Iraq and Gulf Analysis

It Is Maliki Versus Abd al-Mahdi

Posted by Reidar Visser on Friday, 3 September 2010 20:15

In a fascinating replay of what happened inside the Shiite alliance (UIA) in March and April 2006, Adel Abd al-Mahdi of ISCI has emerged as the main challenger to the other prominent premier candidate for what is still only a theoretical project of a new Shiite alliance (NA), Nuri al-Maliki of the Daawa party. Back then Abd al-Mahdi had been a frontrunner for the job as well but lost out to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, partly out of fears from others that Abd al-Mahdi would give away too much power to the Kurds. Jaafari was subsequently replaced by Maliki.

Still, it may be the contrasts with 2006 that after all are most important this time. In the first place, the power bases and the numbers are different, in addition to the fact that no full merger between the two would-be component of the Shiite alliance, Abd al-Mahdi’s INA and Maliki’s SLA, has so far taken place. Back then, Maliki ultimately won the job on the basis of supports from Sadrists and independents in addition to his own Daawa base. This time around, the Sadrists have been anti-Maliki although they have also been pretty reluctant to embrace Abd al-Mahdi, according him a very low score in the “straw poll” of premier candidates held right after the 7 March elections, and for a long time having favoured former premier Ibrahim al-Jaafari (who together with Ahmad Chalabi was reportedly the only major absentee at today’s decision by INA). For his part, Maliki has for the past years managed to build up a substantial power base of his own, meaning that inside the putative NA, he commands the weight of 89 seats whereas Abd al-Mahdi’s INA accounts for slightly less (70). Add to that the fact that SLA contains a floating mass of at least a couple of dozen MPs – including some from the Tanzim al-Iraq branch of the Daawa and some from Maliki’s own branch  – that expressed an interest for a full merger with INA as early as last summer and may be more inclined to compromise with them for that reason, and the complexity of the matter becomes clearer. Reflecting this situation, the modalities for deciding the competition between the two have not yet been decided, although several suggested mechanisms have been floated.

Another key difference concerns timing and procedure for the further process. Back in 2006, a two-thirds majority was required to elect the presidential council and this established the effective threshold for electing the premier (whose nomination was to be done by the presidency). Accordingly, when the first UIA candidate, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, faced resistance from the Kurds and others, he dropped out of the competition. Conversely, when Maliki emerged as a compromise candidate, not even the Kurds had the audacity to attempt a second veto and the rest of the government-formation process went reasonably smoothly, with the government seated in around 50 days after Maliki’s emergence as a compromise candidate. This time around, though, even if the Shiite alliance should be able to agree on a single candidate – only then would it in fact exist as a relevant bloc or kutla according to even the most flexible reading of the Iraqi constitution – there would still be a long way to go. Firstly it seems unlikely that the secular Iraqiyya will accept a government formed on this basis, since it has been making the case for a stricter interpretation of the constitution based on electoral results all the way. The possible exception in this case is that Abd al-Mahdi is well liked as a person among several high-ranking Iraqiyya leaders, though perhaps more so among the Wifaq ones than others and any cave-in by them to an NA demand for the premiership would likely meet with considerable defections from the other components of Iraqiyya and the end result could be a repeat of the “Tawafuq syndrome” of the previous parliament or even something less, with weak representation of the areas controlled by the central government north of Baghdad.  Secondly, a deal with the Kurds is not a foregone conclusion this time, since the Kurdish votes are not needed to seat the government, and since their demands so far have been pretty extravagant. If they overplay their hand, they, too, might risk marginalisation as a result. Thirdly, the loser of the internal Shiite competition will still have cards to play for these reasons, depending to some extent on the numbers involved in the final struggle. For example, if the vote is close and Maliki loses, he could still turn to Iraqiyya and try to be more generous with them.

In terms of chronology, next week will mark the high point of the Ramadan celebrations, so settling the internal Shiite issue will likely not begin in earnest until 15 September. In other words, unless the Iraqis rush faster than in 2006, a government on this side of the US midterm elections on 2 November might prove difficult.

61 Responses to “It Is Maliki Versus Abd al-Mahdi”

  1. Salah said

    Of the crucify, question we seen in western democracy some independent candidates running not to top job but they did make their way in high rank of political system and they may get share the power like what happing in Australia recent election by these four independents candidates.

    In Iraq today why we don’t have just these faces keep changing their backing or alliances each time and jump to promote themselves as a different, fresh candidate. While all we can see same face same attitude and same thinking and behavior by them.

    Is that tell/ let us to believe these can make differences changes to today Iraq?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Indeed, an Abd al-Mahdi premiership would be an immense leap for ISCI which is now a relatively small party, around 9 seats – 9 out of 17 within ISCI/Badr, 9/17 out of 70 INA seats, 9/17 out of 159 putative NA seats. No doubt it would be welcomed by those who prefer a weak and oversized government for Iraq!

  3. I don’t want to say, “I told you so”, Reidar. And won’t:)

  4. Reidar Visser said

    He’s still got to negotiate that Maliki obstacle though. And even then there are lots of potential problems. ISCI’s whole approach has been based on the premise of using Kurdish and Iraqiyya votes to subvert Maliki based on their personal affection for Abd al-Mahdi, but I don’t see Iraqiyya hanging together if they go along with that since they could have got a much better result by doing a two-party deal with Maliki instead. Maybe some office seekers would be happy but there would be reactions from the middle ranks and the voters.

  5. observer said

    this is a pressure step, according to some leading politicians that I spoke to tonight. INA is not expecting Mahdi to actually become the candidate, but they are forcing the ball to move from mid court into the Da3wa court. Da3wa has to respond either by re-affirming Maliki or Maliki stepping down. Expect a move by Najaf either overtly or behind the scenes to push the process forth. This move may actually make it easier for SAL and INM to discuss issues more seriously.

