Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Bulani-Mania in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 13 August 2011 16:42

After he formed his own electoral coalition known as Unity of Iraq in summer 2009, former interior minister Jawad al-Bulani has largely disappeared from the limelight in Iraq. His new coalition, which in many ways resembled an Iraqiyya in miniature with a secular ideology, a Shiite leader and a largely Sunni support base, performed poorly in the parliamentary elections of March 2010 and played no significant role in the formation of the second Maliki government in December 2010. But for the past month or so, Bulani has once more attracted the interest of Iraqi media.

The first occasion on which Bulani came to the fore again was in July after the merger of his Unity of Iraq bloc with Iraqiyya. Unity of Iraq had originally emerged with only 4 deputies after the parliamentary elections and had first moved to form a post-election alliance known as Wasat with the equally unsuccessful Tawafuq coalition (6 deputies) with which it had few ideological commonalities. After the merger of Iraqiyya and Unity of Iraq, the rump of Wasat – basically the old Tawafuq – for a short while remained independent in parliament. However, recently Tawafuq moved to join Iraqiyya as well. Inevitably, in isolation these moves left a sense of greater sectarian polarisation in Iraqi politics, not least since the only branch of Iraqiyya that defected after the elections – White Iraqiyya – is Shiite-dominated and has recently been strengthened by yet another ex-Iraqiyya deputy from Karbala. For its part, despite Bulani being a Shiite and Unity of Iraq having a certain cross-sectarian appeal, Iraqiyya is certainly looking somewhat more Sunni-leaning after the latest co-option of Tawafuq, which in many ways was the quintessential “Sunni party” in the previous parliament.

Soon after the merger with Iraqiyya, some of Bulani’s troubles came to the fore. In an embarrassing development, the leader of Unity of Iraq had failed to win a seat for himself in the March 2010 election. Nonetheless, he was given a replacement seat earlier this year after a member of his coalition, Ali al-Sajri, was promoted  as minister of state in the new Maliki government. However, the problem was that Sajri had been a candidate in Salahaddin whereas Bulani had been a candidate in Baghdad, making his replacement distinctly at variance with the law on the replacement of candidates as well as the constitutionally stipulated balance of deputies between the governorates. Finally, in a much-overlooked development, on 10 August the Iraqi federal supreme court  announced that it had overruled the Iraqi parliament’s decision on replacement seats and deprived Bulani of the seat that he had been awarded earlier. There are several problems related to the ruling, including the question of why the same principles were not used against several other deputies (including individuals from the Sadrists, Fadila and Tawafuq) whose replacement of other deputies had featured exactly the same problems as those highlighted in the case of Bulani. So far, however, the only lingering protests considering the replacement seats seem to concern the seat given to a member of Iraqiyya after a White Iraqiyya member was given a ministry of state in February, as well as rather implausible protests by ministers affected by the recent downsizing of the government to the effect that they should get their parliamentary seats back (instead, those ministers should have protested the modalities of the downsizing procedure). 

Just to make matters worse, Bulani recently offered a press statement which left considerable doubt about his ability to read the Iraqi constitution properly: On 26 July, he told media that the Iraqi parliament should be reduced to 163 members, supposedly to reflect the correct proportion of deputies per voter!  In fact, what Bulani cited was the old elections law of 2005 and not the constitution. One of the reasons the election law was amended in 2009 was precisely that it was in conflict with the constitution in this regard.

At any rate (and possibly not entirely unrelated to the loss of his parliamentary seat and/or the recent merger with Iraqiyya), Bulani is now on the offensive again: He has suddenly become Iraqiyya’s candidate to head the defence ministry. This is an interesting move for numerous reasons. Firstly, back in 2006, Bulani had of course been the “Shiite compromise candidate” for interior (when the formation of the government was also held up for many months precisely due to bickering about who should hold the sensitive security ministries). Secondly, as a secular Shiite promoted by a coalition seen by some of its detractors as “too Sunni”, Bulani creates trouble for anyone who wants to adopt a neat sectarian perspective on Iraqi politics. In this respect, it is noteworthy that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki himself has lately tried to label the defence post as a “Sunni prerogative” (rather than the rightful share of Iraqyya) in a sectarian and not too subtle move to circumvent the preferences of the Iraqiyya leaders for this post.

