Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Armistice and Governance in the Iraqi Government-Formation Process: The US Position

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 26 August 2010 14:28

As the end of the US combat mission in Iraq is drawing to a close (31 August), there are two basic approaches to the ongoing, stalemated process of government formation in Iraq.The first approach assumes that Iraq’s citizens are more interested in issues like security, health and services than in sectarian bickering and that it is possible to form a government based on common views on basic political issues instead of taking into consideration calculations relate to ethno-sectarian identities… Full story here.

50 Responses to “Armistice and Governance in the Iraqi Government-Formation Process: The US Position”

  1. SK said

    What do you make of all this talk of an ‘Iraqi Ta’if’ sponsored by Syria?

    It seems to me that the original Ta’if worked as it had the blessing of both Saudi Arabia and the USA, not to mention Syria’s total domination over Lebanon and the presence of several Lebanese pliable politicians, whereas in Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia’s backing of Allawi contrasts to what you highlighted at the end of your piece: USA and Iran going along with the Shi’ite alliance. Further, Syria doesn’t hold enough leverage over Iraqi affairs, right? Can we expect Al-Maliki to apologize on queue like Jumblatt?

    Thanks!

  2. Reidar Visser said

    SK, this will have to be pure speculation, but my hunch is that it is just another variation of the same theme that has been going on for months now involving empty rumours of some kind of Sadrist/Syrian/Russian miracle coming to the rescue of Iraqiyya. The pan-Arab press loves to write dramatic stories about it (before this, in early August, it was the UNSC that was supposed to install a govt of national salvation) but I think that as far as INA is involved it is ultimately just another expression of a power play between them and SLA as they maneuver to try to win the premier position.

    If it should come to fruition, of course, it would be hugely significant in terms of regional as well as Iraqi politics, but anything short of the premiership for Iraqiyya would mean defeat since they could have landed a better deal with Maliki alone in that case.

  3. Jason said

    The Obama Admin position simply reflects the weakness of Obama and the fact that he needs to escape Iraq as quickly as possible to satisfy his electoral base so that they will not stay home in protest during the Midterm Elections. It is useless to look for a coherent policy until maybe after November.

  4. observer said

    i think we now have to wait for the elections in the US to be over. This has been Iraqis’ problem since 2003. Decisions of the US in iraq are hinged on the impact (real or potential) of such decisions on the electoral chances of whomever occupies the White House. right now, the Democrats need to have Iraq out of the front page and also Afghanistan to reduce their expected seat losses in the senate and the house.

    So to my iraqi fellows: Patience. Patience. Patience. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

  5. amagi said

    Observer,

    It seems to me that American influence has waned to such a point where there would be only the slightest of impacts based on which party is in power. My feeling is that the U.S. public (to what should be their eternal shame) doesn’t care what happens to the Iraqis. I think Joe Q. Public believes that they’ve had their chance and will feel blameless(!) if the bloody days of 2006 return.

    I want to be patient, but 13 coordinated bombings across the country… can Iraq survive until after U.S. elections?

  6. Kermanshahi said

    If the INA (70) manages to break the SLC than they only need 24 (let’s say 30 to make it safe) MPs to join them and they have enough seats to create a majority government with the Kurds (57+1), Tawafuq (6) and the pro-Kurdish Christians (5). Don’t you think they could persuade some of the more Shi’a hardliners within the SLC to join them? ISCI managed to win al-Muthanna by bribing one of the SLC’s people with the governor position, perhaps they can offer such position to the Da’awa Tanzim al-Iraq branch (which according to one of your previous articles, Reidar, has at least 13 seats) and there are plenty of people in Maliki’s branch of Da’awa which are more INA/Iran friendly. They could possibly get them aswell as some of the independents.

    This government could be relatively stable since there are all Shi’a Islamists together and the Kurds are good allies to have, as long as your interests are only in the South and you let them do what they want in the North, they’ll let you do whatever you want in the South.

