Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Ominous Calendar

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 2 November 2010 10:56

Let’s face it: There won’t be a new Iraqi government until 2011. It’s just not realistic.

Here is why. Firstly, even if the planned “summit” in Arbil later this week should miraculously succeed in creating political agreement or even a prime ministerial nominee, it would be just the beginning of the process of actually seating a government. A main problem is that the architecture of the projected agreement consists of several castles in the sky. Towering high above the rest is the idea of a beefed-up presidency, enthusiastically supported by the Obama administration, uncritically embraced by Iraqiyya – and constitutionally impossible without a time-consuming referendum first. Another issue that has yet to receive the attention it deserves is the idea prevalent among the Kurds that they have veto rights against individual ministerial nominees on “sensitive matters” (i.e., everything), especially with regard to screening them for political correctness on the Kirkuk issue. What the Kurds seem to forget is that although many Iraqi politicians are cheap, not everyone is for sale. Even in the most pro-federal Iraqi parties, they will find resistance rooted in Iraq’s complex realities that defy the crude tripartite power schema for Iraq preferred by the Kurds. Have they already forgotten the problems they had in the past with people like Hussein al-Shahristani, Abd al-Hadi al-Hassani and Abbas al-Bayati, all from the supposedly pro-Kurdish United Iraqi Alliance?

The bottom line is that the current government-formation process is on an unrealistic course, fraught with potential for future derailment. Second, take a look at the calendar! It is lined up with Islamic holidays. First there is Eid al-Adha in mid-November. Then, towards the end of November, the Shiite holy month of Muharram commences; it culminates with Ashura in the first half of December but the celebrations will keep going well into January 2011 with Arbain marking the 40-day mourning period for the death of Imam Hussein. As a consequence, politics in Iraq will inevitably move more slowly again.

In this kind of situation, as the question of the 2011 budget approaches, two other scenarios will automatically make their way onto the agenda. Firstly, if parliament follows the orders of the federal supreme court and elects a speaker, then there is nothing that prevents the current Maliki government from continuing to operate for a long time. The fiction that it has a “caretaker status” would finally become deconstructed for the rest of the world and with an elected speaker its constitutional status would not differ one iota from, say, its status in March 2008. Secondly, once this is realised by those who dislike the current government, the only scenario that can do something effective about the problem – i.e. dissolution of the current parliament based on an absolute majority and fresh parliamentary elections – will again come to the fore.

35 Responses to “The Ominous Calendar”

  1. Kirk Sowell said

    True, Iraqi politicians often use religious holidays as an excuse to do nothing, but I’m not so sure things will ground to a halt. On the idea of a beefed-up presidency, I don’t think anyone outside Allawi’s camp and maybe the White House is paying attention to this – an observation you imply yourself – so why does it matter? Maliki aides have been pretty clear that the only thing on offer for Allawi’s bloc is the speakership plus again leading the National Security Council, which like the NSC in the U.S. system, only has power if the executive chooses to make use of it. If Allawi doesn’t want that deal – and of course he doesn’t – then they will give it to the new Sunni “Center Alliance.”

    With a Maliki-Kurd deal all but settled, Fadhila’s endorsement of Maliki yesterday – and the fact that ISCI is sending mixed signals by having Ameri attend NA meets while Hakim showboats – I think just confirms the reality of the new majority. And the Sadrists are sticking with Maliki, suggesting that Abd al-Mahdi just back out now.

    So if they get together and elect a speaker in the next week – most likely someone from Accord again – then reelecting Talabani shouldn’t take long. Then he renominates Maliki, and I’m not going to hazard a guess as to how long Maliki will take putting together a cabinet, although I suspect some of that work has been done with the deals already reached. It’s like Prisoners’ Dilemma – whoever surrenders first gets the biggest prize. The Sadrists fell in line first, then Fadhila – if the Accord/Abu Risha combo want a piece, they’d better come to the table.

  2. Kermanshahi said

    If the Kurds accept Maliki as PM and Talabani becomes President, the process needn’t take that long. Maliki only needs to accept all Kurdish demands and it’s done, they make him PM, the other important positions are divided between Maliki&allies, Sadr&allies and the 4 Kurdish parties (KDP,PUK,KIU&IGK) and it’s done.

    If they try to form a government with Allawi, than, yes, it will take longer. It’s already difficult as it is to get Iraqiyya and the Kurds to agree but if Allawi wants the Presidency it means he needs to make major concessions in other areas, this means and powerfull positions going to Kurds, and an oil-law that favours them, and a Kerkuk referendum, so this will all take even longer (since the first point, he’d be more than willing to do, for the second point Iraqiyya would be prepared to compromise a bit in favour of Kurds (but maybe not too much, which would be a problem), but the third point is much to sensitive with Allawi’s people).

