Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Still No Vice-Presidents after State of Law Withdrawal from Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 14 April 2011 18:18

The saga goes on: Another attempt at electing three deputies for Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani failed in parliament today after the bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki withdrew from the session and thereby prevented a quorum.

Reportedly, the reason for the withdrawal of State of Law was doubt concerning the sincerity of rest of parliament with respect to approving the State of Law candidate to fill one of the three positions, Khudayr al-Khuzai, after a previous compromise proposal of expanding the number of deputies to four thankfully went nowhere. Apparently their fear was that the two other candidates (Adel Abd al-Mahdi of ISCI and Tareq al-Hashemi of Iraqiyya) would be approved and that Khuzai would be left out.

It should be stressed that as far as the legal aspect is concerned, State of Law seems to be right in insisting on a vote on the deputies in a single batch. The law on the deputies of the president simply refers to a nomination (tarshih) in the singular, which would require a minimum of consensus beforehand. A complicating factor has been added because of an alleged legal challenge by Fakhri Karim, an adviser to President Jalal Talabani, against Tareq al-Hashemi because of his use of the title of vice-president in the period after the end of the presidency council in November 2010. Whereas it is possible to appreciate the legal aspects of that challenge, it seems strange that it should come from someone so close to Talabani: According to another of the vice-presidential candidates, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, Talabani had personally ordered his deputies from the presidency council to continue as interim deputies for him in his new position as ordinary president of Iraq! (Some reports actually say the legal challenge by Karim is directed against two of the deputies, in which case one would assume that the other one is Adel Abd al-Mahdi, who has done the same thing as Hashemi in terms of continuing to use his vice-presidential title.)

The politics of this is as follows. There appears to be some rapprochement between Iraqiyya, ISCI and also the Sadrists in terms of challenging the State of Law bloc on the issue of the vice-presidency. (Importantly, there are reports that the Sadrists, too, opposed Khuzai.) However, this movement is clearly not strong enough for the moment to push through its will in parliament. The withdrawal of State of Law was sufficient to deprive parliament of a quorum. Also, one suspects that in the reported actions of Fakhri Karim against one or two deputy candidates, the old alliance between the Kurds and Maliki could once more be resurging. True, the legal challenge against Hashemi and/or Abd al-Mahdi was mounted by Karim as a private citizen, but it seems unlikely that it should come from someone as close to Talabani unless it had been agreed with him. This is important because the Kurds have been blowing hot and cold over Maliki ever since his new government was passed in December 2010, and at one point seemed ready to join forces with the emerging “opposition” of ISCI and pro-Allawi elements in Iraqiyya. Other voices critical of the attempt to have a vote today include Salim al-Jibburi of the Wasat bloc and the old Tawafuq, which represented Sunni interests in the previous parliament.

Importantly, State of Law today criticised the parliamentary speaker, Usama al-Nujayfi, for his management of the session in parliament and its ultimate breakdown. This, along with statements critical of Maliki by Nujayfi as well as Salih al-Mutlak over the past week, indicates that any rapprochement between Maliki and Nujayfi is still a long way off. Once more, Maliki seems forced to rely on a constellation of parties who will have great difficulty in getting anything passed in parliament: His own State of Law, the Kurds, Wasat and maybe White Iraqiyya. Together, they might perhaps be able to muster a majority of 163 votes in parliament, but only on a good day, and only just.

14 Responses to “Still No Vice-Presidents after State of Law Withdrawal from Parliament”

  1. Santana said

    This Fakhri Kareem (a Kurd)is also the Chief Editor of Al-Mada Newspaper. It seems that he has had a fallout recently with Talabani so I doubt tht he is still an advisor to Mam……not sure if it was over this or something else-but the proof of a fallout is the fact that his action directly conflicts with Talabani’s request to extend the duties of his deputies till COR ratifies them. As far as Khuzaiee goes no one outside of SLA seems to know WHAT is driving this insistence by Maliki to push for this guy as a third VP??(maybe Maliki wants a spy in the PC? or Khuzaiee has some dirt on Maliki so he wants to shut him up?
    The whole idea of having Adel and Tareq as VPs is to have a Shiite and a Sunni sort of balance….a third might make some sense if it was a Turkman but not an incompetent, sectarian hated by most candidate like Khuzaiee.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    It seems a little out of the ordinary, for Iraq I mean, that Karim should be able to attract so much attention unless he has some kind of political support somewhere. But if it is true that the Kurds do not support him over this then it means the battlelines are looking pretty similar to the conflict over the “code on electoral conduct” and the budget back in January 2010, when it was also everyone against Maliki.