Bulani’s re-emergence as a candidate for defence in Iraq is potentially fruitful in the way it makes a mess of sectarian expectations that the defence post should go to a Sunni and interior to a Shiite. But by continuing to push for the strategic policy council, Bulani’s Iraqiyya is clinging to an oversized power-sharing formula for the Iraqi government which remains antithetical to recent public demands for a smaller, more effective cabinet. If Maliki is smart, he will accept Bulani and then see how this move influences internal politics in Iraqiyya, which in terms of numbers of important ministries will then be reasonably and comparatively speaking well integrated into his government after the recent downsizing. Unless Maliki is able to obtain allies outside his own core coalition that are prepared to challenge the strategic policy council favoured by Iraqiyya, an acrimonious debate about the council may well continue to dominate Iraqi politics for weeks and months at a time when focus on a new bilateral arrangement between Iraq and the United States is needed. Conversely, if Maliki is unwise and unrealistic, he will continue the futile search for “Sunnis outside Iraqiyya” to fill the defence ministry post.

Bulani, incidentally, is reasonably well liked in the United States for the work he did during his tenure at interior.

36 Responses to “Bulani-Mania in Iraq”

  1. Santana said

    If Iraqiya truly wants Bolani then he must be good for Iraq- if he is good for Iraq then he is bad for Iran – if he is bad for Iran then kiss his rear-end goodbye….he won”t make it….Sunaid said Maliki might approve him although so far he has not according to a call I got from Bolani’s best friend today. If anyone has visited Bolani’s office they will see on his cabinet tens of pieces of Iranian shells and weapons that have the Iranian serial numbers and markings, he shows these off to visitors that doubt Iran’s meddling in Iraq. He has had three assasination attempts- two from Iran and one from Alqaeda…..he cares for Iraq and wants tight borders and a clean-up of the Army and Police from Iranian filth…..unfortunately-with that attitude he stands a snowball chance in hell of getting the MOD….he will be rejected for some other reason concocted by Daawa… but I would still love to see him to get the position just to throw a twist into this “Muhasasa” crap. Just my two cents worth.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    So why not whisper in Maliki’s ear that if he accepts Bulani Iraqiyya will offer to forget about the whole strategic policy council thing? Bulani is not exactly a big friend of the Sadrists and ISCI, which should make him interesting to Maliki desite the issues the two have got between them.

  3. Santana said

    I am not sure- maybe cuz Bolani getting the MOD is somewhat of a compromise by Iraqiya and to add another bigger compromise to it just emboldens the dictator Maliki and shows weakness from Iraqiya?

  4. Reidar Visser said

    I think it would be a much better way of fulfilling Iraqiyya’s aspirations to have an anti-Iranian minister of defence than a council that will have no real power anyway. My fear is that unless Maliki gets real, he will go on trying to find a Sunni from White Iraqiyya or something like that and the whole saga will drag on forever. I think Qutayba al-Jibburi has been mentioned as a possible candidate. If Maliki does that, then Iraqiyya should follow Maliki’s sectarian logic and demand that Bulani gets interior, on the pretext that he is Shiite!

  5. I’ll eat my shoes if Maliki agrees to Bolani at defense.

    I’m sure everyone remembers how well Bolani and Maliki got on along last time, so well that Maliki spent the last year before the election trying to get parliament to remove him, blaming him for all the terrorist attacks. I think Allawi is pushing Bolani precisely because he knows Maliki doesn’t want him. Its like with Saadun Dulaymi – Iraqiya didn’t want Dulaymi because he was Accord, although they admitted he was qualified, but one of their four candidates last week was Abd al-Karim al-Samarai, who of course is from Accord, which just joined the INM/Iraqiya. Okay, but they still reject Dulaymi. Why? Because Maliki supports him. And Maliki supports Dulaymi, why? I think it is precisely because Allawi opposes him. It is childish but that is where we are at.

    Incidentally, has anyone heard any evidence, or at least suspicions, about Bolani being on the Kuwaitis payroll? I began suspecting that when he joined with Abu Risha, who was backed by the KSA of course but he also had major ties to Kuwait and Emirati interests from what I’ve read. Then just this week I saw an interview with Bolani on al-Arabiya that was just awful. Were I Iraqi I would have cried, or shouted, I’m not sure.
    It was like he was there just to mouth some words.

  6. observor said

    The better question is: Why is Maliki given this latitude by the US? Why is it that a Veto from Iran is more enforceable and the US stands by? What gives Iran the right to do what it is doing under the nose and eyes of the US?

    I know I am harping on the same thing but it shows my frustration with my own kind…. Are the US policy makers stupid? Or is there a bigger plan at work that I am not clued in on?

    santana – I would not be surprised if there is an attempt at Bolanis’ life. The other thing that is not mentioned here yet is that his losing his MP chair is singling him to apply a rule that should be applied to 10 other MP’s that were nominated by other parties. Another instance that proves that Maliki controls the “constitutional court” and dictates when and where to enforce the law.