    The absence of Chalabi and Jaafary speaks volumes on the “cohesiveness” of INA, let us not mention the NA. This is a move intended to start the breaking of the logjam. Even if somehow Mahdi made it to PM, he is still far better than Maliki or Da3wa continuing for another 4 years. Iraqiyya maybe able to survive with great concessions from INA to secure the seats needed.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Though if Abd al-Mahdi should somehow make it and NA somehow survives intact – which is a big if – you might also get either the scenario described by Kermanshahi of the old Kurdish-Shiite axis re-emerging (which I think is somewhat problematic given the nature of the Kurdish demands) or NA turning to Tawafuq and minorities to meet the 163 mark and hence deny Iraqiyya any effective leverage, perhaps reducing its share to some symbolic posts.

  7. Salah said

    Back in early day after handover, Abd al-Mahdi were running selling himself by promoting more open economy and more economic relation with US and spoke few times about the future of Iraqi Oil in US.

    Is the visit of US vice president Joseph Biden to Iraq have something to do with this timing?

  8. Reidar Visser said

    I don’t think so. ISCI-US relations got a little strained a few weeks ago when it looked as if Washington preferred Maliki and Allawi to dominate the coalition-forming process. Abd al-Mahdi emerged because the Sadrists changed their mind, not because Biden was in town.

  9. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, you call the Kurdish demands “extravagant,” however the reason for this is that inside Iraqi Kurdistan and infact among Kurds worldwide, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani are heavily under fire for not delivering. It has come to a stage now that the general population both inside the KRG controlled area and in the Iraqi government Kurdish populated areas (like Kerkuk) demand that they deliver Kerkuk and the disputed territories, the oil deals and power sharing being secondary issues.
    Throughout the elections the politicians have said they will give finally live up to their word. They have made these demands becuase they are they really need to, right now for if they don’t, it will be political suicide. They are under heavy pressure from the people and if the Arab parties now decide to work together to isolate the Kurds, exclude them from a deal and use their new powers in parliament against the Kurds, than as I have said before, I am afraid they will be left no other choice than to go to war.

    Now you have always acted as if that isn’t such a big deal and having some political tensions with the KRG will be just a minor problem in return for having a “good” and “stable” government. However, than you don’t know the Kurds. The Kurds value bravery above everything else and throughout history this has always played a more important role than rational thinking, just think of the Barzani-Saddam war in the early 70s.
    If you think Kurds will for economic benefits (Barsa oil money) abandon their views and principles than you have the completely wrong image of the Kurdish people. If Kurds feel like it’s needed they will go to war even if they have no chance of winning. As it is, however, they have a big chance of winning and any Iraqi government you would like is one that the Iranian government wouldn’t like so during a Kurdish-Arab conflict in Iraq, you can be sure the Iranians will side with the Kurds, putting them even more in a position of power.

    You can call it unconstitutional, but as you have you have yourself been pointing out, majority of Iraq’s politicians are prepared to use unconstitutional methods when it suits them. The same Barzani and Talabani you are hoping won’t use violence for political benefits launched a major war on each other in the mid-90s cause they couldn’t agree on power sharing and they did just that in Ninawa when Nujayfi wouldn’t share power (Peshmerga seized control of all Kurdish districts and enclaves, preventing the local al-Hadba government from having any control there) and they will do just that if Allawi and Maliki together decide to exclude them and take a lesson out of al-Nujayfi, al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi’s books on how to treat the Kurds.

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, bellicose as ever… Wasn’t it the Barzani clan that invented the claim on Kirkuk in the first place and don’t they just have themselves to thank? Note that other researchers who work with Kurdistan (but who are somewhat more detached from the Kurdish nationalist paradigm than you are) report that many ordinary Kurds do not care much about article 140 but rather about bread and butter issues (and KRG corruption and authoritarianism).

  11. observer said

    a person from Kirkuk (influential) told me just yesterday that all they want is to live in peace and they know very well that neither the Kurds or Arabs (and he is a Kurd) care about the desire of the people. They would be very happy with a Kirkuk with a special status, be it capital or special region.

  12. Santana said


    Read the article below titled- Iraq’s Kurds- what do they want? Federalism or Confederalism…very well written…and here I thought only Reidar can write this good ! (however-Reidar is still #1 in my book !)….

    As far as your comments that the Kurds are willing to go to war- yeah right ! that would be a very dumb move and who are they counting on ? The Iranians ?? hahaha…like the U.S will allow Iranian troops to go into Iraq to help out the Kurds…or no wait- maybe the IDF ?? hahaha again..(the Israelis barely give up one precious soldier defending Israel..and to come into Iraq to help Barzani out “for Old times sake”…yeah right…..all you have if you start a war are the Pesh Murga and it would be suicidal in my opinion…and do you think Turkey will allow the Kurds to have an independent State ?? I don’t know where you got the idea that the Pesh Murga are known for their bravery?? They have never won a battle ever…the fiercest fighting force in the history of Iraq and all the Arab nations were the Elite Republican Guards….Iranian troops used to desert their positions when they hear of an impending attack by Al-Madina or Allahu Akbar divisions….these forces were the pride of all Iraqis- they were all Arab- Sunnis Shiites and Christians and their loyalty was to IRAQ 100% …and no not to Saddam as Ali W. likes to claim… (he is confusing them with the Special Republican Guard which were all Tikritis and Douris and Ouja residents).So if the Kurds are waiting to see what they get from the new government and then decide “it ain’t good enough” and start an uprising in the North by the Pesh Murga to grab a slice of Iraq ! well…..let me tell you my friend-you ain’t seen nothin yet- it will turn millions of Iraqis into “Republican Guards” and even Unite the Sunnis and Shiites even more…… So my advise is that the Kurds spare the bloodshed and the embarrasment- forget about 140 and accept/demand being equal citizens and part of Iraq. They are entitled to everything just like all the other Iraqis. I strongly support a push by them with the United Nations and the U.S to make sure their rights are not infringed upon. KRG spends $400,000/month lobbying Washington- what a waste of Kirkuk oil money…one of the things they are pushing for in DC is for U.S Bases in the North…..I support that idea- IF they want the troops there to make sure they are treated equally and to prevent any hostilities from the South….but if they want U.S troops there to assist them while they attempt a military takeover of IRAQ’s Northern region- yeah right….dream on guys….all of Kirkuk’s Oil money and all the lobbyists in DC won’t help the Kurds get this.