    Remember, the fact that the Kurds don’t get the Presidency already means that he is not accepting the 19 Kurdish demands and since the chances of Iraqiyya forming the government are looking smaller and smaller, with the Kurds being in a position of power, they expect all their demands to be met. If such important point is not met, than if they are not willing to give Kerkuk either and hope the Kurds will join only becuase they’d like to put al-Maliki out of office, they won’t get anything.

  3. Reidar Visser said

    One news item I thought was interesting was the positive Sadrist reception of the “Saudi initiative”, whereas SLA and the Kurds rejected it.

  4. Jason said

    Since they are legislating everything else before parliament even meets, why not just roll the new budget into the deal too. Hell, once the govt is formed, Iraq won’t even need a parliament since everything will already be sewed up.

  5. Kermanshahi,
    “if Allawi wants the Presidency it means he needs to make major concessions”
    The news makes it clear, Talbani agrees to US suggestion of leaving the presidency to Allawi. The negotiation is done with the US, Allawi needs not make concessions for this.

    “a Maliki-Kurd deal all but settled”
    Not sure I agree, the Kurds have no ally other than the US, a Maliki-Kurd agreement such as you describe is like the Kurds cutting their own umbilical cord to the US. I don’t think their leaders are as reckless as Kermanshahi:)

  6. Kermanshahi said

    Faisal, the US has only so much power, in the end the Kurds do what they want and what’s good for them, so if the US sais give up the presidency and Kerkuk and join and back an Arab Nationalist government which isn’t good for Kurds, they just won’t and there’s nothing the Us can do about it. It’s also very clear the US is completely incapable of forming an Iraqi government. What can happen is US act as mediator (since they are on good terms with both Kurds and Iraqiyya), they try persuade Talabani to give up the Presidency and persuade Allawi to make concessions and get a deal. If Talabani has infact given up the Presidency for Allawi, than this is because Iraqiyya has signaled (to either the US, or directly to the Kurds) that they are prepared to accept most (if not all) other Kurdish demands, including Kerkuk.

    Also remember, that unlike what the view which the Turkish military junta has payed hundreds of milions to promote (and which certain Iraqi Ba’athist groups and politicians have also joined in on), that the Kurds are US-puppets and the Kurdistan region was created by the US, in reality no Kurdish leader or faction has any loyalty to them. What can be seen historicly is that the Kurds always pursue their own interests and accept support of anyone willing to give support. If they can get a deal where they get Kerkuk they’ll do it no matter what the US sais. The US has also always been against the creation of a Kurdistan Autonomous Region, their backing for Kurds was always because they tried to fool themselfes in thinking it was an anti-Saddam struggle, they tried disband the region and disarm the Peshmerga, they tried hard to persuade Kurdish leaders to become Iraqi patriots, it didn’t work because the Kurds refused and there was nothing the US could do about.
    During the current government formation, even, there have been so many suggestions by the US which have just been ignored by the Kurds, because in the end it’s Kurdish interests first.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Yeah, but if it is as simple as that, why don’t the Kurds simply go ahead and cut a deal with Maliki? It does seems Barzani has got some second thoughts, and that he believes he is better served with Iraqiyya aboard, otherwise why would he be holding back?

  8. Kermanshahi,
    You are flying too high. Your arguments are missing the time factor; anybody can make any decision but how long will he/she survive with the consequences? Maliki-Barzani alliance can be made tomorrow but how long will it last without US and western support? Remember, Iran has no money..

  9. Jason said

    Reidar, would it be feasible and/or helpful for the Supreme Court to clarify that any pre-govt-formation promises are completely non-binding on parliament, and indeed, that any attempt to hold parliament to such agreements would be unconstitutional as contravening the very concept of rule by the people?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, I think that would be a too orthodox reading of the concept of separation of powers, I mean for the court to pro-actively intervene, even though it could perhaps make sense from a theoretical point of view. Iraq is not like the U.S. in this respect, but nor is it like the Westminster democracies either, where the cabinet members sit and vote in parliament. It is somewhere in between. It is not unreaonable to ask for a legislative programme; the biggest problem with the Kurdish approach, as I see it, is that it goes far beyond that and relates to matters of constitutional change and requires special majorities that no PM can guarantee. That’s why it is unrealistic, and it is also why the Kurds will be disappointed in the end.