    So Reidar – you may call it a “carefully constructed narrative” but please look at the evidence and judge for yourself.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Well, there are signs this morning that State of Law may choose the unwise option of playing the “Sunni card” against Bulani. Sunayd indicates that “some Sunnis are unhappy with Bulani”:

    السنيد: اعتراضات من قبل ممثلين عن المكون السني على ترشيحات العراقية للدفاع

    Observer, I’m still waiting for the details of the court ruling against Bulani to be published on the supreme court website. So far there is only a press release which is deficient in the level of details. I am interested in why it took so long to decide the matter (the appeals deadline was in March), who made the succesful complaint (other complaints from Salahaddin submitted as late as in July were dismissed for procediural reasons) and, in particular, why people like Shuhayli (“the Sadrist from Dahuk”) and Salim al-Jibburi of Tawafuq were not affected.

  8. Mohammed said

    If bolani is anti-Iran then why is ISCI supporting him?

    I think that the reason al-Maliki doesn’t want him is more personal animosity between these guys rather than taking orders from Iran.

    Is this supposed isci support really all for show?

    Observer, when you talk about American influence, can you please expand on what practical influence they have? It seems the most important issue the USA seeks right now is to secure longer term stay and they have as of yet been unable to secure Maliki agreement to that high priority item. Do you think that if the USA really wanted to push for bolani, they could make al-Maliki cry uncle and get what they wanted or are they saving their leverage for what REALLY matters to them?

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, with respect to ISCI I think there are multiple issues at play. Firstly, there are signs of increasing internal friction in ISCI. This has been the case ever since the creation of the National Alliance after the elections in 2010, when Hadi al-Amiri (but not Ammar al-Hakim) participated actively in the NA meetings. More recently, on the strategic policy council, some ISCI deputies have supported it whereas others have rejected it. There are personal ties that cut across party lines here too, such as the Allawi-Barzani-Hakim axis.

    BTW, it seems all Hell broke out in today’s parliamentary session with a heated verbal exchange between two female deputies from the Sadrists and the State of Law bloc respectively, on the inclusion of “militias” in the general amnesty law. It rather underlines the fissures in the increasingly theoretical all-Shiite “National Alliance”.

  10. observer said

    Let me reverse the question to you. What does Iran do to get what it wants? Either Maliki is an independent agent or he is not. US diplomat say they have evidence that he is not an Iranian agent ignoring at the same time the actual evidence of his actions in support of Iranian policies (take for a simple example the position of Maliki vis-a-vis Asad.

    In answer to your question. Many possible ways. Indicate in private meetings that if Maliki continues his policies, then Iraq will never be allowed to get out of Chapter 7 and thus will not be able to control more than 500 million dollars of monies at any give time. Another possible action is make (or threaten to make) public statements about the US being afraid for democracy and the rule of law in the new Iraq and the apparent influence. One more, meet publicly with Maliki opponents wither one at a time of together in a staged dinner meeting at one of the participants excluding on purpose people from Maliki’s side. The people around Maliki can and are able to read signals of displeasure. Pressure can (and is) applied in subtle ways by the US.

    What you do not understand (it seems) is that the US is supporting Maliki — period. Whether it is to facilitate the withdrawal of US forces and prevention of the appearance of the US cutting and running, is something to be considered.

    I await your impartial examination of the evidence of the selective use of law in application as well as timing of “judgments”.

  11. Jason said

    I’m very confused. Above posts make Bolani sound like a strong Iraqi nationalist. Is this not the same guy that was once accused of allowing Badr Brigades to take over the Interior Ministry and run sectarian death squads? Or were those just blatant lies spun at the time for political leverage? So much conflicting information for outsiders!

    Observer, one thing to keep in mind about this Obama Admin. It is presently fighting for its life here in the U.S. due to the economy and appearance of being spineless and rudderless. There is no will to stand up to puny Assad, much less Iran. I wouldn’t count on any clarity from the USG until a new Republican president is sworn in.

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, I think you’re mixing him up with Bayan Jabr of ISCI/Badr who was at interior during the Jaafari govt in 2005-2006. ISCI was at the time a favourite of the Bush White House.

  13. Regarding ISCI, don’t take anything they say at face value. By early 2009 they had fully realized that their pan-Shia, southern autonomy, Iran-friendly policies were killing them with the public. So then under Ammar they switched gears and decided to portray themselves as just being a party that wants to serve the people, and at the same time of course undermine Maliki. So you will see that every time some issue comes up Ammar Hakim comes out with some mealy-mouthed statement about “serving the people” (khidmat al-nas) or some similar nonsense, and they automatically endorse almost everything which is harmful to Maliki.

    As far as Maliki and Iran is concerned, Maliki is not pro-Iran. Maliki is pro-Maliki. He will work with Iran when it serves his interests, and screw them when it doesn’t, as he did with only giving ISCI the Transportation Ministry. Almost every party in the government did better in the ministerial distribution than ISCI. And Maliki is strongly hostile to secular Shia figures like Allawi and Bolani because they pose a real threat to him in a way that no Sunni Arab ever could.