    Rest assured Kermanshahi- The bliss the Kurds have in the North will not be taken away no matter what….Iraq has enough Oil to turn all the provinces in Iraq to a similar bliss…. everyone should be equal in all of Iraq…why should Iraqis in Basra live without water or electricity while Irbil is a major tourist attraction…are they people of a lesser God !!??..’A government from the people, by the people and FOR the people is what WE need !!!!!!
    Read below please….

    فاضل الربيعي

    يغني أكراد العراق أغنية “الفدرالية” بصوت عال. لا ضير في ذلك. الأغنية طويلة بعض الشيء لأنها مؤلفة من مقطعين يبدوان متشابهين ومتناقضين في آن واحد. حسنا، لكن المشكلة ليست هنا. المشكلة أن الأغنية قد تطول أكثر مما تحتمل أوضاع العراق ما دام هناك مقطع فدرالي طويل، وآخر “كونفدرالي” يعلم الله وحده متى ينتهي.


  13. mostafa said

    Hi Reidar,
    this article says that general lloyd Austin is the one who saved Nuri Almaliki in Basra in March 2008 when he was besieged by the Sadrist Militants:
    could that be right? is there any reliable source of information about what happened that month in Basra and Sadr City of Baghad?

    what about the attitude of Jaafari and Chalabi of nominating Abd al-Mahdi? some rumors (including a statement by Moayyad Alobaidi of Jaafari’s party) say that they with Fadila are gonna ally with SLA against him

    Finally, i hope you don’t consider that a derailment but i tried hard to figure out how these XHTML tags work but i couldn’t…

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, the controversy about the Charge of the Knights operation and Maliki’s role in it is an old one and I’m not going to re-open it here, except to say that some, Americans in particular, like to describe the whole thing as more haphazard than the “official story” would suggest, and that Maliki’s role was less than what many believe. Regardless, to me, Maliki is nonetheless important in terms of what he did in 2008 after the operation, i.e. 1.)Challenging militias; 2.) Challenging federalism; 3.) Challenging ethno-sectarian consensus (tawafuqiyya) by seeking a “political majority”; 4.) Challenging the 2005 constitution and suggesting it be revised according to the revision clause.

    As far as Fadila and Jaafari are concerned, these stories are of course interesting but remember that Jaafari only represents a single deputy in parliament (himself) and Fadila around 6. Add to that the fact that Jaafari for five months has been the preferred anti-Maliki candidate of the Sadrists, so I wonder how it will work out between the two at the personal level… They did cooperate in a number of governorates after the Jan 2009 elections though.

    Oh, and please don’t ask me about XHTML because I am totally clueless in that respect… Feel free to continue to post full links, that’s what I do myself…

  15. mostafa said

    Hi Reidar,
    I am trying to revise some events which were essential in forming the current political alliances (Sadrists & ICSI Vs. Daawa & Tanzim aliraq) so if you have thorough analyses about “Charge of the Knights operation” and the 2009 local election, would you please send me their links

    As for Jaafari, it is true that he is a single MP but he is one of the most popular men in Iraq with more than 100,000 votes in Baghdad (which makes him the most popular man in the INA), also he is the most popular among Sadrist supporters with 25% in the straw poll (he had even more votes than Jaafar Alsadr who was supported by Moqtada and Qosay Alsohail who is a Sadrist).
    And above all Abd al-Mahdi was the last one in that same poll with 2%.
    Don’t the Sadrists fear of losing their support because of such acts?
    as far as the relationship between Jaafari and Maliki you are right. It is difficult to imagine how things are gonna work out.


  16. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, I wrote a little about this on my website at

    Note that the break between ISCI and Maliki was not complete at that point, even if it was in the making. Also the Sadrists at that time remained the enemy of both ISCI and Maliki. During the summer, the Sadrists gravitated towards the 22 July forces; it was not until the spring of 2009 that they once more became aligned with ISCI.

  17. mostafa said

    Thanx Reidar,
    I thought that the break between ISCI and Maliki started mainly after the local election 2009 because ISCI felt that Maliki is trying to limit their power and popularity. And I remember the strong support of ISCI for the Charge of the Knights operation.
    However, here is what Maliki said on Aliraqyya TV on 028\2010:
    في البصرة حينما كنت اقاتل الارهاب والميليشيات تحرك الشركاء في الائتلاف الذين اليوم وأنا لازلت حي ” بعدني ما متت ولا انقتلت ” تحركوا لتشكيل الحكومة فذهبوا الى السيد رئيس الجمهورية وقالوا نريد تشكيل الحكومة، الرجل قال لهم ننتظر ” خل نشوف هذا الرجل يرجع لو ميرجع” وكنت 95 بالمائة مقتول

    Is that what makes you think that the break was in the making in spring of 2008?

  18. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, the break between ISCI and Daawa was a long, staged process and we cannot possibly go into all of it here. But just to recap, there were moves to unseat Maliki already during the summer of 2007; in the autumn of 2007 Maliki said it was important to have a centralised state and a few months later Hakim retorted with “the days of the centralised state are gone”; also in this period there were attempts by Maliki to challenge the supremacy of ISCI in the local security forces across the south. As for Basra, ISCI was getting worried that the Sadrists were getting too strong and alongside a couple of their auxilliaries such as the Sayyid al-Shuhada movement ISCI staged protests against Maliki’s men in Basra, including General Mohan al-Firayji. So in a way they prompted him to take action against the Sadrists but he turned away from them later and became more nationalist, announcing the decision to run separately for the local elections as State of Law around October 2008 I think.

    Anyway, you can find much more about this by looking under Categories on the front page and choose the keyword “UIA dynamics” and it should all come up in chronological order. But let’s return to today’s situation!

  19. mostafa said

    Reidar, thank you for your patience.
    As for today’s situation, are the Sadrists serious about nominating Abd al-Mahdi?
    Isn’t that a try to put Maliki under pressure especially with Iraqiyya insisting on its “constitutional right”?