    I know you ain’t a fan, Reidar, but what do you think is the chance something like this can happen? Keeping in mind how good ISCI’s people are at negotiating.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, I totally agree with that, indeed it is precisely the sort of dynamic that has been in motion for more than a year. Last summer, Tanzim al-Iraq stood with Maliki but some elements joined INA. Even inside the main branch of the Daawa there were strong forces in favour of joining INA at that point and they will be interested once more. Whether it will end up as an enlarged INA or INA+SLA depends on what exact steps Maliki takes. The only thing that would really surprise me within the power-sharing paradigm would be an outcome unfavourable to Iran, i.e. if Iraqiyya somehow should manage to win the premiership. Unless that really happens, all the current maneuvering, i.e. Sadr/Iraqiyya, Damascus iftar etc. is just hot air.

  8. Kermanshahi said

    Within’ an INA-SLA alliance Maliki will always be the strongest since he has the largest alliance, within an enlarged ISCI however, people such as al-Sadr and al-Hakim will be more powerfull (particulary al-Hakim, since Sadr will have 39 out of say 100 instead of 39 out of 70), there will also be less conflicting interests in such an alliance, than in case of an INA-complete SCL alliance (in which also more nationalist elements of the SLC are included) or particulary than an INA-Iraqiyya alliance which includes many anti-Iranian players and people who’s ideology’s constrast to much with that of the INA.

    As for the Allawi Premiership it’s not nececerily bad for Iran. Iran and Allawi don’t have much problems anymore, the main problem Iran has is with the rest of his alliance, infact many Iranians feel Allawi is actually less close to America than Maliki is. In the end this brings me to bring up a scenario I saw discussed on inside Iraq, during the time the votes were coming in. They were saying that Allawi would most likely be prepared to create a bloc with INA nd the Kurds, even if it means loosing more than half of his alliance, if he can secure the Premiership. A possibility would thus be, that instead of getting SLA people to defect, Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord (28 seats), split with the rest of the Iraqiyya and join into an alliance with the INA, the Kurds (and their allies) and Tawafuq, in total they would have 167 seats. The government would include at least 15 Sunni Arabs (9 from Allawi 6 from Tawafuq) and nearly 60 Sunni Kurds.

    Allawi isn’t as far from the INA as the rest of his alliance is and on his own they could work something out with him which Allawi, the Kurds, Iraq’s Shi’a Islamists and Iran are all willing to accept.

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Yeah, that scenario would have a nice Governing Council feel to it, circa 2003! But seriously, if INA plus emerges as the largest bloc I don’t see them handing the premiership to Allawi, and they would also be looking for proof that Iraqiyya is actually disintegrating…

  10. Kermanshahi said

    One thing I would like to add Reidar, as we all know you sympathise with the secularists in Iraq and I can understand why. I am a secular Shi’a myself and my mother’s family is Christian. However I have always sympathised more with the Islamic parties in the Middle East because I feel the secularist movements always have such a racist character to them. This goes for the Islamic Regime V the Shah & supporters in Iran, for the AKP Vs. CHP, MHP and military junta (which are not the pro-Western liberals they sometimes claim to be but infact Kemalist Facists) in Turkey (also al-Assad in Syria) and for Iraq with Shi’a Islamic parties (INA) V. secular parties (Iraqiyya) which as far as I see have strong Ba’athist tendencies. This is something which many Europeans however don’t seem to see.

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Point well taken, although I hope that in that case that those Islamic values of anti-racism will prevail in the Kirkuk issue too! But let’s not turn this into a Kirkuk thread please…

  12. Kermanshahi said

    There are problems with that aswell Reidar, see the Kurds are Sunni and mainly secular, they’re not to happy about the idea of living under a united Sunni Islamist state, leave alone a united Shi’a Islamist state. In Iran at least 1/3rd of the Kurds are Shi’a, so the Islamic regime enables at least a large portion of the Kurds to participate undiscriminated in the political system. However there are many differences why what works in Iran isn’t nececerily good for Iraq, for Iran is much more ethnicly divided (with over 10 ethnic groups number over 1,000,000 and no clear ethnic majority) vast majority of which however are Shi’a and thus they all feel much better under an Islamic regime which values Shi’ism first than under the Persian nationalists which only represent around 40-50% of the populations ethnicity.