  11. Mohammed said

    I am struggling to understand the dynamics of the political process as related by half-truths and fiction in newspapers. In the end, each party has to optimize based on what their relative power is, what their end goals are, and what scenarios that will absolutely not be tolerated. I think it is fair to say that ISCI and Iran will never allow Allawi to emerge as the most powerful man in Iraq. Kermanshahi, in regards to your reply to my post, I would only ask you to think about how Iran’s interests would be furthered with Allawi holding the strings of power in Iraq. Even if Adel Abdul Mahdi were the PM, what would be the probability that he would be assasinated? Could Iran risk losing control of Iraq to a “freak accident” or suicide belt? Even if the chance was 5-10%, they would not risk such a scenario. They would rather play it safe and make sure that the majority block is made up of people that will not become Saudi puppets even if they hate Maliki (Saudis hate al-Maliki more than Iran does).

    It defies political logic for Allawi to get the presidency. What’s the game plan here? It is clear that Allawi wants the presidency not in its current form. He wants a presidency where he really is the power player of Iraq and controls the military and security/intelligence (like Putin in Russia) and holds all the strings with a weakened PM. ISCI and Adel Abdul Mahdi cannot accept that. Adel Abdul Mahdi would be a puppet in a system where the president had more powers (he cant pull an Al-Maliki and turn in to a strong man). Iraqiya and Kurds alone without Shiite support will not be a viable government. It is only a matter of time that Iran pulls the rug from under ISCI and al-Hakim’s temper tantrum is over and he accepts the writing on the wall.

    Furthermore, how is it possible that Allawi would be appointed president and be trusted to designate the PM? What guarantees that he will pick whoever the parties agree on? Allawi would then have a veto on any government formation/ministry selection that does not please him.

  12. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, they’re holding back because they don’t trust him, and for good reason.

    Faisal, First of all Iran has enough money, besides Iran is much better off today than during their days as US puppet state. Like Iran, Iraq has oil, this will be bought anyway, with the money they can set up their own industry, like Iran has done, specially if the two are associated. Secondly, there are certain things which are not for sale and Kerkuk is one of them, no matter how much money America, Iraq or Saudi Arabia has, if any Kurdish leader would try to sell Kerkuk he would end up worst than Mahmoud Abbas (who at least has the Israeli army to keep him in Ramalah and have him as a President merely on paper) who sold out that way. So even if you’d think the worst about Barzani and Talabani (that they’re so money hungry, power greedy and don’t care at all about their people – and I don’t think they’re that bad, neither are perfect but they do genuinly care about Kurds), they are at least smart enough not to sell out like that cause it would be political suicide. Lastly, for South Kurdistan, which is landlocked and isolated in between Iraq and an extremely hostile Turkey an alliance with Iran and Syria is much more important and essential than one with far away America (which has already proven many times enough they don’t care about the Kurds). It would be a big mistake if Kurds would isolate themselfes and create massive hostility between them and the entire region, because of America (which will never help them like they help Israel) and besides, has no way of reaching them.

    Mohammed, for Iran al-Maliki is a much bigger threat than Allawi. Allawi’s support among Shi’a is minor and his whole alliance is contained to Iraq’s 15% Sunni Arab minority. It’s the support of Iraq’s 65% Shi’a majority that you want, which you need if you want to rule the country and this is exactly the Iraqi group targetted by Iran for influence since they share the same religion. There was a time when pro-Iranian parties had the power firmly in hands, the reason Iran lost influence is because of al-Maliki, who has now larger Shi’a support than all other Shi’a parties together. The last government was hijacked by al-Maliki, who was supposed to be a puppet of the large pro-Iranian parties, by using everyone else against each other. The INA was created by Iran as the super-Shi’a alliance that could unseat al-Maliki, it failed. Now there is no way they will allow him to become Premier again, this time being the major bloc in the government (he was a hell for them, as minor partner – now he’ll rule the whole government).
    The party which most represents the Iranian view is the Supreme Council and they have the best negotatiors/coalition builders of the country. What the Supreme Council and what the Iranians wanted is for the INA to create a government with Allawi and the Kurds, where in one of their candidates (either Abd al-Mahdi or al-Jaafari) had to be PM, after this they could likely get much of Maliki’s alliance to join the government (and in course of this government many Sunni elements of Iraqiyya will definetly leave, I don’t see any other way they’ll be able to stay in a government with ISCI and Kurds and agree with them), meanwhile the fact that the INA would have the Premier position and support of State of Law defectors and the Kurds could marginalize (the rest of) Iraqiyya. Meanwhile as most important effect it would unseat al-Maliki, both as Premier and as main leader of the Iraqi Shi’a (note: he only needs to lose 10 seats to INA and then they’ll be the largest Shi’a list) and he could even loose control of Da’wa, meanwhile the fact he’s not PM will mean his significance will become less + ISCI and Sadr will have 4 years time to take over the security forces and most government institutions without Maliki bothering them. How important will the President be? If they manage to enhance his powers he’ll be as powerfull as the Presidency Council is now, so Adil Mahdi will still be able to pull a Maliki, besides, they’ll never get a referendum to approve enhancing Allawi’s powers, he’ll just end up being dissapointed after he’s already President but doesn’t get any power with it.