    As far as US policymakers are concerned, never assume they even know what is going on. The reason Iraq ended up with this whole “National Council” fiasco is that we kept pushing for some way to forge a power sharing agreement between Maliki and Allawi when the movement within Maliki’s base always favored a united Shia bloc. They were never going to give Allawi any real power. A position, yes, sure, but no real power. I think that was always very clear to me from statements coming from State of Law, and I could never figure out why this wasn’t more obvious within the US foreign policy apparatus.

  14. observer said

    Do you think that Allawi is stupid to accept a position without power? Do you think that Barazani would betray Allawi and have a double deal with Maliki just to get the government formed? I think not on both accounts.

    Allawi is not after the position as he is interested in building a state. Had he wanted a position he would have accepted to join the ISCI and Sadris prior to elections. He refused to leave the Sunnis and the Kurds behind as in the end they (Sunnis, She3a, & Kurds) have to be REAL partners if Iraq ever is to regain its strength.

    The bottom line is that Maliki and Da3wa are another face of the politics of the Baath. A single ideology (in Da3wa’s case, it is god mandated – albeit Ethna 3ashari based- as opposed to the chauvinistic basis of Baath) that is the center of its existence. If they abandon that, then there is no basis for their existence. I know that you will all say I am exaggerating or constructing a narrative, but I ask you all to look at the evidence. We have 6 years now of evidence to prove that Da3wa is not interested in anything but to build its base, its finances and protect its own. There is no adherence whatsoever to democratic principals, building an independent judiciary, freeing the market, etc. They will do what it takes to stay in power. Even stop elections if they know they are going to loose. Why are they afraid of the army? They know that if they abort democracy, then the only way to get them out is an army coup ala Turkey of the 70’s and 80’s.

    Again – I am ok with US policies if there is a long term vision that adheres to building democracy in Iraq and the middle east. If on the other hand the US is just winging it, then I have the right – nay, the duty – to point it out and ask for accountability. Why did the US do all it did if we are going to go back to the status quo?

    Unlike others, I believe in the US as a system and I will never loose my faith (yes it is faith, as there is no evidence that such belief is warranted at this point in time) that the US will do the right thing – of course after it tries everything else first (paraphrasing from Churchill).

  15. Santana said

    I agree with Kirk’s comment about the ignorance in Washington as far as Iraq Policy. I meet with many Congressmen from House Affars and Senators on the Senate Foreign Relations or Armed Services…I have learned that during these meetings I must either tone down the amount of detail or thoroughly explain the basics before making a pitch…cuz my hair stands on it’s end when a Congressman will interrupt a very strong point I am making and will ask ” so is Maliki a Shiite or a Sunni?” stuff like this just kills my whole presentation ! Here I just got done talking about some things that are so basic to everyone on this blog and BOOM I get a question that sends a strong message that these guys are clueless…other brilliant questions asked..” How is the relationship between Daawa and State of the Law” ? ” Who won in the elections”? ……etc…it depresses me because we are talking about guys that may have a hand in U.S Foreign Policy and they are clueless…the only groups that have some idea of what is going on are State and NSC….and both are heavily lobbied and influenced by the Talabani side of KRG and they spew all sorts of self-serving poisons and wrong info. Talabani’s lobbyists support Maliki and try and show him as a poor bastard pushing for Democracy and power sharing against unbelievable odds. State is under the gun to keep Obama and his flawed resolutions and plans going even if it throws Iraq into a tailspin.I get more calls from State asking me to talk some sense into Allawi about some tasreeh he made or that other Iraqiya members made VS what Maliki does…in other words the message from them clearly resonates that according to State and NSC EVERYONE is a problem except “al-Maskeen “Maliki.

  16. observer said

    Then Qubadh just does not know what is best for the Kurds as a whole and only cares about PUK’s side of the business. Rather short sighted if you ask me, but then again suli is right next door to Iran and there is the crude oil business to protect. All politics are local after all – in the words of Tip O’Niel.

  17. Observer,
    I share your faith in the American system, if the US exported its own system to Iraq then we would not have been in this mess. The US saw reality not through its own eyes but through its allies’ (this is not just my own assertion, it is a statement from Bush’s official policy of preemptive regional strategy ).
    The ineptitude of its experts, like in Santana’s comment, must have played a part. The experts may have recommended sectarian division in response to allies fears rather than American style secularism in response to US’s own interest.

  18. Salah said


    All those congressional representatives and other US officials not reading any news or reports come out by either Iraqi or others talking about Iraq statues and what going on?

