new news that Iran replace Qumi as her Ambassador in Baghdad with new on, some news outlets telling the new Iranians Ambassador in fact is Fridley to Maliki but he hate the Kurds?

    What you’re taking with his news? Do you have any sources why this timing of replacing ambassadors in Baghdad by Iranian regime? Is there any links to Iraqi government birth problems?

    سفير إيراني جديد في العراق بديلا لـ “حسن كاظمي قمي” معاد للكرد وصديق للمالكي

  51. bb said

    Thank you. Weren’t there also Accord and List ministers still servng in the Maliki government at the end of its term?

    I make the point because those ministers from those parties wherever the are now, all have an obvious interest in the status quo and by extension Maliki/SOL patronage?

    Call me cynical, but have been around the block many times in similar scenarios in the Australian Labor Party after it adopted PR for its internal elections to satisfy its factions there couldn’t be a winner take all.

  52. Ali W said

    Firstly Observer talks about Iraqi’s fear of the Baath repetition if Dawa are allowed another 4 years, but supports a pro baathist and a party made up of highly sectarian sunnis, arab supremacists and contains terrorist sympathizers.

    One point that Kermanshahi mentioned, is how could there be any deal between INM lead government and the Kurds. Its impossible. Someone has to answer this question…. who will back down on their demands about Kirkuk?? Nujeyfi/Mutlaq/Hashemi/Turkmen or Kurds??

    I cant see neither backing down.

  53. Daniel Graeber said

    Completely off topic, but worth asking while we’re on the topic of Kirkuk – any murmurs out of the KRG in the wake of the ICJ ruling on Kosovo?

  54. Reidar Visser said

    Bb, briefly, yes there are Tawafuq ministers serving in govt and of course Eisawi (the deputy pm) is now Iraqiyya. Many of the other original Iraqiyya ministers left but I think Wijdan Salim (human rights) and Muhammad Oraibi are still serving, though not sure about their personal relationships with Allawi/INM and Maliki after they decided to stay on.

    Salah, yeah I saw that story on Sumaria a couple of days ago. Not sure what to make of it; note that the change was decided last March as part of a wider ambassadorial reshuffle in the Iranian governent so there may be other reasons specific to the internal Iranian power struggle that also relate to this.

  55. Kermanshahi said

    Daniel, as far as I know the KRG hasn’t reacted to the Kosovo ruling at all. Haven’t read anything about it on any Kurdish website and frankly Kurds and Albanians are in general not very sympathetic towards each other with the Albanians being alligned with Turkey, so I don’t think they would react positively to it even if it is good news for the KRG.

  56. observer said

    There are polls that support what I say. it is not just “feelings”, though I will tell you that the Islamists lost more in baghdad than the south.

  57. observer said

    Don’t take it personally, but you have no knowledge whatsoever from the inside of Iraq. You do not have to believe in what i have to say in regards to the dynamics. If this is a debating forum, I wold answer you point by point. However, this is not a debate forum and the people coming here (at least me) are interested in understanding the why? and the ramifications of each alternative solution.

    To all, and especially Reidar, the Kurds MSUT be a part of the government, if Iraq is not to repeat the tragedies of the past century. I submit to you that the Kurdish problem and the unwillingness of the Baath to deliver on their 1971 promise to resolve Kirkuk, lead to the 1975 treaty (saddam gave shat al arab away in exchange for Iran dropping support for the Kurds) which then led to the 8 years war (Saddam saw an opportunity to get back what he gave away) which then lead to Kuwait invasion (unable to repay loans at low oil prices), sanctions, 2003, Iran meddling now!!

    History repeats itself in cycles- do we really want to restart the cycle or shall we move forward?

    Reidar, of the original 5 Iraqiyya ministers, only Muhammad Allawi is still with Iraqiyaa. The rest are essentially on their own, or joined with SLA, as Iraqiyya/Allawi sort of disowned them when they did not resign as requested.

    Ali W – You obviously are a supporter of Islmaic/she3a parties because you believe their propaganda in regards to Iraqiyya. To damn the entire list as probaathist shows that you swallowed hook line and sinker the propaganda of Ahmed Chalabi and company. Are there former Baathis in Iraqiyya? yes. Are there no former Baathis in your preferred lists – dare to answer? I do have a list.

    As for impossibility of the Kurds being in an INM lead government – i refer you to Barzani’s continued pronouncements on this particular subject. You say impossible – fine. That is your point of view and you are entitled to your opinion. I have a lot more contact with Kurds than you know and I know that they can do business with Allawi.

  58. bb said

    Observer, setting aside Maliki, perhaps you could help in providing some insight in the SLA ministers and senior personnel?

    How do they rate on competency? (relative to their precessors, of course),
    corruption (ditto)?
    sectarian in their administation of departments in the order that say the Sadrists were?
    and finally,
    where do they rate on technocompetence versus jobs for the party hacks?

    There is so little info on this about the SLA personalities it is very hard to make informed assessments from the outside!

    Also, could you address the belief that Maliki and Dawa are wanting to impose a Saddam/Baath scenario.

    On what evidence is this based?

    Evidence that Maliki/Dawa plans to use the armed forces to execute a coup?

    Evidence that they have been usurping the authority of the ministers from their coalition partners?

    Evidence they plan to overturn the constitution and ensure that only Dawa could ever be elected.

    Evidence that members of Dawa revere Maliki as another Saddam?

    If not, what?

    As for Kurds, of course you are correct: they could and would work with Allawi as PM. They did so in the interim government.

    The problem for Allawi surely is that even with the Kurds he cannot form a government but would need one of the other shia parties to enter his government in a secondary role? And he ain’t got one and is not likely to because there seems to be no constitutional requirement to overthrowd the status quo and foprces the issue. Not even a requirement for another election before 2014!

    Hence the status quo – Maliki/Dawa plus ISCI, Tawafuq and Kurds – still keeping the cogs of government churning – and their salaries and perks as well.

    The answer to Kirkuk is the same as it ever was … continuing to put off the referendum from year to year but not to take it out of the Constitution. I have confidence that the Kurdish and Arab Iraqis will continue this extremely sensible state of affairs?

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