Iraq and Gulf Analysis

A Daawa-ISCI Alliance Gives Basra a New Governor

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 21 April 2011 18:30

The Iraqi parliament appears to be in a stalemate. Just when rapprochement is needed to get all-important security ministers confirmed, the biggest blocs are moving further apart. Shiite Islamists close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are hinting at the possible replacement of the parliamentary speaker, Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya, even though he could potentially be Maliki’s most promising ally for getting things done in parliament. Iraqiyya and most other parties are irritated by the insistence of Maliki to keep Khudayr al-Khuzai as a candidate in an unnecessary and time-consuming contest over three vice-presidencies. Parliament will not meet again until 26 April; as of today, no proper agenda for that meeting has been fixed.

Maybe developments in the provinces can provide a better indication of which way the winds of Iraqi politics are blowing? Basra has just got a new governor after the previous one, Shaltagh Abbud of Maliki’s State of Law alliance, was forced out after popular protests. But just like his predecessor, the new man in charge of provincial government in Basra, Khalaf Abd al-Samad, belongs to Maliki’s bloc. His bio is quite similar to other Daawa operatives with a past in exile: Born in Basra in 1952, he joined the Daawa in the late 1960s and got into conflict with the regime in the 1980s and went into exile. He completed his education in agricultural science at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands in the 1990s and then returned to Iraq after 2003.

The political dynamics behind his appointment are fairly uncomplicated. Maliki’s State of Law alliance won a watershed victory in Basra back in January 2009 with some 20 seats. Their share of seats has since shrunk somewhat to around 18 as the result of defections, and in order to secure victory for Abd al-Samad as the new governor, State of Law formed a new coalition with at least three members of ISCI/Badr some weeks ago. It was this coalition that recently voted for Abd al-Samad as the new governor.

It is noteworthy that there was an apparent attempt to challenge Abd al-Samad by Jabbar Amin of Hizb al-Daawa (Tanzim al-Iraq), also from State of Law. Some weeks ago, Amin – who in 2010 was at the forefront of a bid to revive the Basra regionalist project – reached out to independents, Sunnis and Christians in a bid to create a cross-sectarian alliance that would challenge Maliki’s preferred candidate. In the end, Amin failed, but he did get 14 votes against 19 for Abd al-Samad.

Amin’s ability to at least create problems for Abd al-Samad suggests that Maliki is not completely immune to challenges even in the provinces that should be a cakewalk for him as far as the arithmetic of deputy affiliations is concerned. His reliance on an alliance with ISCI in this case creates a contrast with patterns currently seen at the national level, but it seems nonetheless significant as an indicator of State of Law’s behaviour in a context when it needs to secure a majority for a specific vote. It will be impossible for Maliki to postpone a similarly decisive vote in parliament on the security ministries for much longer.

10 Responses to “A Daawa-ISCI Alliance Gives Basra a New Governor”

  1. alexno said


    Although not directly relevant to the present thread, I’m sure many would like a post evaluating the question of US withdrawal, a subject already raised in previous threads.

    My vision of the questions is:

    1) Is Maliki and/or the parliament likely to go for an extension of the US mandate?

    2) Does Iraq really need the Americans?

    In a previous thread you said:

    “With respect to the question of US withdrawal I think it would be helpful if Iraqi media could engage in an open-minded debate about the true capabilities of the Iraqi forces. Say, their ability to resist an incursion by any of the neighbouring states. Unless such a debate gets going, I think Maliki and others will continue to make exaggerated claims as to the quality and strength of the Iraqi forces.”

    External invasion is not an issue for now. Would a period of internal weakness not be useful for a clearer future, without the US?

  2. Nicholas Jack Herrmann said

    I’ve read that before his election as governor, Samad was the head of the Martyrs Foundation (presumably this organization, Any insights into this organization? What it does, is it corrupt, does a particular party control it, etc.?


  3. Kermanshahi said

    The big question is what is going to happen in December? Is al-Maliki going to allow Americans to stay? In which case he will loose the backing of al-Sadr, who’s revived Mahdi Army is preparing to go to war with the Americans and the government if this happens. This would likely lead to a government collapsee (due to Sadr and others withdrawing) and it can also completely change the political situation, since the political stance take on the occupation, when it comes the end of the year, will seperate the real Nationalists from the American stooges. My guess is, it won’t be all to good for al-Iraqiyya or al-Maliki’s popularity and it could lead to a revival of ISCI’s popularity if they join up with Sadr in this case, rather than with al-Maliki (and it’s clear the Iranians want the Americans out, aswell). Maliki has played his cards well in the past, but his miscalculations of releasing all Mahdi Army fighters and letting all militia leaders return to the country to gains al-Sadr’s favour, and than allowing American occupation forces to remain in the country, might very well be his downfall. But maybe he’ll surprise me …

  4. Muhaned H Alsemawee said

    Daer Visser

    I have reservation about your phrase ( even though he could potentially be Maliki’s most promising ally for getting things done in parliament).
    I dont think Usama al-Nujayfi do this role in Parliment


  5. Reidar Visser said

    Just today Maliki repeated his view that Iraq is the most stable country in the region and capable of looking after its own security. I would feel more assured if he had said that on the basis of some kind of stability at the parliamentary level. But at present, that stability – in the shape of some viable coalition that could back up government policies – just does not seem to exist. If Maliki is forced to rely on the National Alliance to get things done then he will be hostage to the policies of the Sadrists, ISCI and Chalabi, and Iranian influence in Iraq could easily get much stronger post-2011, which in turn could reignite sectarian tensions. On the other hand, a realistic debate about the true capabilities of the Iraqi defence forces at this point – say, on issues like external defence, border surveillance and keeping track of Al-Qaida – could actually be instrumental in forging a moderate coalition that could challenge the Sadrists and other Islamists with a sectarian orientation – not only on the SOFA question, but also when it comes to other key issues in national reconciliation, such as de-Baathification.