    Are they really readers or not just waiting for lobbyists to feed them…

    So surprising shocking

  19. Jason said

    Democracy tends to be messy. IMO, a lot of what we are seeing in Iraq is an expected byproduct of channeling all those raw passions and ambitions in a way that requires broad consensus and refuses to allow any single individual to assume too much power. That doesn’t mean it’s not working – only that the passions and ambitions are running very high and may take longer to boil down into a working consensus. The obstinacy of the players reminds me of our debt-ceiling debate.

    That said, I don’t understand how we failed to set up an independent supreme court or to have term limits for PM. I tend to agree that those are serious failures. A court is needed to referee and keeps the players from bending the rules too far, and term limits would relieve the fear of a new permanent dictator. I was following along, but I can’t remember now why that didn’t get done.

    Reidar, you’re correct. I was confusing Bolani with Jabr. Thanks.

  20. Mohammed said

    First of all, let me preface this email by saying I have the utmost respect for you based on your writings, convictions, and passion (or at least that I can infer from your masterful writings!). I must admit that I am at a disadvantage since you are in the thick of things, and I am a mere observer (sorry for the pun). You said that my theories/explanations have “holes” in them. Well, allow me to retort. Many of your assertions also don’t seem to be consistent (at least to me). Where to begin?

    You said: “What does Iran do to get what it wants? Either Maliki is an independent agent or he is not. “

    How do you define independent? We all agree that Iran has way too much nefarious influence in Iraq (via trade, spy networks, arming sadrists and their offshoots, ISCI, etc). State of Law is not a majority in parliament, and for al-Maliki to keep his job he relies on support of the other shia groups and kurds. As long as he is reliant upon having a majority in parliament, he cannot afford to fight Iraqiya (and their backers) and Iran. Who is independent? Is Obama independent? Can Obama announce that he is suspending US aid to Israel until they sign a deal with the Palestinians? Hell no. The Israelis have a powerful lobby and influence American decision making—at times even to the detriment of America’s national interests. Here we are talking about the most powerful country in the world that succumbs to the demands of a tiny country half the world away. Compare that to an Iraq that can’t even defend itself from the puny Kuwaitis much less Iran. I believe Kirk answered the rest of my points about Maliki vs Iran. In short, al-Maliki would like nothing better than to crush ISCI and Sadrists if he could—as long as their supporters fall under his umbrella. You insinuated as much in one of your emails (to the best of my understanding this is what you were implying: Allawi did not want to leave ISCI and Sadrists out in the cold because he feared Dawa would dominate the shiite electorate, and then Dawa would become too powerful to stop).

    Observer, the real question I think is coming down to: “Who are you more worried about, Iran or al-Maliki?”

    You keep emphasizing your contention that: “The bottom line is that Maliki and Da3wa are another face of the politics of the Baath. A single ideology (in Da3wa’s case, it is god mandated – albeit Ethna 3ashari based- as opposed to the chauvinistic basis of Baath) that is the center of its existence.”

    Honestly, I would much rather have a secular system like you describe. But you can’t shove secularism down the throats of people just like you can’t shove religion down the throats of people. Is America truly a secular system? Governor Rick Perry of Texas (catapulted to be a new front runner for republicans) had 30,000 people over for a “prayer” breakfast a week before launching his bid to become president. Obviously, he is banking on his Christian credentials to win the primary. When is the last time a non-church going man became president of the USA? Never!! An atheist, forget about it… Jump to Iraq where there is a large Shia segment of the population that one can compare to the Christian belt of America. Allawi simply cannot compete for that vote.

    I do not agree that Da3wa is another face of baathism. First of all, by virtue of its religious politics, al Da3wa is never going to be running Musul, Fallouja, or Ramadi anytime soon since those are Sunni cities. They may dominate the south and Baghdad, but Da3wa appeal can go no further than that as the elections demonstrated. For Iraq to be governed effectively, al-Maliki needs partners outside of al-Da3wa. Simply put, al-Da3wa just does not have the potential to dominate all of Iraq like the baathists did.

    Finally, can you please explain how al-Maliki is not willing to allow partners to share in building the state (as you said Allawi wants to do). Iraqiya has many important ministries. I asked you last time: what is preventing an Iraqiya-designated Electricity minister from developing a viable strategy for electricity for the country? Agriculture? Education? Healthcare? If I was al-Maliki, I would think it is in my interest to be seen as the prime minister that was responsible for returning Iraq back to her rightful place as a leading country (it would make the other shiite parties very weak, and consolidate his control). Why not focus on those matters (where there is convergence of interests for all Iraqis) instead of a national security council just so Allawi has a semblance of power (that goes against the constitution?)