    The breakup of the INA is a heavy blow to both Iran and to ISCI, but in the end if this government deal is formed most of the NA will join anyway and it will be achieved. Unlike what some think, it is not ISCI which is being rebellious towards Iran, but Sadr which is ruining their plans by endorsing Maliki.

  13. Zaid said

    If parliament did elect a speaker, it would at least mean that sessions could resume. Even in the absence of a new government, that’s at least something.

  14. Xenophon said

    “…if parliament follows the orders of the federal supreme court and elects a speaker, then there is nothing that prevents the current Maliki government from continuing to operate for a long time.”

    Reidar, one of the reasons that the US is so concerned about Sadr’s role in government and so desirous of expanded powers for the President (if his name is Allawi)is that the US does not unequivocally want to draw down its forces completely by the end of 2011.

    Many think the contrary, but the situation is more complex. Though the White House may desire an exit, the political establishment, heavily influenced by neoconservative thought and powerful interest groups, is obsessed with the problem ostensibly posed by leaving the field open for Iran (as it is obsessed with Iran in general). Obama has been outflanked and outmuscled on many other issues, and I don’t see this one as likely to be any different.

    Of course, the neocons originally envisioned that there would have been “regime change” in Iran by now, rendering a Shia government–even with someone like Sadr–harmless to the larger goals of US strategy. The grandiose neocon agenda–as we know–is badly off track, and all the sanctions, etc don’t look like they’re about to break Iran. So now, the threat of a Shia government with significant Sadrist influence IS causing great concern.

    Of course, the US knows it must not give the impression of attempting to thwart the Shia rise to power, hence the behind-the-scenes attempt at engineering a Sunni-Secular-Kurd coalition with ISCI as its “Shia” face. The quixotic attempt to expand presidential power is, from a US establishment perspective, about having a trump card in the person of President Allawi to overcome–or at least moderate–the agreement imposed by Maliki last year, compelling complete US departure by the end of 2011–just one year away.

    My point with all this is to consider whether Maliki might use the mechanism you describe above to “run out the clock” on the US. Such a strategem would postpone both the need for new elections and any major political concessions to the Kurds et al. Maliki would also have deniability if he came up with some anodyne and plausible pretext–perhaps passing the budget, as you suggest–for why this “temporary” measure was necessary. Then the real knife fight will begin in 2012 with the US no longer in an even moderately strong position to intervene or influence.

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, once the president has designated the PM nominee, he has no more power over the government-formation process (or, as I have pointed out, at all) unless the PM designate fails in which case the president can appoint whomever he chooses (that’s right!) as a second PM nominee.

    Xenophon, the one check on Maliki’s power that would remain under that scenario is the existing presidency council with its quite strong veto powers on legislation. The federal supreme court in mid-July ruled that Talabani/Abd al-Mahdi/Hashemi would continue to exercise their current powers until the election of a new president (without veto power).

  16. Alan said

    Kermanshahi – your post above makes Maliki sound like a genius. If he can achieve all that …

    Your position seems simply that if the Kurds don’t get what they want, then there will be a war. It seems they may be able to get some kind of agreement up front, but that it would be unimplementable in practice. What will happen then?

  17. Xenophon said


    Very interesting laydown, and makes me rethink quite a bit. But what is it about Maliki that poses such a threat to Iranian strategy? I get that they prefer ISCI, but what future does ISCI have? What I am trying to ask is, how much control over a Shia government in Iraq do the Iranians think they need? Are they not at all concerned with overplaying their hand? Why is Maliki not “good enough” for their purposes?

    Sorry these questions are rather scatter shot.