  20. Reidar Visser said

    I agree it is a strange move given their stance in the past and it may be tactical. One scenario could be that their real aim is to get a compromise candidate from within SLA, say, Ali al-Adib or Haydar al-Abbadi. But it could also backfire and prompt Maliki to be more serious about negotiations with Iraqiyya.

  21. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, Kerkuk has for most of the history been a Kurdish city central in the Kurdish region though, as you point out, during the Turkish occupation of Iraq and Kurdistan, the Turks formed a slight majority in this city, surrounded by an overwhelmingly Kurdish region (and later, as more people went to the cities, the regions natives (Kurds) became a majority in the city aswell and the significants of the Turks who stayed behind when their empire didn’t, decreased dramatically). That Mullah Mustafa Barzani invented a claim on Kerkuk to sabotage Saddam’s “great peace-offer” is a claim invented by the Iraqi Ba’ath Party because in real the original demand was just that all Kurdish majority area is turned into an autonomous region, Saddam however later refused to give Kerkuk, because it had too much oil. The ethnic cleansing campaign which was unleasehd on Kerkuk to change it to an Arab majority city, so it wouldn’t become part of Kurdistan like all other Kurdish majority territory that it became a disputed city. The Ba’athists however, who deny their own crimes, say that Kerkuk was never ethnicly cleansed and always was an Arab majority city however “all of a sudden” Kurds are coming there and now trying to claim it.

    Kurdish people do care about food and living, however the image the West has tried to create to make it’s war seem like victory and make it seem like the Iraqis like them, while it was only a few (now supposedly defeated) extremists making problems, is also the image that Iraqis don’t care about their ethnic and secterian identities and rather want to just live. Though this is to some extent true for Sunnis and Shi’as, the Kurds don’t even see themslefes as Iraqis and having a Kurdish autonomous region with their own protection against Arab genocides against Kurds is of key importance. Now the borders of this region is to be decided on where the Kurds live, so that almost all Kurds can enjoy the freedom and protection of this region. If Arabs want to pick and choose which regions go to the Kurds, based on where is oil and where is no oil, with Kurds getting all the worhtless places, Arabs getting all the good places (case that is exactly what the Kerkuk dispute is!) than this will definetly not be accepted no matter how much food and services there are.

  22. Kermanshahi said

    Santana, the Republican Guards were the best trained and armed force in the Middle East, the reason they lost so disgracefully in all their wars was that they were not brave, they were cowards who needed weeks of chemical bombings before they could enter a region, backed up with tanks, planes and the biggest artillery inventory in the Middle East to get a few Iranian school kids who hadn’t been trained and had never fought in their lives but joined the Basij and stood and died for it eventhough they didn’t have any of the weapons the Republican Guards had.
    Where was the Republican Guards bravery when the Americans attacked in ’91, they were so useless, they hardly fought back at all. They just ran, scatered like rats, surrandered and had their army ripped to pieces while Americans had more to fear from their own buddies’ “friendly fire” than those brave Republican Guards.
    A transformation was however seen several weeks later when it wasn’t the mighty US Army but a bunch of defenceless women and children they were up against. Cause when the Shi’a rebellion started, the Republican Guards, executing children in rows of thousands, raping hundreds of thousands of women, everywhere, ripping up unarmed people to pieces, shooting up crowds of fleeing civilians and blowing up buildigns full of innocent families. But to fight merely a few kids with guns trying to defend their streets from the Ba’athists they needed to shell the hell out of every city for days before their brave forces could enter.
    They were infact so brave that when the Americans came again and when they held out 9 days in Baghdad. They had 45,000 soldiers but killed only 30 Americans. They lost 2,500 soldiers due to their incompetance but what happened to the other 42,500 “brave” Republican Guards which were ordered to defend the city? Owyeah, they took off their Saddam uniforms, put on civilian clothes and came back to blow themselfes up in markets, schools, funerals and where ever “the enemy” carried no arms.

    The Peshmerga fought Iraq twice, from 1961 to 1970 and from 1974 to 1991, they went through difficult phases but did not stop fighting, the Iraqi army was always stronger but they did not hesitate confronting it. In the end due to bravery and determination they won both wars and that’s why the Kurds are where they are now. Kurds don’t want a war, everyone in Kurdistan has lost enough family to those savage gass attacks on civilians, by those “brave” Republican Guards (which showed immense bravery when they were ordered to burn down 600 villages in ’77 with everyone in it but somehow weren’t as brave, when Peshmerga arived fully armed in Kerkuk ’03), but if it’s needed they’ll go to war again and history tells who will prevail this time again.
    Iran doesn’t need to sent forces into Iraq to help the Kurds, the Peshmerga can handle Iraq’s army even without help, but Iranian training and weapons can make such the Peshmerga 10x more lethal and efficient, Turkey will whine, they might even bomb some PKK bases but they can and won’t do anything about it (neither do they have their own weapons industry to supply anyone with anything).

  23. Reidar Visser said

    Oh, and the “Turkish occupation” you refer to started as far as I can recall with the Saljuks in the 11th century and continued right up until the 1960s (even Kurds recognise there was a Turkmen plurality in the town in the 1957 census)…

    Look, if all the world should start making their own Zionisms based on ancient claims then we would be facing a century of huge migrations indeed.

  24. Admitting that the question of Kerkuk is complicated, it does not clarify things to claim that Mulla Mustafa Barzani invented the Kurdish claim to the City. His predecessor in the Iraqi-kurdish struggle; Shaykh Mahmud Barzinji, also claimed Kerkuk for his Kurdish statelet (as I have pointed out to you before).

  25. Reidar Visser said

    And this is what I replied back then:

    I am unable to find any explicit reference [in A History of the Kurds] to the effect that Mulla Mustafa’s claim to Kirkuk “came out as a continuation” of the Shaykh Mahmud uprising. I also had trouble finding an unequivocal reference indicating that the town itself was a central aspect of Mahmud’s pretensions (note that Kirkuk was also a province or liwa and sometimes you must see from the context whether the reference is to the town or the province), although he was certainly feared by the local inhabitants. It is possible that Shaykh Mahmud may have claimed paramountcy over some rural tribes around Kirkuk. At any rate, and this must be the significant point in our discussion, as the above quotations attest to it seems clear that the population there had no interest in his adventures, whatever their exact territorial scope.