    Nicholas, the Shuhada organisation is devoted to the “martyrs of the Baath” and politically is leaning towards the more sectarian end of the spectrum of Shiite Islamist politics in Iraq.

  6. robinson said


    Any idea how many, if any, SoL guys in the Basra PC voted for Jaber Amin?

    My sense is that politics on the provincial is more personality and less party based than politics on the national level. Perhaps I should say in SOME provinces this is the case, and there is reason to think Basra may not be a good example of personality based politics.

    Likewise, did Jaber Amin have any SoL allies on his regionalism push?

  7. Kermanshahi said

    You know, saying Iraq is relatively stable compared to 2007 is one thing, but the most stable country in the region? Al-Maliki is boasting a little bit too much here, in my opinion. But look, what al-Maliki sais now might not be the same from what he actually does, end of the year. First of all, I think it’s a very relevant question: can al-Maliki actually say no? Many elected governments have had problems pushing through their own politics if the Americans wanted them to do something else, many democratic countries are infact American satelite states, who’s course won’t and can’t change no matter who they elect. Than the second point, talk is cheap, what al-Maliki is saying now my be meant for media, who sais he’s not gonna let them stay anyway? Than another thing is, al-Maliki switches ideology whenever he wants to. Right now he’s a pro-Iranian, Shi’a secterian politician who opposes American occupation. In 5 months he might be a pro-American, secular “Nationalist” politician, who, in alliance with Iraqiyya, tries to get the Americans to stay. He might change his mind on which way he can stay in power the longest, ’cause that’s where it’s all about with al-Maliki.

    As for al-Iraqiyya, they’ve already been talking about how they would love the occupation forces to stay, because they think it will be better for them politically. But I think this would loose them a lot of popularity and support among those voters who are real Nationalists, who will see these people are nothing but American stooges.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Robinson, I am not aware that there were any State of Law votes for Jabbar Amin. He was expelled from Daawa (Tanzim al-Iraq) after having tried to portray himself as an independent candidate. Abd al-Samad was largely seen as the candidate that had been vetted by Maliki so in this case party discipline seems to have prevailed at the local level as well.

    It is however noteworthy that Amin started pushing for the regionalist alternative as early as April 2010 or thereabouts, and I think he was involved in the attempt at reviving it last autumn as well. In so doing, he appeared to have at least some support from his bloc and he certainly wasn’t forced out as a result of that.

  9. Salah said

    Just to see what’s background this man have, very interesting?

    بعد عودة خلف عبد الصمد من ايران بعد السقوط اتى بشهادة مزورة من ايران على انها دبلوم عالي تم معادلتها بشهادة الماجستير كونه احد اعضاء حزب الدعوة المناضل.
    2- تقدم خلف عبد الصمد لدراسة الدكتوراه في الزراعة قسم الاسماك بدون ضوابط كونه رفيق بالدعوة.
    3- حسب نظام الدراسة المعتمد في كلية الزراعة جامعة البصرة لم يحضر الى الكورسات النظرية للدراسة الا بصورة متقطعة كونه رئيس مؤسسة الشهداء ومركزها في بغداد , وقد اجتاز الكورسات بنجاح باهر كونه ….
    4- اشرف على دراسته العملية في قسم الاسماك رفيق في حزب الدعوة وهو الدكتور غياث وطيلة فترة دراسته العملية والتي تحتاج الى مسح ميداني للاسماك وتصنيفها وغير ذلك من الامور المتعلقة لجمع البيانات الحقلية لم يقم بها ولم يحضر مطلقا .
    5- خلف عبد الصمد قد خالف قرار مجلس الوزراء الذي ينص على منع اي مسؤول حكومي من الحصول على الشهادات العليا مادام لم يتفرغ كليا للدراسة اي التخلي عن المنصب الذي كان فيه.
    6- رغم ذلك وبعد انتهاء الفترة الصغرى للدراسة تمت مناقشة رسالة الدكتوراه لخلف عبد الصمد بعد ان تمت كتابة اطروحة الدكتوراه من قبل مشرفه د غياث ! وجرت مناقشة صورية على غرار مناقشة عدي ابن الطاغية صدام .
    7- اعطيت لخلف شهادة الدكتوراه بعد كل هذا التعب والمجهود العلمي الذي قام به!!!!

  10. Jason said

    Alex, the IRG has been involved in Iraq for years, and just waiting for the U.S. to leave so they can turn Iraq into another Lebanon. Kermanshahi, are you formally on Khamenei’s payroll for propaganda, or a basij volunteer?

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