    Observor, I apologize to you and the rest on this forum. I do not doubt your patriotism or intelligence. I am very proud to know that we have Iraqis like you working there. (Reidar you deserve honorary Iraqi citizenship for your incredible knowledge and how you put up with us). I frequently keep up with the news, and discuss these issues with people living in Iraq, and these are my unanswered questions. I would rather a Jew or Hindu ran Iraq as long he or she was just and competent. However, the groups competing for power now (including Iraqiya and Da3wa) strike me as prioritizing politics over joint prosperity for all Iraqis. And throw on top of that—neighbors like Iran and Saudi Arabia that act like wolves.

  21. observer said

    Dear Muhammad,
    I do not want this forum to be a political debate society. So I will be quick.

    My contention is that Da3wa (and other Islamic based parties) only speak of democracy- they do not believe in it. Their central tenant of Islam is in conflict with democracy (or at least one man/person=one vote). They instead believe either in Wiliat al Faqeeh or Khalifa, depending on sects. They claim that that is democratic and Islam is the first democracy as they choose the leader (faqeeh/khalifa) through the Shorah process. Which when you think about it is more like an elitist democracy but reserved only for those who are Muslims and not any Muslim, but rather religious shiekhs only.

    So the recent conversion of these Islamic parties to popular Jeffersonian democracy is simply practicing Taqya with the west telling the west what the west would like to hear but in the same instance they act to counter it with Machiavellian dexterity.

    Here is what I am afraid of.. becoming Iran like. Iran, recall, had a free election – but only one when they chose to have Wiliat al Faqeeh in hteir constitution in 1979. Since then, they have had free choice between Islamic 1 or Islamic 2. Nothing different than the elections of Iraq during the Baath days of the national assembly. You had a free choice between Baathi 1 and Baathi 2.

    You are free not to believe my contention…. But you do not live in Iraq and you do not have to suffer the consequences of giving Da3wa the benefit of doubt. Frankly, i contend that I have much vested in the success of democracy in Iraq. While I have the option of going back to the US and live the good life, I fear that there are millions of Iraqis that have no such option and have lived their entire lives under the oppression of a single party system and paid life, blood, treasure for their unfortunate lot in life of being born in Iraq after 1950.

    Moreover, I feel that it is my duty as a naturalized US citizen to have my adopted country do the right thing to the country of my birth. Maybe that is naive (or passionate as you call it), but so be it.

    On what Maliki can do to have partners (as opposed to using the power of the state to deprive his opponents of power). When Allawi became a prime minister he gave Barham Saleh more power and more control over spending than he gave his own ministers. Barham had the authority to distribute 200 million dollars a month on contracts to improve the infrastructure of Iraqi cities. Maliki on the other hand pulled that same authority from his VP’s and his ministers. You get partners when you treat people as real partners not as competitors. Now it is true that Maliki competes with ISCI and Sadris in the She3a religious vote… but what has he got to fear from the Sunnies and Secularist. We are a minority after all – given the interpretation of the court as to what constitutes a winning block) – yeh that is a dig at the constitutionality of Maliki’s rule in this term.

  22. Nathaniel said

    I’d like to pose a question to all of you (and this is sort of a continuation from the discussion in the comments to the previous entry on the strategic council bill). What should Allawi’s political strategy be going forward? I appreciate Observor’s remarks about Allawi’s vision for Iraq and, despite my criticisms of him, I tend to agree that it is a good one. My problem is that, by prioritizing the Strategic Council, he is pursuing a dead-end (the 80% requirement and the composition of the council virtually guarantees that the Council will recreate Iraq’s political stalemate in miniature). History is littered with visionary leaders who failed to appreciate the important of politics. So what are the steps, in the short term, that Allawi should take to facilitate the realization of his vision?

  23. observer said

    The original vision for the council was to have a 50% + 1 but Da3wa has been steadfast that it be a consultative body only. And hence the delay. The 80% is calculated by Da3wa to make the council dead in the water. Iraqiya is still not sure that the law will pass as is and it is an attempt by Iraqya to TRY everything possible to make the agreement of Irbil a reality. Now what Allawi wants to do is not clear. I know that he has not made up his mind if he would even run for the head of the council or not. I think, however, that Allawi has very good relations with Kurds (Barazani at least), Hakim, and of course his block. I go back to the days of the opposition meetings and I recall that Allawi’s skill was in shuttling between meetings late at night to bring the different parties together to get to a common position. I think that much can be done in setting policies for the country. Whether Maliki will follow the policies is another matter entirely. But most of all it will give Allawi a platform and ways to contrast himself to Maliki in preparation for the next elections … Trust me, Da3wa knows that.

    nathan – what is the thinking in the think tank world regarding the move by Maliki to grant the minister of electricity his retirement, and and protective forces in exchange for the minister resignation?, also are there any raised brows on the use of Maliki of the judiciary as an extension of his own power?