  18. jhnwhtlw said

    Does anyone think the timing of the coordinated attacks on Tuesday is significant?
    … وهكذا انهارت بغداد أمنياً، من دون مقدمات. هجوم مشبوه صاعق، متعدد الاستهدافات، حصد ما لا يقل عن 76 قتيلاً و325 جريحاً. تطور دامٍ يطرح مجموعة من التساؤلات وعلامات الاستفهام؛ أولها يتعلق بالتوقيت: بعد ساعات فقط من إعلان نوري المالكي اعتذار التحالف الوطني والتحالف الكردستاني عن قبول المبادرة السعودية. ثانيها يتعلق بالحجم: سلسلة تفجيرات متزامنة ضربت عاصمة الرشيد من دون سابق إنذار. وثالثها يتعلق بالنوعية: مستوى عالٍ من التنسيق والقدرة على تدمير خطة أمنية استلزم تنفيذها سنوات من العمل وعشرات الآلاف من العناصر. ورابعها يتعلق بالهدف: الأمن الذي بنى عليه نوري المالكي حملته الانتخابية، معتبراً إياه درة إنجازاته. وخامسها يتعلق بالجهة المنفذة: هناك في بغداد من لا يزال يمتلك هذا الكم من القدرة، سواء تعلق الأمر بخلايا القاعدة أو السلفيين أو «فلول البعث».

  19. Reidar Visser said

    I never like to comment on bombs because it is impossible to know, from a distance, who did it. Others routinely blame these on “Saudis” or “Sunnis”; I routinely ask, doesn’t Iran benefit from them? But again, let’s not get lost in this unless someone has something truly empirical to contribute.

  20. Kermanshahi said

    Alan, first of all, regarding al-Maliki, he’s not a genius but he’s a very smart politician and one thing which helps is the fact that, though all other parties have certain agenda’s (driven by ideology, and to some extent foreign alliances), al-Maliki’s only agenda is to get power and as much of it as possible, this is why he breaks alliances like whenever needed, switching from pro-Sadr to pro-ISCI to pro-Iraqiyya and back, switching from Kurdish ally to the biggest Kurd-hater in Iraqi politics and back, switching from pro-Iranian to anti-Iranian and back, and he changes ideology from Shi’a Islamist to Arab Nationalist, all whenever it suits him. This gives him an upper hand, most recent example being how he suddenly switched from Nationalist to Islamist to get the Sadrists to back him, something you won’t see Allawi do.

    Secondly, as for the Kurds it’s not nececerily that if th ey don’t get what they want they’ll go to war, but remember the whole 1974-1991 War was because of Kerkuk in the first place (and remember Mustafa Barzani’s last words, before leaving Iraq for the last time, while standing on the Iranian border looking back at the burning city after having lost the first round of war, were: “Even now, I’m still not prepared to give up Kerkuk”). This dispute has been there for a long time and as it is both sides have military forces active inside the city. It was agreed the situation would be resolved democraticly: a referendum would be held to let the people of Kerkuk decide and this was even put in the constitution. There is also an Iraqi law, about federalism, which sais if you manage to get over a certain percentage of a governorate’s population to sign a petition for autonomy, a referendum has to be held (this is what they tried to do in Basra but they couldn’t get enough people to sign). However since the resurgence of Arab Nationalism in politics, certain parties which have grown in importance (Maliki & SLC, Iraqiyya elements), completely in disregard for the law (now it’s notable that people like al-Mutlaq didn’t agree with the constitution in the first place, meanwhile al-Maliki, “Mr. substract Iraqiyya votes of post-election de-Ba’athified candidates, because they beat me,” has never let laws stop him from seeking more power), refuse to hold this referendum. Instead they want the Kurds to drop their claims to this Kurdish majority area, withdraw all their forces and allow Kerkuk’s Arab minority to rule there, because (supposedly) “Kerkuk is not disputed, it is an Iraqi city.”
    Now you talk about Kurdish demands being unrealistic, what do you think is more unrealistic, Allawi/Maliki in return for power, allowing the already agreed on, lawfull and democratic solution for the Kerkuk dispute to take place, or for Massoud Barzani, who’s father sacrificed the first Kurdistan autonomous region, starting a war which Barzani and Talabani were both involved in for most of their lives and which costed the lives of at least 280,000 Kurds, for the right to have Kerkuk, to withdraw all his forces from, and give up all rights and claims to, the city, just because some parties who have a by far inferior military force to his, say so? And that while his father was prepared to face a force much more powerfull than his only for the right to claim Kerkuk (he didn’t even control it)…