    In Iraq, for the Kurds, living under autonomy is the only way, being part of Iraq is tolerable for them. We both agree on this. Most people on this blog however, believe their autonomy should be based on the provinces Saddam Hussein created. I however believe that Kurdish autonomy, means autonomy in all Kurdish majority areas, including Kerkuk. And if that is racist, than the Kurdish autonomy as a whole is racist.

    What I am worried about is that many of Iraqiyya’s Sunnis (particulary the ex-Ba’athists), would have another al-Anfal if they could, so that they can get rid of this issue and al-Maliki and Allawi would both go along with it. The Islamic Supreme Council however, won’t.

  13. Jason said

    Iraqis should not try to wait out the U.S. elections. It may very well not change anything. Anyway, Iraqis need to stop looking to someone else to swoop in and save the day for them.

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Totally agree with that. The idea that the Obama admin should have any greater appetite for intervening in Iraq after 2 Nov strikes me as highly unrealistic. It appears to be the curse of Iraqiyya supporters that they always cling to impossible dreams of the “international community” somehow coming to the rescue. If not the US, then the UN, as if the UN had rulers of its own… What did the international community do to stop de-Baathification when it went into overdrive?

    Frankly, these ideas are just bad excuses for not getting real about the hard facts of Iraqi politics.

  15. Reidar,
    With all due respect you sound like you are blaming the victim. When all else fail, when you can’t beat the villain you blame the victim. And I think your information regarding the wish of Iraqiya for international community coming to the rescue is outdated, this used to be the case but not anymore.
    The hard fact of Iraqi politics is that it is not Iraqi, the multilevel politics is an import.

  16. JWing said

    Reidar,

    Everything I’ve read said that the U.S. wants to exclude the Sadrists from the new government, so I would disagree that the U.S. plan means maintaining the State of Law-National Alliance coalition.

  17. Reidar Visser said

    JWing, the point I am making is that any premiership emanating from some kind of Shiite super-alliance, be it SLA/rump of INA or rump of SLA/INA, will be in accordance with the Iranian preference expressed since at least February 2009 for a unified Shiite front. At any rate, I would be interested in knowing the exact details of how Washington plans to go about ditching the Sadrists from INA – sounds pretty much like a Bush-era scheme.

    Faisal, I wish you were right, but I am afraid my “outdated” information was published exactly 44 hours ago. Hamid al-Mutlak then proposed resorting to the international community in case a premier candidate from the Shiite alliance is imposed:

    بغداد/نينا/حذر النائب عن القائمة العراقية حامد المطلك من ان /العراقية/ تملك جميع الخيارات اذ تم ضرب استحقاقها الانتخابي والدستوري وغيبت ارادة الناخب العراقي بعملية تشكيل الحكومة بما فيها خيار اللجوء الى المجتمع الدولي.

    واضاف :” ان الجميع يعلم بان تكوين هذا التحالف كان مخالفا للدستور وغير مستند الى اسس قانونية ، لذا لايمكن القبول باي تحالف غير دستوري على حساب حق القائمة العراقية بتشكيل الحكومة ، لذا فانها ستلجأ الى المجتمع الدولي في حال ضرب استحقاقها عرض الحائط

  18. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, I don’t hink the Americans really want to ditch the Sadrists from the INA. Sure they would like it to happen, but preferring a Sadr-less government and actually putting all efforts in excluding them from government are completely different things. They didn’t do anything to stop them from being part of the 2005 government and they didn’t do anything to stop them from re-entering the government in 2008 and they won’t do anything this time either.

