Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Political-Majority Alternative to the Current Iraqi Government: Conceptual Confusion among Iraqi Politicians

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 3 September 2011 20:09

Several Iraqi politicians have used the last days of the Eid to send public messages about their political visions. Unfortunately, these statements contain few grounds for optimism – whether related to completion of the current Maliki government or the formation of a new government.

One of these voices is that of Ammar al-Hakim, the current leader of ISCI and a returned exile, who spent more than two years from 2005 to 2008 in a futile bid to convince the population of the Shiite-majority governorates south of Baghdad to join together in a new, all-Shiite federal entity. ISCI subsequently lost much of its influence thanks to poor performances in the January 2009 local elections and the March 2010 parliamentary ones.

Most recently, in his Eid address, Hakim once more proved his limited ability to grasp new currents in Iraqi politics. Hakim reportedly said he would “welcome a political-majority government” if it meant “deepening the representation of the social components in Iraq”!

The whole point of the concept of the political-majority government – as it emerged mainly in the rhetoric of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki following his successful performance in the local elections of January 2009 – is to create an antithesis to the concept of power-sharing based on ethno-sectarian quotas. A political-majority government would ignore any considerations related to “the components of the Iraqi people”, and would instead focus on issue-based political agreement. Such a government would probably include Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Turkmens because Iraq is a mixed society, but this would not be the primary consideration governing its composition. Rather, political views, ability and competence would be the main criteria in the selection of ministers. This in turn might produce patterns of ethno-sectarian participation in the government that diverged somewhat from a proportional model, but such a result would result from historical accident rather than from a systematic attempt at excluding anyone on the basis of ethnicity or sect. For example, throughout the monarchy era there was systematic under-representation of Shiites, but at least in some periods this had to do with the legacy of poor Shiite education during the late Ottoman period. Similarly, Shiites are over-represented on the Iraqi national soccer team, thanks not least to the fact that Shiites did very well in sports during the days of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Of course, Maliki himself has travelled a long way from the principles he professed in 2009. Lately, his attempt at defining the defence ministry as a “Sunni” prerogative that could be held by any Sunni (and preferably one with no links to his rivals in the secular Iraqiyya) has taken him quite far in the direction of contradictions reminiscent of those of Hakim. In 2011 Maliki has been trying to build an alternative rainbow coalition of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, except that the numbers simply do not add up. Basically, Maliki’s strategy seems based on an unrealistic take on what sort of “Sunni” support he can drum up from dissenters in Iraqiyya. Much like Saddam Hussein, Maliki is paying lip service to the concept of Iraqi nationalism and “political majorities”, but in practice he is continuing to recruit from a very narrow ideological and sectarian platform. Thus, when a Maliki ally recently stated that the concept of “balance” (tawazun, a concept used mostly by the Kurds but recently also sometimes by Iraqiyya to demand ethno-sectarian quotas) would “consecrate sectarian divisions and harm the political process”, he was right and wrong at the same time: True, it would be better to ignore quotas if an ideological alternative that could achieve a majority really existed, but the State of Law bloc seems singularly incapable of increasing its number of deputies beyond its Shiite Islamist core to the point where this kind of lofty ideal might be turned into reality.

For their part, Iraqiyya have perhaps been the loudest advocates of withdrawing confidence in the existing government or calling new elections. Lately, Talal al-Zubawi envisioned a coalition of 180 deputies from Iraqiyya, “some of the Kurds”, ISCI and the Sadrists that would withdraw confidence from Maliki. That would be a real “political-majority” alternative. If it existed in the real world, that is. The trouble is that few things other than their hatred of Maliki bring these groups together. In the case of the Sadrists, in particular, one can easily get the impression that their participation in the “political-majority” alternative to Maliki is mainly a smokescreen designed to obtain further concessions from Maliki in the current government – which in turn might further emphasise sectarian antagonisms within it. Zubawi’s allusion to a Kurdish split on what to do with Maliki is nonetheless interesting in itself.

Constitutionally, there are two possible ways to forming a new Iraqi government: Withdrawal of confidence in the current government and the formation of a new one based on the presidential prerogative of identifying the “biggest bloc” in parliament, or new elections altogether. Since Iraqiyya appear somewhat distrustful of President Jalal Talabani – still considered a Maliki ally – their most likely preference would be new elections. But in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, Iraqiyya leader Ayyad Allawi hinted at another problem: Those elections would have to be conducted with an impartial judiciary. That in turn illustrates the dilemma of Iraqiyya in deciding whether to participate in the current government in order to bring about reform from within, or opting for a more radical course such as new elections.

