Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for September 8th, 2010

Iraq Closes Down for Eid al-Fitr

Posted by Reidar Visser on Wednesday, 8 September 2010 15:19

Starting tomorrow Thursday, business in Iraq is expected to grind to a complete halt until the middle of next week on account of the Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of Ramadan.

Pretty much in line with expectations, nothing truly significant has happened during the past month in terms of steps towards forming a new government. There has been a slight shift of emphasis in the media headlines as the secular Iraqiyya has finally begun realising what others have tried to suggest to them for some time: The Shiite-led INA was only joking during its supposed “rapprochement” with them, and probably never seriously considered accepting Ayad Allawi as premier, using the dialogue with Iraqiyya simply for leverage in its ongoing negotiations with others. Instead, both INA and the other Shiite-led list, Nuri al-Maliki’s SLA, now seem increasingly focused on winning the premier nomination within the framework of what is still only a theoretical construction: The pan-Shiite National Alliance (NA) that would combine both INA and SLA and claim the premiership on the basis of that post-election bloc – a procedure whose legality remains disputed as far as Iraqiyya is concerned.

It is however probable inadvisable to stop breathing while waiting for the outcome of the internal NA process, even though INA lately named Adel Abd al-Mahdi as its candidate to face off against Maliki. Just to give an indication of where we are right now, today’s headlines on this subject from Iraq involved one statement that “the NA does not have a timeline for selecting its premier candidate ” whereas the other emphasised that the modalities for selecting the premier candidate would be “set out in writing”, that is, if they are ever arrived at. A meeting after the Eid has been agreed on in principle but no date has been set.

What we know so far is that one proposal is that the decision be taken within the committee of “14 wise men”, also referred to sometimes as the “leadership committee” of the NA with a majority threshold at 9 votes. The distribution of votes within that committee is supposedly 7 for SLA (4 Daawa, 1 Daawa/Tanzim al-Iraq, 2 Independents) and 7 for INA (3 Sadrists, 2 ISCI/Badr, 1 Jaafari wing – some reports say this seat is “shared” with Chalabi’s INC, whatever that could mean – 1 Fadila). As far as the  reported composition of the committee is concerned, it is noteworthy that the SLA bench may look more coherent than the INA one and would only need two INA votes in order to win, but there have been some disputes lately concerning the exact status of Tareq Najm of the Daawa (and supposedly still in charge as director of Maliki’s office, although some say he has been granted sick leave), and moreover at least two of these SLA representatives (Sunayd and Adib) were loud advocates of joining INA back in August 2009. As for the INA contingent, probably the only votes that are safe from the point of view of Abd al-Mahdi are the 2 ISCI/Badr ones. The rest are probably up for sale, although it should not be excluded that the Sadrists might still be hoping for some kind of even more unknown compromise candidate to emerge and that their initial vote for Abd al-Mahdi was a wholly tactical one.

One of the few things the internal NA meeting agreed on though was that the previous ISCI proposal of entering parliament with more than one candidate is indeed unconstitutional and that option is therefore no longer on the table.

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