    As for the comments of the al-Mutlaqs and their people, I don’t think it will do their list much good. Saying others can’t have the PM position because the international community will assure al-Iraqiyya get’s the post (even if it isn’t true) only gives an image of them as foreign puppets.

  19. Ali W said

    For a party that talks alot about Iranian meddling, they really are desperate for help from the outside! Or is foreign meddling allowed if it aids the sunni minority back into dominance?

    Reidar put it right “Frankly, these ideas are just bad excuses for not getting real about the hard facts of Iraqi politics.”

    Iraqis will just not allow Allawi or any other member of INM to become the PM. With 78 out 91 members are sunni, its near impossible. This could only happen if in the next elections, INM will do better (much better) in the south.

  20. Reidar,
    Regarding Iraqiya’s “cling to impossible dreams”, I was thinking about Allawi’s recent interview, in which he described the US willingness to appease Iran, which is a brave gesture of independence, and of Hani Ashor’s comment in which he refused resorting to foreign intermediaries since it touches Iraq’s sovereignity. The opinion of Hamid Al-Mutlaq is probably personal.
    By the way, here is a fresh story regarding Maliki offering the presidency to Mutlak.

  21. Reidar Visser said

    Not quite sure whether that story is silly season or reflects something genuine. A rapprochement between Maliki and Mutlak would of course have the precedent of March 2009, but I wonder whether Mutlak would be capable of taking with him 80 Iraqiyya deputies to cut this kind of deal, as suggested in the article. And if he were able to do that, why on Earth would they proceed to not only include the Kurds but to give them the far more important post of the speakership of the parliament instead of the presidency, which has no power after the premiership has been decided? Very strange indeed. (Also it seems strange that Maliki would seek to alienate Talabani if the Kurds are to be included, since that seems to be his preferred point of contact with them)… In other words, I am not totally convinced the story is completely reliable…

    At any rate, don’t get me wrong, I am only trying to suggest that Iraqiyya should refrain from building castles in the sand (the UNSC or the US coming to the rescue; the Sadrists crowning Allawi as PM etc.) and focus on more realistic alternatives. I still think they could get a far better bilateral deal with Maliki than in a secondary role in a government of national unity. Take for example the deal outlined in that article above, remove the Kurds, convince Allawi to go along with it, and you get the picture.

  22. Kermanshahi said

    If they keep wanting to make unity governments, than what is the need for elections in the first place? I was starting to think this unity talk business was over and the parties were planning to actually exclude some alliances from the governments they are trying to form.

  23. John said

    Let’s not miss the forest for the trees.

    re the Maliki “offer” to alMutlaq: an op-ed in alQuds alArabi this morning says the gist of this is to try and split the Iraqiyya, and exclude alHashemi in particular, on the basis Mutlaq is acceptable but Hashemi is too close to the Sunni resistance.

    That would give us the following pattern:

    For Maliki: Mutlaq OK but Hashemi not-OK
    For Sadr: StateofLaw OK but Maliki not-OK
    For the US: Sadr not-OK

    Notice that the themes here are collaboration on the one hand versus resistance on the other (of course within the framework of official politics). Nothing much to do, in the first instance, with inclusiveness or governability or anything like that.

    This is of course a very general remark, and I wouldn’t bring it up, except I thought it a bit strange to see a putative Allawi/Maliki deal framed without reference to this.

    (The alQuds alArabi writer agrees there are doubts whether this “offer” was intended for actual implementation or is part of some different scheme, but says the point is the attempt to split the Iraqiyya by offering this, and in particular via the exclusion of Hashemi).

  24. Reidar Visser said

    Or could it be that al-Quds al-Arabi is primarily interested in framing an intra-Iraqiyya struggle in a particular way?