    I think we can both agree that that will not happen, also, Kurds will not make join a government without a deal and no government can be formed at this point without the Kurds. So if the deal is signed, the Iraqi government accepts it’s legal obligations to allow the referendum to take place and than they refuse to do so again, what do you think the Kurds will do? Kurds are trying democratic process eventhough, the electoral system was against them, per number of votes they got they should have recieved at least 74 seats but the parliaments Arab majority had decided to make Kurdish provinces 40 thousand votes = 1 seat and Arab provincies 20-30 thousand votes = 1 seat, so they ended up getting 50. If the other side just outright refuses to allow a solution to take place than what is left for them to do?
    Even if they don’t go to war immedietly after it becomes clear that the Kerkuk issue will never be solved through democratic means, it will mean both sides will not do what the others want (the Kurds won’t “just leave” and the Arabs won’t allow a referendum), the continuation of the current status-quo is impossible. Tensions are high inside the city, both sides have military forces active both controlling different enclaves, meanwhile there’s growing hostility between the two populations and Arab insurgents and suicide bombers have killed over 5,000 Kurdish civilians in Kerkuk thusfar meanwhile the propaganda machine of Turkey’s ruling military junta and the Iraqi Nujayfi brothers have been blaming the KRG for al-Qaeda claimed suicide bombings against Shi’a Turkmens. You think this can just continue for all eternity without sparking an armed conflict?

  21. Reidar Visser said

    Ed. note: The part about seat calculation in Kermanshahi’s essay above is pure BS. The difference relates to different rates of participation, as explained previously many times. Can we please return to government formation now?

  22. Zaid said

    i’ve just heard on very good authority that Iraqiya is currently planning to boycott next week’s parliamentary session.

  23. Kermanshahi said

    basicly, the Iranians thought they had Iraq in their pocket until al-Maliki came along. He was only supposed to be a tomporory Prime Minister becaue the Americans didn’t want Jaafari, but because he was from Dawa and had lived in Iran, they thought he was allright. They’d hoped after the Americans leave, pro-Iranian parties form a Shi’a Islamist government together (backed by the Kurds, who’ll get whatever they want in return), without the Sunnis. But than al-Maliki came along and messed everything up, now they can’t shift him.
    The main problem with him and the reason he’s not “good enough” is the way he suddenly abandoned Shi’a Islamism and became a nationalist and though he never became outright hostile to Iran he was moving in that direction. Now if he is, as some people believe genuinly an Arab Nationalist, he’s a very unfavourable person to be in power of Iraq, for Iran and if he is, as others (including myself) believe, just an extremely power hungry politician who will change his ideology and alliances whenever it suits him it would mean he’s much to unreliable and as you can see from his last 4 years, his relations with “pro-Iranian parties” (ISCI, Sadr Movement, PUK) have been all but stable (and so have his relations with “anti-Iranian parties”). Besides, why do you think people say he’s becoming the new Saddam? This doesn’t only mean he’s becoming a dictator (Khamenei is one himself, and so where all Iraqi leaders prior to Saddam), also ideologicly and look at his public relations: he fell out with al-Assad just, like Saddam, he was at the point of falling out with Barzani completely (and possibly cause a war over Kerkuk), like Saddam, the Saudis were disliking him like with Saddam, he was becoming anti-Iranian like Saddam, I remember he once even went as far as saying the Algiers treaty is invalid and made claims to the Iranian half of the Shatt al-Arab, which was exactly what started the Iran-Iraq War…

    Sure, politically he’s never been as unfavourable as say Saleh al-Mutlaq, Mithal al-Alusi, the Nujayfi brothers, Tareq al-Hashemi or even Ayad Allawi but unlike any of these figures he generated major Shi’a support and thanks to him Jaafari went from Prime Minister and head of Iraq’s third Shi’a party to head of an insignificant 2-man bloc, he decimated Fadhila in every local council and now in parliament and though Sadr’s support base remains solid he imprisoned thousansd of his Iranian-armed/trained militants and even raided his political offices and imprisoned politicians not to mention the heavy damage he did to ISCI, beating them in every governorate and kicking them out of (almost) every local council and halfing their parliamentary bloc in an enlarged parliament (they were reduced from undisputed nr.1 to like Iraq’s 5th party), the INA was the ultimate anti-Maliki alliance featuring every other major Shi’a party there was (except for Allawi’s National Accord which wasn’t really a Shi’a party but a party with reasonable Shi’a support) and they lost. While he was in a position of power he wasn’t good for Iran.

