Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for June 14th, 2011

Maliki Dissolves the National Alliance and Says No to U.S. Forces after 2011

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 14 June 2011 17:19

It is fair to say that the life cycle of the all-Shiite National Alliance (NA) – the all-Shiite bloc that delivered a second premiership to Nuri al-Maliki in November 2010 – has been an unusual one. In the first place, one could of course argue that when it first came into existence in 2010, the NA was really a reincarnation of the previous Shiite coalition that had existed as the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) from 2004 to 2008 and that was partially re-launched with Iranian support as the Iraqi National Alliance by Ahmad Chalabi, ISCI and the Sadrists in the spring of 2009. But that’s another story. Suffice to say in this context that the National Alliance was actually born twice after the 7 March 2010 parliamentary elections – first in May, when INA nominally merged with the State of Law bloc of Nuri al-Maliki but nothing much happened and no name was given to the new bloc, and later in June, when the leaders of INA and State of Law tentatively began a  process of selecting a prime minister candidate and claimed the position as the biggest bloc in parliament in order to challenge Iraqiyya and Ayyad Allawi (who had emerged as the biggest bloc based on the elections results). Not until October 2010, thanks to steady support from both Iran and US ambassador Chris Hill, did Maliki emerge as prime minister candidate of the Shiite super-bloc.

Now the NA is dead again, or so it seems. The thing is, there is no death certificate as such , only the much-overlooked selection yesterday of Khalid Atiyya, from the bloc of independents affiliated with Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, as parliamentary head of the State of Law bloc. That in itself may not sound terribly exciting but it is: One of the few defining criteria for a bloc (kutla) in Iraqi parliamentary practice post-2003 is that it must have a head or rais. Now, importantly, after much dithering, the National Alliance did eventually agree on such a bloc leader in December 2010, when Ibrahim al-Jaafari was selected. Accordingly, Atiyya’s emergence as head of the State of Law faction yesterday amounts to nothing less than a de facto secession from the NA, since the recognition of State of Law as a kutla by implication negates the continued existence of the National Alliance. It should be added in a footnote that Iraqiyya has actually moved in the opposite direction, despite lots of centrifugal forces being at work. Also in December 2010, the Iraqiyyun faction led by Usama al-Nujayfi announced the election of its own bloc leader in what seemed to be tantamount to a secession from the broader Iraqiyya coalition. But since at least February 2011, Salman al-Jumayli has quite consistently been described as the bloc leader of Iraqiyya.

These developments are not necessarily going to change anything in the short term. In the first place, bloc size comes into play only when the question of selecting the premier is on the agenda. Second, if Maliki really wants to reshuffle the cards and dissolve parliament, he is still in a position to claim the “biggest bloc” since Iraqiyya has shrunk by some 10 deputies over the past month through the defection of White Iraqiyya whereas State of Law has only lost Safiya Suhayl (who became an independent) and therefore is biggest with 88 deputies. But these latest moves do seem significant as possible elements in a long-term plan by Maliki to create some kind of “political majority” government to replace the current “national partnership”one, possibly based on an alliance between State of Law, the Kurds, Wasat and White Iraqiyya. Still, if that is really Maliki’s plan, he will need to convince Iraq’s president, the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, to support him as premier once more, which in turn could mean a demand for further concessions by the Kurds. Another question is how Ibrahim al-Jaafari, until recently the head of the NA, will react. Could the recent selection of his party ally Falih al-Fayyad as deputy minister for national security mean that a deal has been done between Jaafari and Maliki? So far the Jaafari website is silent on the issue.

At any rate, any such new coalition will enjoy only a small majority in parliament. In a move apparently intended to pre-empt Sadrist criticism, State of Law today officially declared it is against any prolongation of the US presence in Iraq after 2011.

Posted in Iraqi constitutional issues, Iraqi nationalism, UIA dynamics | 26 Comments »