  25. Kermanshahi said

    al-Hashemi is a Sunni secterian and that’s why al-Maliki and the other Shi’a don’t like to have him in their government, but within the al-Iraqiyya bloc I would think the al-Mutaq’s would be the biggest problem for both al-Maliki and the NIA, because they are the most Ba’athist.

  26. I didn’t think for a moment that the offer to Mutlak is genuine, after all he is not even a member of parliament. Of course this is a Maliki initiative meant to serve his own interest, it also serve to illustrate how far detached from reality he has become. To my mind, this is another shot in the foot, I don’t understand how so many think Maliki will keep his job.

  27. Reidar Visser said

    One more thing re the Al-Quds al-Arabi story, supposing this is the one by Harun Muhammad, it does not really tie Hashemi to the “resistance” but rather to the representation of “Sunni Arab” interests. I was a little surprised about the idea of him being closer to the resistance (whatever that may be) than Mutlak, because he has been far more deeply involved in the post-2003 quota-sharing system of government than Mutlak (representing Tawafuq/IIP etc), and it is usually Mutlak that is singled out for criticism, rightly or wrongly, by those who don’t like the resistance.

    Remember during the de-Baathification campaign, everyone attacked Mutlak but when Baha al-Aaraji tried to attack Hashemi everyone in the “Governing Council” elite rushed to defend him.

    At any rate, I think it is interesting that Maliki may be trying to revive contacts with Mutlak again, although I would take the rest of the details here with a pinch of salt.

    Faisal, one more thing, Mutlak not being a member of parliament does not mean much in itself since that is not a requirement for being a minister or having another leading position.

  28. Kermanshahi said

    I thought the offer was for Ibrahim al-Mutlaq, but now I actually had a look at the article itself I see Maliki sais he offers Saleh al-Mutlaq the position. As Faisal Kadri rightly points out here, Saleh al-Mutlaq isn’t even a member of parliament, how can this offer be sincere?

  29. Reidar Visser said

    Again, there is no need to be a member of parliament in order to be a minister or have another leading position in government.

  30. Kermanshahi said

    You don’t need to be in the parliament to be the Prime Minister? That seems extremely strange to me, but you probably know how the Iraqi political system works, better than I do.

    BTW, on Kurdish news sites they’ve been reporting that the Turkmens from al-Iraqiyya, INA and SLC want to leave their alliances to form their own bloc, but I guess it’s probably not true.

  31. Reidar Visser said

    That’s right. Though you need to be the “candidate of the biggest parliamentary bloc”, but strictly speaking, no. At any rate, I don’t think anyone was suggesting that Mutlak would be premier, but rather possibly president of the republic – same story, and no bloc affiliation of any kind required. Of course ministers do not have to be MPs; this is standard practice in many democracies and in some places you lose your membership of parliament if you have one when you become a member of government.

    As for the Turkmens, they were talking about this last autumn. I think Abbas al-Bayati (SLA) said openly they would ride on the big tickets and then coalesce to an ethnic Turkmen front once inside parliament.

  32. John said

    What Haroun M wrote was that Hashemi was being excluded on the basis he was a dedicated Sunni, loved by the Sunni Arabs of Iraq, aggressive by nature, and constantly a thorn in the side of Maliki. That seems to me a very plausible reason for Maliki to want to exclude him. (Of course there may also be preexisting struggles and ulterior motives, as you suggest). Haroun M adds that this caused raised eyebrows in Iraqiyya circles considering Maliki’s own extreme sectarianism, attitude of revenge with respect to Sunni Arabs, and so on. Maybe resisting the likes of Maliki doesn’t count as “resistance”…

    But my point here was simply that this settling of occupation-era scores (if you don’t like “resistance versus collaboration”) isn’t something you can just wish away in any explanation of events…

  33. bks said

    Watching the unfolding of the occupation from my cosy Umwelt in the USA, and trying to read between the lines of the official story told by the Bush administration, it seemed to me that the whole cascade of electoral events began in 2005 with Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani forcing George W. Bush to produce the “free elections” he kept promising. From that day it seemed obvious to me that the only possible outcome was either a military dictator held aloft by US backing, or an al-Sistani-approved system. Is that hopelessly naive? I understand that it is not politically correct to say that the Government will be led by the Shi’a, but isn’t that the way to bet it? Why doesn’t al-Sistani even appear in contemporary discussion (for example, the above)?