    Now imagine what would’ve happened if al-Maliki’s attempt to gain Sunni support had succeeded. What if he had won 20 Sunni seats? State of Law would have been 110 seats big, Iraqiyya only 70. They would have definetly formed a government together, and what kind of government? al-Hakim/al-Sadr/al-Jaafari/Barzani/Talabani all wouldn’t have been included it would have been al-Maliki/Allawi/al-Mutlaq/al-Nujayfi/al-Hashemi, imagine what they would’ve done to the military, now what would that have done for Iran? They need to get rid of this man. They can’t launch an invasion (even if there would be no foreign invasion, or even no major foreign condemnation) they don’t have the money to keep it on power in face of an insurgency and the government they’d install would lack legitimacy and adr Brigades have lost the kind of power they had which could have overthrown him through a coup ‘d etat while the Iraqi army has grown to much now for the Mahdi Army to overthrow Maliki through uprising, meanwhile none of the Iranian allies can beat him in an election anymore. The only way to get rid of him is through an Allawi deal. Also, Allawi himself is not very anti-Iranian or very unacceptable for Iran, specially in a position as President, it’s his allies they don’t like. Now the ISCI-Iraqiyya-Kurdish can very likely result in the re-uniting of the NA under but under ISCI at cost of breakup of the SLC, aswell as the breakup of Iraqiyya (more anti-Iranian elements leaving) and the installation of Iranian favourite Adil Abd al-Mahdi as Prime Minister. Even a regular Iraqiyya-INA-Kurds government would have been favourable since it’s the INA which binds the Kurds and Iraqiyya, it puts them in a position of power, they’ll have the Prime Minister and with lack of Shi’a support, they are 100% nececary for Iraqiyya to keep the government legitimate.
    Now if they really wanted a Maliki deal they’d have told their allies to accept him in April (and it was clear from the start that considering his motives and his personality, Maliki would never agree to anyone else becoming PM anyway).

    Reidar, sorry if my reply was a bit long, but there was just too much to say…

  24. Reidar Visser said

    No, it’s fine as long as the arguments are fresh and relevant. The Maliki/Nujayfi alliance is something I always advocated, but I think Allawi’s (and possibly Saudi) influence unfortunately torpedoed that. I don’t think you need to worry about that scenario anymore; it was an issue in 2009 but Iran played its hand very well and the Obama administration screwed up everything by failing to see the potential (how could they, since they only think in terms of Sunnis and Shiites).

    What I find somewhat faltering about your argument concerns the current relationship between Maliki and Iran. It is true it was like what you say for much of 2008-2010 and I do not doubt for a moment Maliki may try to develop exactly the kind of autonomy versus both Arbil and Tehran again , say, in 2011. But in September of this year there was a well-documented upgrading of relations between Maliki, the Iranian embassy in Baghdad and Tehran. Your argument that he is their enemy right now needs some empirical facts to back it up, beyond the guesswork.

    Zaid, Nujayfi today reportedly hinted publicly at exactly the scenario you described.

  25. Alan said

    Kermanshahi – does the Kurdish leadership really think a PM can simply deliver the whole thing on a plate? Wouldn’t a more realistic interpretation be that they see it as a two-step process? The first step would be to get agreement for a bill to be introduced, the second step would be for the Kurds to build their own single-issue “coalition” to get it through.

    I suppose part of that “coalition” formation could revolve round a fear of war compelling deputies to agree to it, but the Kurds must know it can’t be guaranteed. If anybody sat in front of them and said I will deliver Kirkuk to you, I don’t see how they could take him seriously.

  26. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, he is not the enemy right now, he’s become more friendly again. Now you can say many things about Tehran’s ruling Islamic Regime and it’s leaders but they are far from dumb, their strategies and policies in the Middle East have been highly effective (Saudi Arabia’s Royal family and Turkey’s Generals try but they can only wish to have that kind of influence) and we can clearly see they learned the lessons of history very well, they handle their internal policies smartly, that’s why for instance the 1979 coup against them failed unlike the 1953 coup against Mossadeq and the “2009 Green Revolution” failed to materialise, unlike the 1979 Islamic Revolution, due to the way they handled it and they way they play their cards against America…

    Now credit where credit due, al-Maliki outsmarted both ISCI and Iran’s people, something which is not easily done. But he did this once, what makes you think they’ll let him do it again? Ofcourse it depends on weather al-Maliki really believed in the politics he followed during the 2008-2010 period or if it was just what he felt would be best to strengthen his position at the time, but either way, if he becomes Prime Minister again he’ll be Prime Minister as head of a 89-man list, not a 13-man party so they won’t be able to keep him in check at all this time.