    PS Only comments containing new and empirical information will be published as far as Kirkuk is concerned.

  26. Hasan said

    If what mostafa said is true It seems like the ISCI and Abd al-Mahdi is the biggest looser in these process “actually they already are…”.. And what about political ethics… The Sadrists in these few months have acted very badly with each one of their allies, don’t know how they sleep at night with all the mess they are making with every one..

  27. Santana said

    Kermanshahi- I wanted your comments to the piece attached more so than to hear your hilarious and delusional comments about the “World’s best fighting force” the Pesh Murga Ala timmen

    Anyway- since as you say “theycan take on the Iraqi Army without any help”then I think you need to tell Talabani and Barzani to go for it now – what are they waiting for? Even if you guys achieve the best democraticsolution in this new government -and EVEN if any of Iraq’s Arabs are crazy enough to approve the rediculous 20 pointsKurdish demands…it will NEVER be good enough ….so go for it now and bring it on bud…..

  28. Kermanshahi said

    Yes Reidar, the Turkish ccupation started with the Seljuqs and though it was broken several times, it continued with Ottomans until their defeat in WWI. Now I also agree that during at least some points of this occupation, the Turks which based themselfes in the cities to rule the local (in this case Kurdish) population in the region, were a majority in Kerkuk. However today the city has a Kurdish majority and when drawing the borders of the Kurdistan region, basing this on where the Kurdish population is a majority is a much better way of doing it than basing it on provinces which were drawn by Saddam Hussein.

    And the Kurdish return to Kerkuk is much different from the Zionist return to Palestine. Much of the Kurds expelled by Saddam between 1971 and 1991 are still alive today. The Kurdish families which have been returning to Kerkuk between 2003 and 2010 are the same families which were expelled from it 30/40 years ago + their direct descendants. The Zionists however wanted to “return” to Palestine because over 4,000 years ago, people of the same religion as them, whom none of them have ever met or known, lived there.

    Sanatana, the Kurds have an army of 375,000 men, Iraq has one of 275,000. Now back in 1991 Saddams milion man army was defeated by 4-5 thousand Kurds. Today Iraq lacks that milion man army, they also lack the top class airforce, the 10 thousand tanks and the chemical gas which was responsible for almost all Saddam’s succeses against both Iran and the Kurds. This mere shadow of the former Iraqi army is too divided and incompetant and much to busy fighting fellow Arabs to ever put up a serious fight. The reason Kurds haven’t attacked yet is because, unlike the Ba’athists they want to try a peacefull solution. If a democratic solution (referendum) doesn’t work because Iraq’s Arabs vote for parties who refuse to hold it, than there will be no other choice left than war, but as it is, this isn’t clear yet.
    You are a Ba’athist, I know you hate Kurds and love war and like Saddam you like to overestimate your own military capabilities (in the end his troops never reached Tehran or Riyad, instead, well, you know what happened…), but such a war will be bad for all Iraqis but in particular for the looser in the conflict. The Kurds don’t want it, but they will do it and I hope Iraq’s Arabs realise what they will be getting themselfes into when they put themselfes behind the likes of al-Mutlaq and al-Nujayfi.

  29. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, no one disputes the right of return for legitimate claimants. It is the idea of attaching Kirkuk to the KRG areas politically that evokes the Zionism parallel.

  30. Kermanshahi said

    The Kurdish cause and claims are much more similar to the Palestinian one than the Zionist one. Both opressed people who have been fighting for their own state an down rights and who have ethnicly cleansed from certain areas by opressors. The attitude Ba’athists have taken (you can have autonomy but only in the worthless regions – we want all regions with oil) is more similar to the Zionist attitude (you can have an independent state, but only in the worthless regions – we want all the fertile regions).

    But forget all the historical claims and populations and paralells with other countries. Isn’t it true that according to the Iraqi constitution autonomous regions can be established through referendums and that is what the federalists tried to do in Basra 2 years ago? So according to the Iraqi constitution they have the right to hold a referendum in Kerkuk governernorate to decide it’s status.

  31. Santana said

    Kermanshahi- I hate war, hated Saddam and definetly not a baathist by ANY stretch of the imagination..I do not hate the Kurds at all…….Kurdistan will always be part of Iraq and Kurds will always be Iraqi citizens…If you guys start a war to try and take a piece of Iraq then you will lose I am 100% sure- because the majority of Iraqis are like me…want a stable, democratic and prosperous Iraq in ONE piece !!!


  32. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, an alternative outcome of a federalism bid could be a single-governorate region, not united with the KRG. Which vision would be voted on would depend on the pre-referendum istibyan.

    But anyway, why are we talking about Kirkuk here? The whole point is that the Kurds remain irrelevant to deciding the PM question and even Mahmud Uthman publicly acknowledged this today when he said the Kurds would wait for the PM to emerge and then present their demands. So let’s get back to Abd al-Mahdi and Maliki again please.

  33. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, don’t the people who file the referendum chose which form, cause that would be the Kurds and they would thus choose to hold the referendum in the “party of KRG” form. So anyway, you do acknowledge their right to hold one, so why support a government which wants to support violating that constitutional right.

    Santana, if you want a stable and peacefull Iraq than if you want to settle the matters peacefully, the people of any governorate have the constitutional right to hold a referendum on federalism. So abide by the constitution and hold this referendum, there will be no problems, but violate the Kurds’ constitutional rights for racist reasons and you have war.

  34. Reidar Visser said

    No, it’s not like that. If the Kurds seek a referendum they must launch a procedure involving the KRG governorates + Kirkuk, but if others want a different federal solution (Kirkuk only) then there will have to be an istibyan to decide which scheme will be put to the test in the referendum proper. I have explained this in greater detail here; it is potentially a very convoluted process:

    At any rate, the federalism law is an ordinary law which can be changed by a simple majority in parliament.