    –bks

  34. Reidar Visser said

    Because Sistani’s political vision does not appear to include an explicit requirement that the prime minister belong to any particular race, sect or party.

    It is often underestimated how reluctant Sistani’s “Yes” to the constitution in October 2005 was, and the extent to which the quota-based system that developed in the 2006-2010 period was at variance with Sistani’s public statements in 2004 (see http://historiae.org/sistani.asp )

  35. observer said

    It has about 3 months since I stated that nobody trusts Maliki Many of you doubted that statement, yet is has come out now that in fact nobody trusts Maliki or Da3wa. So far, everybody is playing “chicken” and waiting for somebody else to blink.

    WIthout an outside influence, larger than Iran, the stalemate will continue. THe last time the log jam was moved was when Sistani explicitly told Jaafary to move out. As far as Sistani goes, that was a mistake that cost him much respect (an Marje3ia live and die on respect) as many in Iraq tag him with being responsible for “blessing” Maliki, and hence responsible for the mistakes thereof. My bet is that Sistani will not interfere with the selection process as he wants to maintain plausible deniability. He did not even respond to Obama’s plea that Sistani “uses his influence”. The log jam will not move until Maliki moves off center stage. That will not happen without an outside force. It is rather strange that Iran and US are supporting Maliki and my guess is that DOD/DOD/White House will change their tune, but not before the November elections. Until then, the horse trading, rumor mongering, and maneuvering will continue unabated.

    I hope I am totally wrong, but I see no way out before the November elections in the US. No other major event (baring the death of Sistani or Khamanie) is on the horizon that may yield a change in the dynamics. Iraqi voters and needs be damned.

  36. Reidar Visser said

    What I don’t get is what is supposed to change in the US position after 2 Nov. Another US “surge”? Recognise Iraqiyya as the bloc that will form the government, or else the Security Council will intervene?? These things are just never going to happen! Even the Bush administration would have found it difficult to try to forecefully reverse a ruling by the Iraqi federal supreme court, and the chances of the Obama admin doing it are virtually zero. Everything Obama is saying about Iraq is more focused on the well-being of US veterans than that of the Iraqi people. It wasn’t his war and he apparently does not feel that he has that much responsibility for its aftermath either.

    In Iraq, Obama is choosing the path of least resistance, which unfortunately means acquiescing in a substantial Iranian role while at the same time trying to spin it out of existence. Instead of lulling themselves into unrealistic dreams of a change in the US position, the best thing Iraqiyya can do is to work with the facts on the ground: The putative Shiite alliance still does not agree on a premier candidate meaning Iraqiyya is still the largest bloc, but it has to act fast. It has been knocking on the INA door for five months straight now and it is time to try something else.

  37. bks said

    I agree with Reidar that it is a mistake to think that the November elections in the USA are in any way relevant to macro events in Iraq. Not even McCain, who adamantly opposed a timetable for the withdrawal of forces during the 2008 Presidential election, has made it a talking point in 2010. After November the absolute last thing that any Republican will want to do is to summon the spectre of George W. Bush as perparations begin for 2012.

    –bks

  38. Joe said

    Reidar,

    Extremely well put-together essay, as are all of your posts, much thanks for that. I do agree that a strong, secular, nationalist coalition unencumbered by forced inclusion of all the ethno-sectarian players is extremely more efficient and overall better for Iraq than a government by “armistice” (as you accurately call it).