    I am just surprised at the silence. Practically the only place that speaks of these issues is this blog…

  24. observer said

    And Muhammad,
    Not that i want to promote debate here, but one thought just struck me about your contrast of Perry with Maliki or more like the US vs Iraq. I think there is flaw in your logic. It is ok for religious people to participate in the political process and assert their religious beliefs by selecting candidates that share their faith, but it is not ok (at least to me) to have a monopoly by one party on the opinions (and votes) of an entire faith. Do you contend that there are no religious people in the Democratic party? Contrastingly, do you contend that the She3a that voted for Iraqia are not “pure” she3a? Do you see the flaw?

  25. Santana said

    Nathaniel- The way things are going and the growing inflexibility, arrogance and ego of Maliki with no willingness to share at all then there are two options for Allawi as I see it- a re-elections or work towards a ” CIA& Turkish” backed violent overthrow of Daawa and the Sadrists into “mazbalat Al-Tareekh” (History’s trash) and the sooner the better.

  26. Reidar Visser said

    In that case I really hope he opts for elections!!

  27. “Kirk,
    Do you think that Allawi is stupid to accept a position without power? Do you think that Barazani would betray Allawi and have a double deal with Maliki just to get the government formed? I think not on both accounts.”

    Observer – I wouldn’t say that Allawi is stupid, but he is inept as a politician and his conduct – never attending parliament, living outside the country much of the year, campaigning mainly through Sunni media – makes it clear he is not the right person to be leading the secular Shia opposition to Maliki. I think Iraqiya would be much better off if he were to retire from politics and let someone more qualified do it.

    As for Barzani “betraying” Allawi, Barzani’s loyalty has never been to Allawi to betray. It is to his party and the Kurds more generally. Yes, both Barzani and Talabani have long-standing personal relationships with Allawi. But that is a secondary consideration. Maliki was offering the best deal the Kurds could expect since ISCI clearly wasn’t going to be dominant again, and the Maliki-Kurd deal was effectively wrapped up by the Irbil summit, and with Sunni party leaders within Iraqiya negotiating bilaterally with Maliki, Allawi had no choice but to accept what was on the table, or else be opposition leader. He clearly has no taste for the latter.

  28. observer said

    You can not be serious – violent overthrow! Don’t even jest.

  29. Reidar Visser said

    About Bulani and Allawi: One thing I keep asking is why they didn’t manage to do the merger a long time ago, i.e. before the 2010 parliamentary elections, when the issue was being discussed. It could have been electoral dynamite, but I guess personal issues intervened as they so often do in Iraqi politics.

    And of course there is the Maliki-Bulani relationship. Bulani at one point in summer 2009 seemed close to form an electoral alliance with Maliki. Some commentators say the Saudis intervened to prevent it; not sure if that is correct or not.

  30. Kirk,
    I agree that Allawi should attend parliament more and should focus on winning Shia votes, I said it before, maybe he needs better campaign advisers, but is he “inept” when compared with Maliki? Come on!
    The choice in front of the Iraqi voter is limited, Allawi is a democrat and a statesman which is more than you can say about the rest of them.

  31. observer said

    i am sorry to say that a person with a service called “inside Iraq politics” does not appear to understand the intricacies of the relationship between Allawi and Barazani (mutual trust) on the one hand and Allawi and Talabani (mutual hate) on the other nor appears to be clued in on the personal nature of Iraqi politics. Do recall that Barazani on no less than 4 times publically stated that Allawi should be given the PMship. do you think that comes out of a vacuume, or is it Barazani’s respect for the constitution of Iraq? Don’t bother answering – it is a rhetorical question.

    You are free to think of Allawi’s (or Chalabi’s, or Hakim’s, etc.) capability as a politician, but let me tell you that you need to know at least 20 years of dealings between Iraqi opposition figures before understanding how the system works. All I will say at this point is that the only one that has consistently been able to bring all the parties together to agreement was Allawi. I was present in many opposition meetings and witnessed first hand the drama and I know who is responsible for solving issues and bringing people together towards a common solution. As for Allawi’s campaign and popular vote getting. Oh – yeh, he is inept. He actually refused to go negative on Jaafary, and Maliki. His position is that we have to always be positive and focus on what we can do not what others have done. Oh you should have been present at the media meetings. A politician who does not wan to go negative, when the opposition campaign was limited to “if you vote for allawi, you are voting for Baath”. Yes I agree, he is inept at campaigning indeed.