    AS for the seat division. In a democracy every vote should count, it’s clear that in this case it isn’t. Now Iraq has neither a district system like the UK, which has it’s benefits, or a proportional representation like the Netherlands, which is the most democratic, what it has is a system that distorts the vote-seat relation in benefit of certain parties.

  27. Kermanshahi said

    Alan, if al-Maliki were to tell the State of Law deputies to vote in favour of the Kerkuk referendum bill, you can be sure that vast majority of them would and if Sadr told the Sadr movement deputies to vote in favour of the Keruk bill, all of them would. Now all the Kurdish parties and at least 6 of the minority deputies (together 63) would vote in favour, so would the ISCI-bloc (19 seats), meanwhile Sadr has 39 deputies (and probably the backing of a few more, so to think that Maliki can’t get even 42 of his own coalition’s deputies to vote in favour of this bill…
    The question is not wheather he can get this bill passed, but wheather he will.

  28. Jason said

    Kermanshahi, I don’t understand why you think that. Don’t the individual MP’s have a mind of their own and actual constituents to represent? Won’t the elected PM will be beholden to the MP’s that supported him – not the other way around? Or does the list system mean that they are mostly nobodies without the figurehead’s coattails, representing no one but the figurehead?

  29. Santana said

    Biden called Talabani last tuesday with one last feeble attempt to get him to give up the Presidency to Allawi (after Blinkin tried and tried till he was blue in the face)inorder to move the gov formation along- and Talabani refused….when I heard about it I was shaking my head in disbelief of how naive the USG is!….Does the USG not know that Talabani at his age couldn’t care less for the Presidency but his 27 year love affair with Iran and with Qassem Sulaimani holding a gun to his head is the real reason why???

  30. Xenophon said


    Sorry to take so long to respond. Thanks for the extended comments in answer to my questions.

    It gives me a new appreciation for Iran’s cleverness, but still, I have to wonder if they’re not being too clever. Essentially, it looks to me like approximately 2/3 of Shia voters–maybe more–are in the Maliki-Sadr NA,and when that becomes the core of the next government, as seems most likely, Iran has put itself on the other side of the group they most wanted to co-opt. That was the basis for my “Is Iran overplaying its hand–especially with regard to the long term?” question.

  31. Xenophon said


    Just a side question, if you don’t mind:

    Is there any worthwhile biographical work on Maliki–or including Maliki–in English that you’re aware of? I am skeptical of the Maliki-as-neo-Saddam argument, and I would like to read something that fleshes out his character a bit. Thanks.

  32. Alan said

    Kermanshahi – OK, so Maliki can only deliver the “vast majority” of SoL’s 89 deputies.

    So the passing of any such bill would be down to the Kurds building the support for it, therefore the most the Kurds can expect, and the most they in all likelihood do expect from Maliki or anybody else in these negotiations, is an undertaking to introduce a bill.

  33. Kermanshahi said

    Well Jason, the way it works in most parliaments is that the MPs belong to certain parties and vote with the party, though ofcourse there are always a few which don’t do that. Why do you think al-Maliki wants an alliance with the Kurds in the first place, because together with the Sadr Movement and the Kurdish parties they represent a majority of parliament, as result Sadr and the Kurdish leaders tell their deputies to approve al-Maliki as Premier, meanwhile al-Maliki has his deputies vote for certain bills his partners want passed, like the Kerkuk law.

    Santana, it’s always conspiracy with you Ba’athists isn’t it. Talabani wants the Iraqi Presidency for the position of his party, the PUK, since their ally and main rival have the Kurdish Presidency, infact the only reason Talabani agreed to his long-time arch-enemy Massoud Barzani becoming Kurdish President was that he could have the Iraqi Presidency. General Sulaimani, who holds no political power of himself and merely leads an Iranian military unit which carries out orders from above, has nothing to do with it.

  34. Santana said

    Kermanshahi- Baathist? me….that’s getting old bud…ok- let me analyze you…you are a retired (judging from the amount of time you spend on here) Failee Kurd (Failee for those who do not know are Shiites) and I base that on your hardcore defense of Iran …you live outside Iraq cuz your comments are always far from reality and you are clueless most of the time….I bet you also wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweat screaming “The Nejaifees are after me !!…….LOL… started it.

  35. Reidar Visser said

    Sorry for the sloppy editing, Santana, my mistake, I usually redact Kermanshahi’s contributions when he calls other people names for no good reason. Was working on something else. Hope everyone is happy now and please stick to the substantive issues!

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