Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Talabani Invents a New Constitutional Clause

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 25 November 2010 21:02

The BBC managed to create a story from Iraq today: “Iraq is moving one step closer to forming its next government”. The intrepid Gabriel Gatehouse identified developments as “important”. An Iraqi was interviewed and expressed hope that Nuri al-Maliki would form a government that would be “professional… and free from sectarian quota-sharing (muhasasa ta’ifiyya). The BBC elected to not translate the latter part of the comment, preferring instead to serve more traditional fare: “Government to include Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds” shrieked a rolling headline.

In actual fact, today’s “development” in Iraq was entirely uninteresting, save perhaps the fact that it managed to delude the world’s so-called leading news provider (again). The truth is that President Jalal Talabani today repeated exactly what he did on 11 November: He charged Nuri al-Maliki with forming the next government. There is absolutely no constitutional basis for first charging Maliki once and then doing it all over, supposedly in a more “official” way, 15 days later. Talabani could have waited 15 days before naming anyone, but he didn’t. Constitutionally speaking, his action today is completely bid‘a (innovation) and arguably unconstitutional.

Everyone knows that the real reason Talabani did this was to give Maliki more time to form the next government, ostensibly 30 days, but everyone knows that that deadline, in turn, will be violated too. Perhaps more interesting as an indication of where we are headed is the announcement today by Ali al-Allaq of State of Law that new ministries will be created! Of course they will. That is not to serve “Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds” as per the hapless BBC headline, but to satisfy the requirements of greedy politicians claiming to speak in the name of those communities.

24 Responses to “Talabani Invents a New Constitutional Clause”

  1. Kermanshahi said

    The Bottom line however is, that despite what you say about non-secterianism, it is currently important that the people is to include people from all Iraqi groups because a government excluding Iraqiyya will probably lead to a resurgence of insurgency, while exclusion of any of the main Shi’a parties can lead to militia-related violence and exclusion of the Kurds will most definetly result in a war between the Peshmerga and the army of the Iraqi army which would then be commanded by an anti-Kurdish government. That all of these parties have been saying in the elections that they are non-secterian and represent all Iraq means nothing, cause when you make a government which excludes a large segment of the population, you can try cover it up as much as you want (just like all of those “non-secterian” governments prior to 2003 tried) but the people won’t buy it and it results in violence.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    You could have made most sectors of Iraqi society happy with State of Law and Iraqiyya (and the KRG enjoying autonomy). Only politicians (and Iran) were truly nervous about that formula.

  3. Kairena Jamal said

    So if the deadline of 30 days are violated, you dont think another (allawi) will be given a try to form a government? Or Mehdi? Are there any consititutional exit strategies that will give Maliki more time?

    And a second question, does the Iraqi constitution exsist in a decent translation?

    To Kermanshahi, I dont think the war scenario is a option yet. The shias are quite happy, no likely hood that they will re-engage in the sectarian violence on a larger scale any time soon. Similarly with the sunnis, although the SoI are treated quite stepmotherly by the government, it provides for enough patronage to be paid, and I see no immediate strenghtening of the insurgency even if Allawi is excluded completely. The next signpost in the security situation will be december 2011 with the final withdrawal of the US “advisors”. That endangers the ISF counter-insurgency capacity, as well as the existing “sensitivity” on the disputed areas between the pershmergas and the ISF.



  4. Reidar Visser said

    Kairena, regardless of timelines, Maliki remains the candidate until he has presented his cabinet for parliament, at which point he will gain its confidence or fail. Only then can a second candidate be chosen. In fact Talabani can pick whichever Iraqi he prefers at that point – the scenario of a failed first candidate is one of the few remaining real powers of the presidency!

    The following Washington Post translation of the constitution is not too bad, although it is really quite impossible to rely on English translations for analytical purposes. Note also that the numbering of the articles changed.

  5. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, State of Law-Iraqiyya alliance would have made everyone happy? Aside from the fact that there would have definetly been conflict and tension (much more than now) between Maliki and INA factions’ militias, That government would have created a scenario exactly like the Ninawa crisis only than on national scale and Ninawa stayed relatively quiet cause al-Nujayfi doesn’t have an armed force to wage war on the Kurds. In the State of Law-Iraqiyya national government scenario there would have so definetly been a war, first the Kerkuk referendum would be completely cancelled, than an oil deal with Arabs claiming right to profit on all Kurdish oil would have been put forward, than the Iraqi central government would have laid claim on all territories outside “the 3 governorates” and demanded Peshmerga would withdraw from all these territories, Mosul and Kerkuk. Kurds would have naturally refused, said they don’t recognise any of this, this would have probably led to a complete split between KRG and central government, probably KA would boycot parliament completely (just like they do in Ninawa local council) and next we’ll have Nujayfi, al-Mutlaq and Shahristani standing in front smiling as the new session scraps the autonomy/federalism laws completely.