36 Responses to “The Political-Majority Alternative to the Current Iraqi Government: Conceptual Confusion among Iraqi Politicians”

  1. This is one of your best articles Reidar; clear, concise summary of the Iraqi political scene at this point in time.
    My only comment regarding Allawi’s suggestion of impartial judiciary, which can be fudged like so many institutions in Iraq, I guess you know where I am leading to :))

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Thanks for that Faisal. To be honest, I think the biggest problem with these scenarios may be that the Sadrists are just bluffing. They probably want to heap pressure on Maliki for the sake of their own interests. I suspect the same is the case with respect to much of ISCI and even some of those Kurds who periodically criticise Maliki.

    Which may leave no other option than to work within the existing framework, though I suspect that is probably too late now. I do think Maliki was more comfortable with the role he played in 2009 (nationalist, dominant versus other Shiites, critical of Kurdish separatism, some distance to Iran etc.), but the only way for Iraqiyya to make him hold on to that would have been to deliberately exclude certain players from the coalition such as the rest of the Shiites or even the Kurds. Instead, thanks to the persistent calls by Iraqiyya and the Kurds for “tawazun” (ethno-sectarian balance) and strategic policy councils, Maliki himself will get ever more sectarian and closer to Iran. Incidentally, there are multiple reports this morning that he will visit Tehran shortly, ostensibly to deal with border issues, but more likely for some serious “consultations” regarding the state of play in Iraq and maybe also Syria.

  3. observer said

    Reidar,
    Just out of curiosity, do you think that it is ok for politicians to change their basic principals as easily as Maliki does/did?

    In your own words, Maliki and Da3wa proclaimed the mantel of nationalism above sectarianism in 2009 and won a large proportion of the seats in the governorates.. Then he changes to sectarianism as a reaction to Iraqia (at least according to my understanding of your words – I maybe wrong, so please do not let me push words into your mouth). If I understand you correctly, it is a survival strategy for Da3a/Maliki to go back to their sectarian roots. But to my mind it was a bluff in the first place to proclaim a nationalistic non-sectarian approach by a party whose core essence is a sectarian belief (they are not just she3a, but they are ethna 3ashari she3a). In other words, the pretense of nationalistic approach was just smoke and mirrors and I am surprised that even you appear to be unable to see through the smoke.

    Again, I would like to bring to the fore the issue of Iranian closeness to Maliki. Does not the US see this? Why does the DOS still state that they are confident that Maliki is not a friend of Iran? What more evidence is needed for them to see the obvious? I am simply trying to understand the logic.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, just to be clear, I think Maliki would have preferred to be seen as an Iraqi nationalist and to be free of Iranian influences and I think he stuck to this policy right down to the 7 March 2010 elections – remember his trouble with the de-Baathification committee which tried to disqualify some of his people in Najaf on the eve of the elections. After the results emerged he got desperate and opted for plan B, which is to hang on to power no matter what, if need be with Iranian support. This is what we are seeing today, but that does not negate the fact that Maliki’s conflict with the Iranians during the first half of 2009 seemed very real.

    I don’t think the coexistence of lofty political ideals with sinister survival strategies is unique to Maliki. Look at Allawi and the contradictions between his nationalist/secular ideals and the company he has been keeping for the past few years, consisting mainly of separatists and pro-Iranian confederalists among the Kurds and ISCI.

  5. observer said

    Reidar,
    I think Allawi is one of the few that has not yielded to tactical changes of fundamental positions. Had he been willing to change his tactics, he would have joined the Sadris and ISCI in the elections sans the sunnis in Iraqia and would have been PM as a result. I am aware of several high level delegations from Sadirs and ISCI that offered him unbelievable deals if had acquiesced. Your position is no different than that of DOS/USG in justifying Maliki’s actions despite the obvious dichotomy of his positions vis-a-vis Iran and the US interests (of course this is based on the assumption that there is no tactical/strategic agreement between Iran and the US vis-a-vis Iraq). I am wondering to what degree do you want to be certain that there is Iranian influence in Da3wa/Maliki before looking at the need to changing the policies of the US vis-a-vis supporting Malikis grab on the reigns of power?