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, here is a source suggesting a degree of conflict between the Kurdish leadership and Hashemi as a possible explanation of the conflict:

    alternate link:

  4. Salah said

    Reidar your sources did have any hits about this visit?

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, it is not unusual for US congressmen to make visits abroad during the Easter recess. I would ascribe greater significance to the recent visits by Khalilzad, Gates and Feltman.

  6. Santana said

    John Boehner is the most powerful Republican in America and is Pro-Pentagon like most GOP leaders are. In the U.S there is a rift between the Pentagon and NSC/White House. Gates soft push during his last visit to Iraq for an extension to the U.S Army’s presence in Iraq is in direct conflict with Obama’s “cut and run” policy and NSC is so upset that Gates would have been fired had he not been retiring anyway.
    So Boehner’s trip is so he can get a feel personally on how things are in Iraq. He insisted on meeting Iraqi leaders across the board so that he can have a better assesment as far as ISF’s readiness to handle the takeover. Boehner listens very closely to Graham and McCain and they are both Pro-Pentagon and pro-extension.
    The request for extension by any Iraqi leaders is veiwed on the street as “treason” and political suicide even though deep inside most of them know Iraq is not ready, but are afraid to admit it. Interestingly enough-The two groups pushing the hardest for a U.S timely exit are the Sadrists and the Association of Muslim Scholars. Maliki doesn’t care what the AMS thinks but what worries him is “Sadrist wrath” if he officially requests an extension.
    The fact that the Sadrists want the U.S out so badly is also a reason for concern cuz it sure as hell isn’t for “Nationalistic” reasons but more of a firm directive from Iraq’s lovely neighbor to the east.

  7. Ali M said

    Fakhri Karim was comparing it to how if an ordinary citizen impersonates a police officer, he goes to prison for 10 years, whereas these ordinary MPs (Hashemi and Abdul Mahdi) are impersonating vice-presidents and geting away with it.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, I think that if it is true that deep in his heart, Maliki wants the American forces to stay longer, then his only option is to make peace with Iraqiyya or at least with Nujayfi, Mutlak or Hashemi (a rapprochement with Allawi probably being unrealistic now). If not, then he will be susceptible to Sadrist manipulations and will be forced to present an unrealistic image of the capabilities and fighting readiness of the Iraqi security forces.

  9. The Americans saved Maliki’s neck from the Sadrists, now the Sadrists are pushing him back to the Americans. Maliki has no choice but to extend. Did someone say the US has no leverage in Iraq?

  10. Reidar Visser said

    Well, Maliki has been talking tough lately on the assumed capabilities of the Iraqi military, and State of Law and Nujayfi seem to be increasingly hostile to each other again. If Maliki truly wants an extension of the SOFA, I’m not sure he can secure sufficient domestic support with his current allies among the Kurds, Tawafuq and White Iraqiyya alone.

  11. For what it’s worth, Allawi said that Maliki agreed to extend??
    I think Maliki can drag other parties reluctantly to agree.

  12. Santana said


    Adel and Tareq were given an extension by Talabani till new VPs are ratified….is it constitutional? No….but neither was Talabani’s interim reign….nor was his ratification by Paliament exactly by the book….so Fakhri Karim might as well sue everyone.

    Reidar- As far as I know the Kurds want an extension or at least the Talabani folks do…… if I am not mistaken?

  13. Jason said

    I think Santana is basically right about the American players. Gates’ retirement (and possibly Clinton?) will likely lead to much greater disarray in American policy, and nobody left inside the Obama Admin to resist prematurely quitting Iraq. Boehner is influential as the current top Republican, and his voice may become critical if Obama starts to wobble after Gates leaves. So Boehner’s perception of the status of Iraqi readiness may become quite important.

    Assuming the Obama Admin has leverage with Maliki, they are not inclined to use it (especially after Gates is gone) Remember that Obama’s MAIN campaign promise was to extricate the U.S. from Iraq, and the 2012 election is fast approaching. Failing to leave would be inviting a challenger from within his own Democratic Party. If Iraq is not ready to stand on its own, it will probably be up to Maliki to devise some way to save face with the “Street” while asking for an extension.

    Two questions: (1) Is there any polling data or other evidence about the sentiment of the Iraqi “Street,” versus that of various Iranian-backed politicians? (2) In the event American troops leave, is Iraq strong enough to stand on its own and resist the manipulations of its neighbors? (Many Americans fear that Iraq will become the next Lebanon as soon as we leave. I pray that they are wrong)

  14. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, on the subject you brought up about Talabani’s order for the presidency council VPs to serve as interim VPs in the new term, has this been published anywhere? I’m curious as to its exact wording and was unable to find it on Talabani’s website last time I checked.

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