    As for the “deal Maliki” offered. Let me tell you that the Kurds KNEW that he will not execute any of his promises – I know this first hand by the way. The pressure was increasing after 7 months of a stale mate and the pressure was from the US and IRAN. Allawi was appraised of all the “side negotiations” by the negotiators themselves and Maliki’s attempts to “bribe” leaders from iraqiya through Shabander and others are well known and Allawi was briefed hour by hour and event by event. All the partners in the “system” understand that they individually can not run Iraq (except Maliki/da3wa thinks that he/they can). I repeat the council was actually a revival of an older idea from 2006 intended to provide for a true partnership to come to decisions. Maliki signed it with his fingers crossed and I will admit that Allawi did not think that Maliki would be able to delay the process this long.

    Tell me, by the way, who of the block leaders attends Parliament on regular basis. You do know that block leaders have a special dispensation with regards to attendance right? Not that I support Allawi not attending parliament. But the nature of Iraqi politics is that it is all about deal making between leaders of the blocks. Another fault of the political system of this marvelous piece of art promulgated by the constitutional committee. One of these days the numbers from the referendum on the constitution will be published and it will be clear that it should have failed except for some creative dropping of “suspicious” ballot boxes in Naynawa.

  32. Jason said

    Observer and Muhammad, The difference between the role of religion in government in the U.S. is that while it often guides our politicians’ thinking and core beliefs on the personal and individual level, we have a very strong, independent supreme court that will ruthlessly prevent any direct entanglement and strenuously protect minority rights.

  33. Salah said

    I agree that Allawi should attend parliament more and should focus on winning Shia votes,

    Faisalkadri, I don’t know if your statement truth in it?

    Not just, Allawi having fewer intendancies to parliamentary suasions, other politicians also may doing same of attendance as Allawi.
    Looks there are more factors gaining votes far from attending parliament suasions.

  34. Salah,
    Other politicians not attending should have been an incentive for Allawi to attend, he could have attended just a little more than the rest and make it a positive point in his favor.

  35. Nathaniel said

    Hmm, for some reason I haven’t been getting email updates about new comments.


    I think you only partially addressed my question. As a viable political strategy, I don’t think Allawi will get the 50 + 1 formulation he wants. There’s just not enough Parliamentary support for it (and, to be completely honest, there are constitutional problems with the Council as Allawi wants it–not that constitutional barriers have mattered much recently). I think you’re absolutely correct that pursuing full implementation of the Erbil agreement is good (in addition to just focusing on the Council). For one thing, as was implied by your comment, it gives Iraqiyya an opportunity to expand ties with the Kurds, particularly given that Barzani’s reputation is on the line. But this is just one component of an effective political strategy, not a strategy in and of itself.

    Also, I’m not a good spokesperson for the think tank world. I do research for an organization, but I’m not in DC so I don’t attend the meetings, events, etc. to be able to network with other people in the field and pick their brains. However, as a reader and consumer of think tank products, I can tell you that not many of them are even discussing the issues you raised. Most think tanks are dealing with broader geo-strategic issues (and seem fixated, almost singularly obsessed), with the American drawdown. There are a couple organizations that deal with Iraqi politics. I don’t know what the protocol is here for pointing to other sites, so I won’t name names unless Reidar says it’s ok.

    Also, I do want to acknowledge that there are large gaps in my knowledge about Iraqi politics. Obviously, I have my thoughts and opinions, but one thing I truly enjoy about this blog is the opportunity to learn from people more knowledgeable than myself, particularly from those involved in the process.


    I think you’re second option would be absolutely catastrophic. As to your first option, that is a long term strategy, but what I’m inquiring about is a strategy in the meantime. Allawi and Iraqiyya clearly have a large swath of support within Iraq, as the last elections demonstrate. I certainly understand your frustration with the process up to this point. As I see it, however, one of the main reasons we are where we are isn’t so much because of inevitability, but that al-Maliki played the political game better.

    Kirk brings up a good point, though. Maybe Allawi is just bad for Iraqiyya and secular nationalism in general. I’m not saying I agree, but it’s something worth thinking about.


    Don’t make the mistake of confusing good politics with good policy. Evidence of Allawi’s ineptness, politically, is that he was not able to leverage his strong showing in the elections into any real political power. al-Maliki outmaneuvered him at every turn. Granted, he had both US and Iranian meddling to contend with, but still, for having done so well, he shouldn’t have ended up so marginalized.

  36. Nathaniel,
    I think you are desperately wrong, it wasn’t Maliki who outmaneuvered Allawi, it was Talbani who delayed the process unconstitutionally until conditions favorable for Maliki existed. I said it on several occasions. Here we have a situation where the president acts against the constitution and gets away with it with the blessing of the US, this is no mere maneuvering, it’s a precedent with far reaching consequences, a really dumb move by the US.

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