    That would leave the country in a situation where both sides have armed forces in the same territories which both lay claims on and there will be no dialouge at all, with one side being ex-guerilla commanders who fought the old regime and the other side being full of members of the old regime. There is no way in hell that the creation of such a government would have led to a full scale war. A war which would have caused large scale civilian casualties, heavily damage most of the North-Central region of the country (North and Central Ninawa, Kerkuk, North Salah ad-Din, much of Diyala), resulted in some major ethnic cleansing (at least as bad as in Baghdad) – with large possibility of Arabs losing Mosul – and would most likely have resulted in a major defeat at the Iraqi government side (which doesn’t have an air force, a 180 to 1 numercial advantage, the largested artillery inventory of the region, 5000 tanks or a massive inventory of chemical gass this time), which would not have been very stabilising for Southern Iraq at all.

    And this is not much speculation either. It’s pretty clear what the views of much of Iraqiyya and of pre-election Maliki were and how these views would go down with Kurds, it’s pretty clear what the Kurds’ views on an all Arab government are, it’s also clear who has the military advantage and it’s a well known fact both have military forces present in the same disputed areas, now with all forms of dialouge taken away, just put 2 and 2 together, or are you still thinking that Kurds bend over to American pressure whenever they ask them something (just like they bent over when they were asked to disarm the Peshmerga, give up the autonomy, not form a coaliton with the UIA, give up claims to Kerkuk, step aside for Allawi regarding the presidency, crack down on the PKK to help American NATO-allies Turkey, or when Americans tried to kidnap Iranian diplomats at Hewler airport)?

  6. As I remember it, after 30 days the president has the option of either (a) picking a new PM designate, anyone, it doesn’t have to be the head of the second largest bloc, or (b) giving the original PM designate a 15-day extension. Only after that must the president pick someone else. So as long as Maliki and the Kurds stay on good terms, Maliki really has 45 days from today.

    And as long as Maliki implements the census on Dec. 5, I think that is what will happen. I think the Kurds have deliberately drawn this out to make sure Maliki can’t be reelected until after the census is done. If Maliki fails to do it again the way he did last year, all bets are off. But I expect him to go through with it, despite some of the noises coming out the Planning Ministry.

  7. Santana said

    Is anyone keeping a tally of all the infractions to the Constitution so far?? I mean this crap is really getting out of hand ….Maliki and Talabani are playing chicken again with Iraqiya and others…there will be major covert Arabic support for Iraq’s Arab Majority to rise and trust me guys…when it “snaps” fatso and Maliki are the first to go.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Kirk, what article of the constitution is your scenario b.) above?

    As far as I can see this is all governed by article 76 second, viz.

    ثالثاً :ـ يُكلف رئيس الجمهورية، مرشحاً جديداً لرئاسة مجلس الوزراء، خلال خمسة عشر يوماً، عند اخفاق رئيس مجلس الوزراء المكلف في تشكيل الوزارة، خلال المدة المنصوص عليها في البند “ثانياً” من هذه المادة.

  9. Reidar,
    Considering Talbani humor, a “new” candidate will be the same old Maliki.

    Talbani’s recent verbal attacks on Turkey show he sees Iran as a strategic depth if war breaks out. You stated Kudistan has 5000 tanks, if nearly true then it makes no sense in the context of the defense of Kurdistan, which is largely mountainous, and makes those who paid for the tanks look soo dumb. Is Kurdistan building its own empire or on bahalf of Iran?

  10. Santana said

    Kermanshahi- I agree with Faisal in that I seriously doubt that the Kurds have even close to that….5000 Tanks??? an Airforce?? yeah right………….and Chemical gas?? this is a good one … because if true,it means that the Kurds are willing to launch a gas attack like Halabja and then it’s not considered genocide nor an atrocity at holocaust proportion anymore- since it is the pesh murga ala timmen doing it and that makes it ok right?

