Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for August 10th, 2010

Ramadan Notice

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 16:31

Ramadan will begin later this week and business – including politics – is expected to proceed at a slower pace in Iraq until mid-September. This is not to say that things necessarily will come to a complete standstill: In September 2008, for example, progress on the provincial elections law was made towards the end of the holiday period. Nonetheless, things are expected to slow down; so, too, will this blog pending any significant political developments.

As the holy month begins, the political situation appears fairly much the same as it has been ever since the 7 March elections, with all key players continuing to explore blind alleys that are unlikely to lead anywhere. Iraqiyya is still dreaming that INA will agree to the idea of a premiership by Ayad Allawi. INA, for its part, is saying very publicly that it ignores these overtures for all practical purposes and remains focused on seeking a compromise premier candidate for the would-be alliance of themselves and State of Law (SLA) headed by Nuri al-Maliki (they just want to get rid of Maliki himself). Maliki, meanwhile, has resumed his dialogue with the Kurds again, even though that in itself will take him nowhere since SLA and the Kurds alone are nowhere near a majority. Accordingly, the Kurds – who for a while seemed to be leaning in the direction of a “compromise” candidate from the putative Shiite alliance – have recently once more refused to rule out Maliki. At any rate, Kurdish support in itself cannot decide anything as long as the three big blocs remain in a stalemate situation.

In the midst of all of this, deciphering US policy in Iraq is becoming more and more of a challenge. It used to be quite simple: Earlier, Joe Biden repeatedly stated his preference for a grand coalition of Iraqiyya, SLA, INA and the Kurds. More recently, though, there have been repeated indications that Washington is finally showing some interest in the idea of Maliki and Allawi joining in an alliance. At first, alleged  American support for this kind of solution was described as a “plot” by the Shiite parties that are closest to Iran. Recently, however – especially after the last visit by high-ranking members of the US administration to Baghdad – sources within Iraqiyya and SLA seem to confirm the same tendency. Still, though, it seems there is a good deal of resistance within Iraqiyya, and also that some of the time  is wasted by exploring Byzantine arrangements involving non-constitutional institutions and positions  (including the national security council and multiple deputy premiers) instead of focusing on straightforward and existing ministries and positions. Ironically, too, much of the opposition to a pragmatic alliance with Maliki seems to come from Iraqiyya figures who hardly received any personal votes in the 7 March election!

Additionally, the possible new twist in US policy is not one hundred percent unequivocal. There is also the alleged letter from President Obama to the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani asking for some kind of unspecified intervention in the government-formation process. This would be more or less the antithesis to everything an Iraqiyya-SLA alliance connotes, since it would effectively mean a cave-in to religious Shiite forces, a soft variant of the Iranian governing system known as wilayat al-faqih, and the likely preservation of the pro-Iranian Shiite alliance that is challenged by the prospect of Allawi and Maliki going it alone.

Surrealistically, in the midst of it all, delivery of new Abrams tanks for the Iraqi army appears to be the only thing that is proceeding according to schedule.

Posted in Iraq's 2010 parliamentary election, Iraqi constitutional issues | 27 Comments »