    PS: For the last time I will not publish any more comments that are not related to Abd al-Mahdi/Maliki. I hate to exercise censorship but we are so completely off-topic now.

  35. Santana said

    Sorry Reidar you are correct- we are way off-topic now….just that you said it so well and in the absence of any further news on the Adel- Maliki issue there isn’t much more to say about it…let’s see what surprises the visit to Iran by INA and Sol guys is gonna have for us soon….Allah yestur as they say….

  36. Ali W said

    This is more like your genre Reidar, is this big news or just talk.

    Also what has been the official resposne to Adel’s nomination, there is either a silence waiting to be broken or I have missed something, Othman seems to think it as a positive thing.

  37. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, the Basrawis have been blowing hot and cold over this for a couple of years now. There was apparently some kind of revival of the discussion last winter as well. There is nothing in the reports so far to suggest any major difference; only a specific initiative to call for a referendum would mean a decisive development.

    As for the Abd al-Mahdi nomination – a and a big thank you for getting back to that subject – I think it is generally overrated in terms of its significance since there is no suggestion that the internal Shiite tug of war on this is even near settlement. Reportedly the NA leaders will meet today to decide on the modalities for settling the Maliki-Abd al-Mahdi competition; last time they deliberated the premier subject they adopted a principle of 80% consensus… Add to that the fact that the Sadrists could be just playing for time and may not be truly interested in Abd al-Mahdi as the ultimate candidate. Despite all of this, it looks very likely that the Americans will waste lots of energy on this track.

  38. Ali Rashid said

    Assuming the National Alliance does come to fruition with either Abd al-Mahdi or Maliki at its head, I think a more interesting consideration is where it leaves the rest. Does the INM join as a junior partner in a huge, all-encompassing government?

    Perhaps this is where the leadership of the NA comes into play. I imagine Abd al-Mahdi would want to bring in the INM proper. Whereas Maliki would try to fragment it and draw in only certain factions with the lure of patronage.

    Of course, at this point this is all speculative, but might be worth considering.

  39. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, I just got a clipping from the media office of Iraqiyya consisting of an interview with Allawi done very recently. He reiterates the basic position of saying any PM candidate from the Shiite alliance is problematic since it means not recognising Iraqiyya as the biggest bloc. He says he may personally step down as PM candidate but will not give up the Iraqiyya claim to the premiership. Really, after all they have said about this, I don’t see how Iraqiyya could suddenly turn around and agree to be support for Abd al-Mahdi in exchange for some ministries. Iraqiyya would essentially become another little Tawafuq, lose voter support and start disintegrating.

  40. Ali W said

    Its going to get far more complicated if NA is formed. I think INM will just withdraw from politics leaving the sunnis once again unrepresented. I dont think that they will accept to be “Junior Partenrs”, but remian outside, beg the Arab world to resuce them, whilst praying for the increase of violence and terror (and most likely supporting sectarian violence).

    However I doubt there will be a lot of violence as before, the Iraqi army and police are stronger.

  41. Santana said

    If NA is formed and Iraqiya drops out all hell will break loose….much, much worse than 2006 cuz this time you have a very upset constituency from all of Iraq in much higher numbers(Sunnis, Shiites, Turkmens,Christians…)that will want the constitution upheld ! …NA is not legal it’s an Iranian idea and is only being resurrected out of Iranian desperation and pressure….. this whole NA thing was thought up post elections.
    The Iraqi Army will break up and there will only be force 56 that is loyal to Maliki that will be fighting for a while backed up by JAM (Ironic huh?)….and yes- MAJOR support will flow into Iraq this time from Iraq’s neighbors that do not want an Iranian puppet government next door to them.The U.S will go into crisis mode and shuttle diplomacy but will back up the secularists in certain ways (preventing JAM from doing anything, turning a blind eye to outside help for Iraqiya’s constituents… let’s hope things don’t get that far.

  42. Kermanshahi said

    Ali W, although the picture Santana is trying to paint is quite unrealistic, you are underestimating what for major trouble foreing meddling can cause. If Saudi Arabia, Jordan (and possibly Syria) start sending weapons, money, training and fighters into Iraq and allow Sunni and Ba’athist fighters to use their countries as safe havens, the Western part of the country can become more or less uncontrolable for the Iraqi government.
    And while the government/Shi’a might have some succes in a secterian war in Babil, Baghdad, Diyala, Samarra region, without public support places like Anbar, Ninawa, most of Salah ad-Din, parts of Kerkuk, can become impossible to control for the Iraqi government even if they do commit major warcrimes and destructions.
    Chances the Sunnis could bring the government down are slim, but this could bring a split in the country, especially if the Kurds also get involved (for instance fighting Sunni/Turkmen/Ba’athist militias in Kerkuk and Mosul).

  43. Santana said

    If – God forbid- it does break out the Kurds will welcome this opportunity to close off the North and raise the Kurdish flag in preperation for step two which is to declare autonomy especially while everyone is busy fighting in Central and Southern Iraq. The quietest areas will actually be the far West and far North in my opinion. Kirkuk and Mosul will be chaotic as well. The Arab shia Nationals will not join Maliki nor JAM nor Badr -not this time……ofcourse if the tension level is raised high enough Iran may seize that opportunity to blow up one of the major Shiite religous centers just to get a sectarian war going. Al-Qaeda terrorists will have a hey-day as well… the Iraqi people are the victims in all this. I hate even contemplating this scenario….

  44. Ali W said

    Kermanshahi, do not debate baathist, or those who who blindly hate the shia or Kurds, Its best to ignore them. These people still dream when 15% of population ruled Iraq, this will never EVER happen again. We will control Iraq till Imam Mahdi rises.

    As for what I meant, my point is that it will never happen. The sunni population no longer wants war nor have the stomach to face JAM after the bombing of Imam Askari (as) mosque.

    Going back to the subject of this thread, if NA is formed, i believe INM will not recognise it and will pull out, however some parts will eventually join back like Tawafuq did, Reidar can correct me but they withdrew from government for 9 months, during that time the violence was horrendous but the Shia parties remained strong and with the Kurds and pulled through until Tawafuq returned.