    You know what-I am so disgusted with all this…Maybe military action by the Kurds backed by Iran is what is needed to draw the U.S and regional Arab forces in and retake the country and hand it back to those who actually care about it.
    Democracy can wait a few hundred years- the reason democracy won’t work in Iraq is because the Kurds and Religous shiites that are over 50 % of the population care NOTHING for Iraq – imagine any country where 55% of the population works against the country from sunrise to sunset and has loyalty elsewhere? How can you get a democratic process implemented?

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Guys, and Kermanshahi in particular, please, this is not a North Korea thread. Kermanshahi, your threats about starting a war each time there is an argument you don’t like are getting a little repetitive and makes it more difficult to publish your comments without editing.

  12. Kermanshahi said

    Faisal, I never claimed the Peshmerga had 5,000 tanks (they have 50-150 ex-Iraqi tanks), you read my comment wrong. I was comparing the situation of this time and last time so I was saying, since the Iraqi army no longer holds such large numercial advantages, no longer has 5,000 tanks, no longer has chemical gass and no longer has an airforce, they have all advantages they had last time, which is why the Peshmerga will definetly win this time. And the Iraq Kurds are not loyal to any state, not to Iraq, not to Iran, not to America, they have their own interests but with the kind of foreign policy Saddam had – which is the same kind of foreign policy most of Iraqiyya, much of this forum and al-Maliki (sometimes) promote aswell – there will always be enough countries eager to back them. And it’s not that the Shi’a (64%) are not loyal to Iraq, Santana, they just don’t want to start these unnececary hostilities with neighbouring countries, particulary Shi’a Iran, (which will only be bad for Iraq) which Saddam had and which many of his old friends in the Iraqiyya list (al-Mutlaq, al-Nujayfi) and the Sunni religious extremists want to have again.

  13. Santana said

    Kermanshahi- I must say that I respect your honesty when you state that the Kurds have NO loyalty to Iraq…and I am sure this applies to all Kurds….so you can imagine how frustrating it is for the Iraqi people that DO care for Iraq and ARE loyal to Iraq to have to put up with a Kurdish President, a Kurdish Foreign Minister and a bunch of other top notch positions and ministries held by people that hate them and that have NO loyalty to Iraq as you admit !!! I find this to be the craziest most unacceptable, disgusting and rediculous situation any country has to endure !!!!!!!

  14. Kermanshahi said

    Santana, you cannot have it either ways, the Kurds (maybe not all, but about 99%) might not be loyal to Iraq, but they want independence, you (Arabs) want them to remain in the Iraqi state. As long as they do remain in the Iraqi state and make up over a fifth of Iraq’s population, they have to be represented aswell. You don’t want a Kurdish president? Fine, but than don’t insist that Kurds remain part of Iraq but than with all it’s leaders being Arabs. Kurds never wanted to be part of Iraq in the first place and they resisted it from the very start (it took the British years to invade Kurdistan, annex it and fight off a Kurdish rebellion), so either you come to terms with their independence or come to terms with the fact that they form a large segment of your country’s population and thus deserve to be represented in it’s government.

  15. gabri133 said

    I agree with kermanshahi in on way: in a country with Ethno-sectarian divisions, the lesson of history is that any form of centralized power in Baghdad could pose a potential existential threat in the future…

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Gabri, this post is not about centralisation versus decentralisation – no one is suggesting to take away Kurdish autonomy in a federal system anyway. The post is about Jalal Talabani making crazy innovations in the Iraqi constitution and incompetent new organizations reporting his moves as “an important step forward for Iraq”.

  17. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, what politicians say and what they mean is often not the same, some Kurdish politicians which are infact sworn seperatists have to act like they are loyal to Iraq sometimes, meanwhile much of the al-Iraqiyya bloc is very much against Kurdish autonomy and the federal system but at present period of Iraqi politics they can’t openly say they would want to invade it, so they focus more on trying to make the region as small and as powerless as possible. As for al-Maliki, he is against it too, as PM he’d much rather want to rule the whole country without any federalism, but if he lost his position as PM and he saw a chance in gaining more power by creating his own federal region in some governorate where he is populair, he’d do it.

  18. IMARK said

    Santana: It would be a big mistake to assume that Kirmenshah’s disgusting chauvinism is held by all or many Iraqi Kurds in this day and age when ALL civilised nations abhor racism like a plague. The Iraqi Kurds are great people who participated in building the Iraqi state and they are held with great respect by the Arabic speaking population and intermarry freely with them. It is not only fate and geography which joined the two people together but above all it is mutual interest as the Kurds need Iraq as much as Iraq needs them.