    The problem I have is that it seems to assume that if the US would just stop pushing the Iraqis toward sectarianism they would naturally gravitate back toward nationalism. Understand that may be a gross oversimplification of your statements, but I believe that government by armistice really may be where Iraq is right now. It is not the US that initiated Ali Faisal Al-Lami’s and Ahmand Chalabi’s De-Ba’athification fiasco, that polarized the landscape along sectarian lines earlier this year. It is not the US that enables pro-Iranian voices (like Ali Al-Adib) over the nationalist ones. It is not the US that encouraged the Kurds to demand an outrageous list of 19 Kurdish-centric demands. The Iraqis did all that themselves. And it is distrust between all of the players, most notably between Maliki and Allawi themselves, but to a lesser degree amongst all of the parties, that has paralyzed the government formation process since the election results were certified in June.

    Perhaps the Iraqis (except a loyal contingent of SLA) are scared to death of Maliki becoming another dictator and that fear is driving mistrust on all levels, from many players and toward many players. The Presidential Council for National Security (or whatever they’re calling it) while unconstitutional, may be the only way to force the system to engender the type of trust necessary to push this whole government formation process over the hump. And government by armistice, while unfortunate, may be the most realistic way to ensure that in 2014, when it’s time for another election, that there really is a choice, and not another dictator.

  39. Reidar Visser said

    Joe, many thanks for that. In discussing developments in Iraq during the British mandate, Hanna Batatu once wrote, “of course the British did not create the separatist proclivities of the Basra mallaks…. But it looks as if there were gentle British pushes with the elbow somewhere along the line”. In fact, Batatu was wrong: The British administration hated the Basra separatist project and tried to discourage it. But unfortunately, in the case of the USG in Iraq today, the effect of “gentle pushes” by the dominant Western power in a separatist or more sectarian direction, albeit unwittingly, is clear to see. In February, in Washington, Chris Hill said that Chalabi was an Iranian stooge but he also cited Chalabi’s jurisprudence when he alleged that there was a justified relationship between article 7 of the Iraqi constitution and the de-Baathification campaign (in fact there isn’t because the relevant law pursuant to article 7 has yet to be adopted by the Iraqi parliament). Similarly, at USIP a week ago or so, he was asked a brief question about the Kurds and then raved on for five full minutes about the virtues of the KRG and how well-liked Barzani was among all Iraqi politicians – the decisive proof of which appeared to be the habit of Ammar al-Hakim to visit Arbil frequently! In other words, expect the next Kurdish list of desiderata to have 25 points; they now think they enjoy the support of Washington more than ever.

    My criticism is that the USG has been actively encouraging the armistice-oriented governing formula at junctures when it had other options, or at least could have stayed neutral. Had it done so, the Iraqi dynamic, in turn, might also have looked different.

  40. observer said

    Reidar,
    One word for you – DISTRUST. Iraqiyya has tried to negotiate with Maliki but you saw for yourself the level of distrust (as manifested by allawi’s critical review of the points presented by SLA). No way will allawi abandon the Kurds (he is in KRG today) and for the stalemate within the NA to continue, he has to continue to romance the saddris.. and so it goes.

  41. Joe said

    Reidar, acknowledged, and all good points. And I agree – US influence has definitely made me scratch my head at times over this whole process. But regardless, Iraq is not ready for a centrist government that excludes one or more of the major blocs. If SLA-Iraqiyya were to take their 180 seats and build a government without the Kurds and Sadrists, I believe the benefit of that government may come at the cost of further destablization. Could the new government withstand such destablizing challenges in its formative months and years? Additionally, if that new SLA-Iraqiyya government were to re-instate Maliki as PM without additional power-sharing reforms to curb his power, could one argue that he is already well on his way to ensuring that the election of 2014 entrenches his power even further?

  42. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, point taken, but my fear is that by making this “distrust” concept into a holy cow, Iraqiyya is gradually sliding towards an end game which gives them a far weaker position than they would have had in a bilateral deal with Maliki. In a power-sharing government I envisage that Iraqiyya may get two or three important ministries in a cabinet headed by Adel Abd al-Mahdi in a best-case scenario.