    My point here is that the violence will not be as bad as INM make out, and if INM does not think along the terms of what we here are saying here that they should forget about the PM position and look for more influence with policies and more ministries with SLA, that they will eventually be the losers and those who voted for them.

  45. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, as far as I know there are no Baathists on this forum. Please stop calling people names without having any substantial basis for doing so.

  46. Kermanshahi said

    Ali W, you’re right the majority of Sunnis don’t want to go back to violence, but the hardcore Ba’athists and Sunni extremists still do and if they get enough foreign funding and if enough foreign Wahabis join up, they can make enough trouble and possibly pull the main population back into a secterian war.

    Santana, the Kurds have already raise dthe flag and declared autonomy, the steps they’d like to take is seize the disputed territories they don’t control yet and declare independence, something which they can do right now if they want, but they don’t because they want to do everything by the book.
    The far North will be quiet, that is to say the three KRG provinces + some more secure other areas but so will the South with the exceptional bombing every now and then. Shi’a will not revolt if Sunni parties are excluded from government and if the parties where 80-90% of the South voted for, form the government.
    The West will not be quiet at all, the Iraqi army is already active in Anbar and Ninawa and if any revolt takes place they will definetly sent more forces in. Though some of al-Anbar’s less populated regions might stay relatively quiet, it’s major cities will be just like in 2004/2005, only this time the opponent will be the Iraqi army, which, though less well-armed and equipped than the American army, is also less bound by human rights.

    And one more thing, Iran doesn’t blow up Shi’a shrines, nor does the US conduct suicide bombings, Sunni extremists (Wahabis/Salafis) do. Normal Sunnis should just condemn this, rather than resulting to pathetic conspiracy theories to justify these crimes.

  47. Santana said

    Ali W.

    In my opinion-you have just exonerated all the people targeted by the Iranian backed De-Baathification thugs because you and Kermanshahi (before you)both called me a baathist ! So now I know that any patriotic Iraqi that cares for Iraq and wants Iran out is automatically enrolled in the Baath party per your criteria…I will say it for the last time- I am not a Baathist-never have been nor ever will be – it’s a socialist party and I am very Capitalistic in my thinking. I do not hate the shiites nor Kurds – you are a major sectarian and yes- I think you do believe in the return of the Mahdi…just like my nephews believe in Santa Claus. You guys want people on here to post only what you want to hear…Kermanshahi is a typical Kurd that wants autonomy and most likely hates all Arabs, you also hate Arabs and want the greater Persia to rise again. This is why Iraq is such a mess- and why I made the comment last week that the Secular Sunnis and Shiites are the only ones that truly care for Iraq- all others have their own agenda for Iraq.

  48. Kermanshahi said

    Santana, you call hating Iranians, “being patriotic,” but what it really is, infact, is racist and plain stupid as it will not benefit your country one bit. There are good patriotic people in both Iran and Iraq which support the brotherhood of these two nations, and than you have Sunni extremists & Ba’athists in and from Iraq and those Westernised racist “Persian Natioanlists” from Iran who want the entire nations to suffer due to their own bent racial views, which are rejected by pretty much everybody else.

    In your posts you claim you know Iraq’s Shi’a, that you know what they’re views are, that you know what they want and what they are going to do. Yet hear you compare the belief in Imam Mahdi to Santa Claus. By insulting the religion of the majority of Iraqis like that, you prove how little connection you acutally have with the Shi’a and how unrepresentative your (Ba’athist) views are in Iraq.

  49. Salah said

    And one more thing, Iran doesn’t blow up Shi’a shrines, nor does the US conduct suicide bombings

    I can’t stop myself with the above hilarious comment, hope Reidar excuse me here.

    Kermanshahi, when you talking give evidences please, what make you sure all the bombing and killing neither Iran, nor US have hand in them?

    It’s all is Iraqis fault, Syrians and Saudis but not Iran & US?

    This some bazaar comment have no basis and lack of incredibility by blaming the victims, and speak in a different language about what ending the occupation will do to Iraqis.

    Third, the bill puts an end to the blank check to the Iraqi government with real benchmarks and real consequences. If they don’t weed out the sectarian insurgents from security forces, distribute oil revenues fairly, and take greater responsibility for their own security, we will quit funding them immediately. And that would really put pressure on the Iraqis because we basically provide their security.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton

  50. Mohammed said

    To Ali W, Santana, and others:

    let’s try to keep this as academic as possible. I am sure emotions are hard to control, and its ok to give your opinions, but Reidar is first and foremost an academic scholar, not a talk show host. All your views/opinions are enlightening because it helps me understand how different the political views are. However, when you make personal attacks, they really dont advance the argument nor are they persuasive.

    now, Reidar, back to some juicy political intrigue…

    It seems ISCI’s biggest obstacle for the PM position is SOL. I imagine that if Adel Abdul Mahdi got beyond that stage, that he would have a pretty good shot of securing the majority of the Iraqi parliament.

    Why doesnt ISCI forget about SOL, and ask that a president be seated (elect Talibani again)..Let Iraqiya get the first shot as the constitution stipulates (since they would have the largest kutla since INA+SOL cant agree on a PM)…But Allawi has not been able to get a majority in 5 months, nothing politically would change in 30 days. Once he fails, can Talibani then designate adel abdul mahdi? Iraqiya would then not be able to whine after getting their fair chance, and ISCI would negate Maliki’s power. My read of the constitution says that once the biggest kutla fails, it seems to be up to the president to pick a candidate of his choosing.

    Second question: what do you make of the story in sumaiyra news that the sadrists would work with maliki if he is chosen. They quote baha al araji, so this is not just some an anonymous source.

  51. Kermanshahi said

    Salah, these bombings were claiming by anti-Iranian insurgent groups (which at the moment are infact killing US soldiers), so unless your willing to say it’s all a conspiracy (which some of you are doing), there’s no way either of them had a hand in it.