  19. IMARK,
    With all due respect and not to change the subject of this thread, and not to be undiplomatic: Neither Iraq nor Turkey nor Iran nor the U.S. Need Kudistan. Mom Jelal acts as if Iraq needs him but I think Massoud has enough sense to realize this truth.

  20. Kermanshahi said

    IMAKR, do you really believe what you’re saying? Kurds participated in building the Iraqi state? They resisted it from day one, remember Mahmud Barzanji Vs. the British. It is not fate or mutual interests which brought Kurds and Iraqi Arabs together, it was a British military invasion which defeated all out Kurdish resistance against being robbed of their own state so they could be joined into someone else’s state. Immedietly after wars there was another Barzanji revolt, than Mustafa Barzani’s guerillas sttarted fighting, than the new war in ’74 which was followed by the Iran-Iraq War in which Kurds from both countries fought with Iran, against Iraq. The only thing the Kurds ever did for the Iraqi state was fight it and the only thing the Iraqi state ever did for the Kurds was kill them and opress them/

    Great respect by Arabic speaking population? The al-Anfal genocide, the ethnic cleansing of Kerkuk (and now suddenly all the Arab protest against Kurdish right of return), the 1991 massacres, the Halabja genocide. Meanwhile 2009 and 2010 elections prove exactly how little amounth of the Arab population actually likes Kurds and how many hate them.

    Meanwhile the only political parties which get any votes in Kurdistan are the seperatists, while those “populair” nationalists like Ayad Allawi, al-Maliki, al-Mutlaq and al-Nujayfi didn’t even run in Kurdish provinces (not in Jan ’09, not in July ’09 and not in March ’10) cause literally no-one would vote for them and Jawad al-Bulani who tried got 700 votes, Nawshirwan Msutafa and Jalal Talabani are constantly telling the Kurdish media and the people they are more seperatist than the other and that the other one is serving Iraqi interests, so that they can gain more votes.
    When moederate (meaning they acknowledge the existance of Kurds) Turks say that Kurds are loyal to Turkey, it is not true, but at least in Turkey there is a significant portion of Kurds (maybe as much as 25%) which feels Turkish and loyal to Turkish state. In Iraq the amounth of loyal Kurds is practically non-existant. I’m surprised how you find that strange, after the Kurds lived through 50 years of genocide.

  21. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, are you aware of how the city of Sulaymaniyya got its name? Hint: It’s not what the crazy Wikipedia article on the subject says… Please provide a pre-1950 source if you know the answer!

  22. Robinson said

    One can parse through history and find myriad examples of joint Kurdish-Arab political ventures, but it is a logical fallacy to imply this is evidence that Kurds are Iraqi Nationalists.

    I would argue that from the independence on, the majority of Kurdish participation in central governance in Baghdad was more a tactic to lobby for Kurdish concerns than an example of Iraqi nationalistic belief. That is not to say that there are not, and have not been, Kurds who do believe in Iraq, but I think that the reality is Kermanshahi’s sentiments cannot be written off as the voice of an extremist.

    I would offer political maneuverings of Walid Junblat, and the history of the Druze in Lebanon, as history that roughly parallels the Kurdish experience in Iraq. WJ has been closely involved in the “governing” of that country for some time, often speaking for his political alliance. Is he a Lebanese nationalist? That is not how I would describe him. More a shepherd of HIS people.

    And, I’m not sure a governorate named in honor of an 18th century hero is evidence of encompassing feelings of national unity STILL existing two plus centuries later.

  23. Reidar Visser said

    But it is evidence of the fallacy of a narrative of a continued anti-Iraq and anti-Baghdad struggle on the part of the Kurds from medieval times right up until today, as is sometimes claimed.

  24. Kermanshahi said

    There was not Kurdish struggle against Iraq from medievil times because the Iraqi state didn’t exist then. But since the late 19th century Kurds have risen against Ottomans and during the first world war the Kurds fought the Ottomans due to British promises of an independent state, that’s why after the war the Kurds rebelled against both the Turks and against British (and later independent) Iraq.

    That’s not to say there are no lies at the side of the Kurds. Everytime a Kurdish warlord had trouble with his king or there were any kind of troubles in Kurdistan region, no matter when in history it happened, Kurdish nationalists try to make it out to be like part of Kurdish nationalism, while no-one at the time even knew what Nationalism was.

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