    Joe, the likely Kurdish reaction to an exclusion has been discussed on this blog a lot in the past and I am not going to repeat everything that has been said. But just to quickly recap, this solution is constitutionally unproblematic and ditto with respect to general democratic theory: The Kurds already enjoy widespread autonomy and their exclusion would in principle not be any more dramatic than that which happens each time a Democrat or a Republican loses the White House – they still continue to govern some states. The Kurds know they would lose support in the Western world if they started a war just because they lost out in a democratic contest which they themselves designed.

  43. Kermanshahi said

    By the time US elections are held, there won’t be any US forces in Iraq anymore, so, election day won’t change anything.

  44. observer said

    kermenshahi,
    You need to check your calender. US troops are not going to go out until 2011 (if they ever go out that is). 50k is a lot of soldiers and the pre positioned equipment allow the US to go to 140k in not time flat. I am surprised that you do not know these basics since you know so much about the US, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and world politics and religious history, and the particulars of minorities in Iraq, etc., etc.

  45. Kermanshahi said

    Observer, US Presidential elections are not to be held until November 6, 2012, meanwhile all US troops are due to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011.

    If you were referring to house of representatives or senate elections, then this was a misunderstanding.

  46. John said

    Maliki in his interview with Al-Akhbar published today (Aug 31) dismisses reports he is trying to break up Iraqiyya much as Reidar did in the earlier comment here (on Friday), by suggesting this is merely to distract or cover for internal Iraqiyya differences (“hanging your problems on somebody else’s clothes-rack” in Maliki’s words), but of course without any details. Does anyone know if these alleged internal Iraqiyya differences been mentioned or discussed anywhere?

  47. observer said

    Kaka Kermanshahi. News flash. There are elections in the US every two years and it puts all the seats of the house up for re-elections and 1/3 of the senate. In this elections, there is a very good chance that the Republicans will take both the house and the senate back. A repeat of 1994 and Obama will be unable to pass any of his domestic agenda into laws.
    So in a couple of months all Obama can do is concentrate on foreign policy !!!

  48. Mohammed said

    Actually, if you want to compare to 1994, all Clinton did was concentrate on domestic agenda after he lost the midterms. Americans dont give a crap about Iraq. They care about the economy and that is the only way Obama will get re-elected. You are dreaming if you think Obama would ever allow the US troops to go back to 140,000. Obama is not Bush. Typically US presidents concentrate on foreign policy only when they are lame ducks or their is an ‘existential’ threat to the US (like 9/11), otherwise, all people care about are jobs, jobs, jobs.

    Iraqiya/Allawi will need to work with Iraq’s parties (and not the Americans and Saudis) to get their due posts in the government.

  49. Kermanshahi said

    Observer, there are elections in America but these are irrelevant when speaking of foreign policy. The democrats are no better than the republicans, as a matter of fact, they started more wars than the republicans. Sure, the Bushes invaded Iraq twice, invaded Afghanistan and bombed Somalia to pave way for a Ethiopian invasion and Eisenhower got America involved in Korea.

    However Deomcrats (Wilson, FDR) got America involved in World War 1 and 2 (and not because, as they like to make it seem, they “were attacked,” but because they were itching for war. They joined WWI because Germany sunk American ships providing arms to Britain, for use against Germany, which America was boycotting, meanwhile Pearl Harbor was provoked so they could have an excuse to join in). Kennedy and Johnson started the Vietnam War. Clinton occupied Somalia and bombed Yugoslavia, also note how his government launched several bombing campaings against Iraq.

  50. observer said

    Kermanshahi,
    I have lived in the US for a lot longer than you think and suffice it to say, i do not share your “view” of its history, motivation, make up and dynamics. This is not the space to discuss this issue. You keep your views, colorful as they maybe.

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