    Now Iran’s leadership consists of senior Shi’a clerics, all devout believers who have dedicated their lives to Shi’a Islam, you can come with your lame conspiracy theories saying they ordered to blow up Shi’a Islams most holy site (eventhough that bombing was claimed by a Sunni Wahabi group (AQI) which publicly hates Shi’a), but I don’t buy it and I think most sane people don’t.

    As for SA, I don’t think they have an involvement either (though many Saudi citizens have an involvement), but in the future, once the Americans leave and if Saudi Arabia and Iran contest for influence in Iraq, they will back Jihadists and Sunni groups.

  52. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, a big thank you for getting this discussion back on track. I can’t understand how it keeps getting derailed all the time! I’ll try to be a better moderator…

    Anyway, yes I agree Maliki is the number one hurdle for Abd al-Mahdi. He would get the support of the Kurds, no doubt, Tawafuq and conceivably a small percentage of Iraqiyya. By the way there are conflicting stories from today’s meeting in NA, with some saying they agreed on settling the competition on the basis of a two thirds majority and others saying they’ll go on discussing the modalities tomorrow.

    The reason they will not let Iraqiyya go first is that the dynamic would change once a PM candidate is nominated. At that point, there is so much power involved that alliances will disintegrate and promises will be broken. They fear that Allawi would actually be able to make it. You are right that there are absolutely no constitutional requirements for the second premier candidate other than that he has to be “someone else” than the first. It is totally at the discretion of the president, in fact the only remaining significant power of the president after the expiry of the presidency council.

    I have stopped taking note of Sadrist comments on Maliki because each time there is a pro-Maliki statement you can find an anti-Maliki statement somewhere else. Salah al-Ubaydi also refused to rule out Maliki last week.

  53. Ali W said

    Reidar Iam sorry but i have mentioned to you privately that I think your baised in your opinions.

    You allowed Racist comments by Santanta about the Kurds. You also allowed him to disrespect me and posted the comment. Not once have you commented saying that it was wrong. Your biased for saying there are no baathist here BUT Santana said baathist are better than Kurds and ALL shia Islamist parties.

    Please answer this, why did you allow the posting of Santana speaking ill of my relatives, calling me an Iranian.

    Answer this, why do you defend Santana when I call him a Baathi, which he does sympathise with, but not defend me when he calls me an Iranian?? Where you wrong, or right? If it pleases you Reidar I will not post on this forum again, but please do me a favour,answer these questions directly.

  54. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, please note that maintaining this forum is not my fulltime job. Right now I am trying to finish a book manuscript and the last month there have been various other unforeseen distractions.

    I try to screen comments for relevance and genocidal tendencies, but often I do not have time to read them very carefully, especially if they get lengthy, irrelevant, unfocused, repetitive, or all of the above. I apologise for any inconsistencies that may arise, although I should add that after having checked very quickly I was unable to find any comment by Santana above “calling you an Iranian”.

    Please remember there are many hundreds of readers each day who read this blog without making comments and who are interested in Iraqi politics rather than petty quarrels and name calling. Out of respect for them, let’s try to keep the discussion as focused as possible and avoid long detours into marginal subjects. This is not an “everything about Iraq” forum which can be found elsewhere on the internet.

  55. Ali W said

    Reidar, I inderstand but I knew you were going to find a small innacurate comment and forget the whole picture. When called an Iranian stoog is not much different then being called an Iranian. You did not comment stating he should not say that, but when I rightly claim he is a baathist, although not openly or at least sympathises with them, who come out and even denied the scale of atrocities commited against the Kurds.

    Its true that I have allowed my emotions get better of me, its wrong and I will try to remember not to allow stupid or silly comments annoy me.

    I guess I need to remember that we are no longer oppressed in Iraq, we have taken our rightful place in every aspect of governance and we should just ingore those who hate that.

  56. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, that’s ok, I receive ultimatums every now and then. I am glad that most of you seem interested in carrying on the conversation despite occasional threats of withdrawal. Perhaps that’s symptomatic of Iraqi politics after all! I’ll try to do my part as moderator, even though it is sometimes difficult to judge when it is appropriate to exercise censorship.

  57. mostafa said

    Today Ali Aladib said that the majority required for the PM nominee was agreed to be 65% (which is 9 out of 14)
    what about the composition of the 14 wise men? Is it official yet?

    Additionally, Jaafari seems very upset about the nomination of Abd al-Mahdi. He is even threatening to ally with SLA against him:

  58. Reidar Visser said

    Mostafa, note that there are other reports today suggesting the modalities have not been unanimously agreed upon after all. Qusay al-Suhayl (Sadrist) says they are still working on it…

  59. Jason said

    Why would Maliki agree to anything other than a fair straight majority vote? Anything else is just a ploy to get rid of him.

  60. Reidar Visser said

    Good question. Some would say there is a certain consensus culture inside the Shiite alliance, but that’s not really true. There was a straightforward vote between Jaafari and Abd al-Mahdi in 2006, although Maliki emerged in a shadowy “consensus” proedure afterwards. Originally, there was talk of an 80% consensus for this year’s premier vote!

  61. Hasan said

    Here is the representative of the national conference party speaks about the mechanism the choose the new PM,
    He also confirms the structure of the new supreme firm which Raider proposed:

    “التمثيل في هذه الهيئة اعتمد على كل من لديه 7 مقاعد فما فوق، ماعدا الكيانات التي لم تحظَ على المقاعد البرلمانية السبعة، لكن لديها الثقل السياسي”، مشيراً إلى أن “التمثيل في هذه الهيئة توزع على سبعة مقاعد لدولة القانون وسبعة للائتلاف الوطني متمثلا بثلاثة مقاعد للصدريين ومقعد للمجلس الأعلى وآخر لمنظمة بدر، وآخر لحزب الفضيلة، والأخير تم مناصفة لتيار الإصلاح والمؤتمر الوطني”

    and here is the best possible scenario I imagined:
    The fadila and the jaafari-jalabi representatives will vote for almaliki, that will not bother the badr representative… and thinks will go “easy” with 9 votes to Almaliki…

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