    Allawi’s work with ISCI/Sadris and the Kurds is based on the fear that Da3wa is another face of the same organizational structure and operational procedures of the Baath, except with a religious cloth. I have stated here before that the Iraqi experience with Baath (68 to 79) is especially important to study to understand the fear of Da3wa. Furthermore, Allawi’s/Iraqya view of nationalist/secular ideals is that de-centralization is not counter to a strong Iraqi state. The federal government is intended to control major issues and services are supposed to be controlled locally. Why do services have to go through the Baghdad filter?
    Peace

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, I beg to differ with some of that. Sure, we can go back to the 1980s. At the time, Daawa in fact resisted the wilayat al-faqih concept of the Iranian revolution so much they had to leave Iran. By way of contrast, SCIRI remained 100% loyal to the Khomeini/Khamenei line and could stay in Iran. In other words, I think you are imposing an essentialist interpretation of Maliki that fails to account for some of the things he did in 2008-2009 that were not to Iran’s liking. In my interpretation, Maliki can be both sectarian and nationalist, but Allawi’s personal dislike of him is apparently sufficiently strong that the narrative of the “secretive Daawa” with “totalitarian” tendencies came to prevail in Iraqiyya circles. I must admit I found that narrative quite compelling the first time I was exposed to it myself by someone close to Allawi, but I have gradually concluded that much of it involves a rather selective and biased version of the history of the Shiite Islamist movements in the 1980s and 1990s.

    As for ISCI, I think their inclusion as a potential partner for Iraqiyya is simply wishful thinking. I suspect Allawi is talking too much to Adel abd al-Mahdi and maybe Ammar al-Hakim and not enough to the more traditional Badr elements. Here is how an ISCI politician today refuted the idea of an Iraqiyya-led coalition to withdraw confidence from Maliki:

    استبعد المجلس الأعلى الإسلامي الذي يتزعمه عمار الحكيم، الأحد، إمكانية نجاح تحالف النواب الـ180 المقترح لتشكيل حكومة أغلبية سياسية، وفي حين اعتبر أن القائمة العراقية تطرح الموضوع في هذا الوقت لأغراض سياسية، معتبرا أن الضغط على الحكومة سيؤدي الى إجبارها على تقديم الخدمات.

    وقال النائب عن المجلس فالح الساري في حديث لـ”السومرية نيوز”، إن “التصريحات بشأن حجب الثقة عن الحكومة الحالية وتشكيل حكومة أغلبية سياسية من خلال تحالف النواب الـ180 المقترح يشكل ضغطاً سياسياً على بعض الكتل المتصدية للسلطة”، مستبعداً في الوقت نفسه “إمكانية تشكيل مثل تلك الحكومة من أولئك النواب في هذا الوقت”.

  7. Santana said

    Hi Guys,

    I apologize for not posting for the last few weeks due to some hectic travel in the region. Reidar-I agree with Faisal that this is a great article and very timely ! I am impressed that Faisal was able to keep from mentioning the UN and only hinted at it- I think the UN would definitly fit the bill but I think we are climbing on rainbows.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Observer on just about everything he mentioned (we may have been seperated at birth LOL !)….as far as the biggest puzzle of all regarding why the USG still supports Maliki …..I spoke to a Washington analyst that belongs to a very low-key group- different than any other analysts, advisors, think-tankers,historians that I have ever run into….etc.. ..I was told that this is a very tight group that are invited to the Whitehouse and the Upper brass at State and Pentagon on a regular basis and that these 4 or 5 guys did not come out of the same “ticky-tacky” box that most analysts came from……so I was pulling my hair out asking him why the USG continues to support Maliki when his true colors have come out and his covert relation to Tehran is no longer a secret. What he told me was pretty much in line with what I suspected and have posted on here in the past….he said that it is no secret that State, NSC , Pentagon….etc…are all-at the moment -pretty dissappointed with Maliki and everyone truly believed that the Maliki of 2008- 2009 is exactly what Iraq needs ! Well, had they known last year what they know now then Maliki would never been selected as the “Default-Candidate”…but anyway-it’s too late now – so after listening to what he had to say and some others anlysts I have talked to while in the region-I have concluded that what the U.S is banking on right now is the almost certain weakening of Iran-in other words everyone can see that Iran is quickly losing ground everywhere- Asad will be flushed down the toilet soon, Hezbollah to follow, Hamas and Iran are going thru a divorce, the Houthis have been marginilized and Bahrain was an embarrassment for Iran…..so Ahmedenejad is under the Mullah’s microscope with elections coming up in Iran….the Mullahs can see that all that is really left from their grand plans for a Persian Empire is Iraq ……things are happening very fast and this is why the U.S desperatly needs to maintain a presence in Iraq beyond 2011. This presence is needed to keep an eye on the new Syrian government, an eye on Lebanon, an eye on Maliki, Iran’s Nuclear facilities, keeping Israel from doing any dumb pre-emptive stuff……..etc…so the extension is really what is a top priority for the USG and there were several meetings with SOL representatives and U.S State dept recently (meetings by the lake)……. the Daawa guys expressed reluctance in allowing Iraqiya pick the MOD for fear of a coup against Maliki -the US guys kept a straight face and tried not to laugh and did not even deny that and actually want SOL to believe that !! Then they offered SOL guarantees that no coup will happen while U.S forces were in Iraq therefore leveraging SOL’s fear to get the extension the U.S so badly wants……..when it didn’t come the U.S finally realized that major decisions like extension of troops in Iraq is something that Maliki cannot do on his own and that Iran calls the shots on anything that important. So the SOL-USG talks on this stopped last month…..to me this is the turning point that has finally convinced the U.S that he must go……So I think there is a plan brewing right now to do something about Maliki but execution will only be when the time is right and Iran hits a new low. The feeling in DC is that any action the U.S makes right now in support of Iraqiya would be foolish…..and as far as Iraqiya -the USG feels they can wait and time is on Iraqiya’s side provided it stays in one piece, till the plan is activated…. this to me may explain why nothing is being done against Maliki and in fact shows that the U.S still supports the bastard…….in my opinion- Maliki will be given a verbal ultimatum by a smiling “Langley” associate in a corridor outside the PM’s office….”accept the extension or suffer the consequences”…..and if there is no extension then the Maliki file at Langley will eventually read ………………”Terminated with extreme prejudice”…..LOL……………!!!!

  8. observer said

    Reidar,
    If you know the details of what Maliki is doing with personnel assignments inside the military and police ranks, you will have additional evidence but I am not going to go there now. There is enough evidence in my opinion to indicate that he wants to be the bottle neck in decisions and that he wants to centralize the power. But I suppose we can wait for more evidence, let us just hope that it would not be too late by then,

    As for ISCI.. I have stated previously that there must be a counter balance to Da3wa… One need not give them all the time in the world to control the entire she3a street. As for pronouncements – the only disciplined group regarding pronouncements seems to be the Kurds !!!
    peace – got to run

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, good to have you back. My worry is that if Iran gets weakened throughout the region it may well try to hold on even harder in Iraq, and will try to push Maliki in an ever more sectarian direction. And if the USG policy is indeed turning towards threatening Maliki on the general question of a continued US presence instead of encouraging specific steps towards real integration of the govt (giving Iraqiyya defence) then I fear that the whole thing may well unravel sooner than you would think.

    Santana and Observer, you may well be twins, but let me gently remind you that you still seem to disagree about policies towards the Kurds, if not towards ISCI!

  10. observer said

    Santana, good information and makes sense but frankly it also shows a weakness in the USG as far as their understanding of the basics of the players. It is mind boggling that they all believed that Maliki somehow saw the light and decided to become nationalistic over riding the sectarian roots of his party is seriously flawed to begin with, but also the fact that they assumed that his whole party would skew with Maliki is even a worse sin. But I suppose Churchill (as always) is right. The US will do the right thing — after trying everything else first.

    Reidar, those of us supporting Iraqia need not be completely in agreement. I can tell you though that in my previous discussions with Allawi I see that he and I are close (not completely compatible) on the issue of Kurdish rights and aspirations. I have no idea who Santana is and I am not familiar with his stance vis-a-vis Kurdish rights – but the tent is pretty large and it is impossible to get a 100% agreement between any two given people, let alone a group as wide ranging as those who are standing under the Iraqia tent.

    PS
    santana – Maliki is going to Iran in a day or so. I see significance in the timing… Anybody that thinks that the Iranians play like cowboys is sadly mistaken. Expect a new and improved Maliki policy. The Sadris might even be told to tone down their rhetoric. Asad is done. Iran knows it. They have to adjust and redraw the basic plan in response.

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, I guess what I meant is that I find it amazing that the Iraqiyya tent is so big when it comes to such a momentous question as the basic structure of the state! Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I always think it is a good thing when Iraqi secularists manage to stay united in a single political movement.

  12. observer said

    reidar,
    To be honest, there are sunni extremists under the tent of Iraqia that I would like to see gone…. There will be disagreement inside Iraqia when it come to Kirkuk but there are solutions to that problem that WILL create a win-win outcome – one hopes.

  13. Santana said

    Thanks Reidar and Observer- for the record my current position on the Kurds is somewhat mixed- I do not agree with all their 19 points/demands but I have softened up as far as Bi-Federation demands but I still believe the Kurds want complete autonomy and are working in that direction- regardless what they say in Iraq because I talk to their Washington lobbyists and this is one of the directives/objectives they are given by Qubad Talabani. As far as my position on ISCI- I don’t trust them one bit and they will always be loyal and follow the instructions of Tehran no matter what. Now, how this compares to Observer’s views I am not sure but regardless- it is healthy to have differing opinions while remaining United.

  14. observer said

    Santana – The truth is the majority of the Kurds want independence. That is undisputed and frankly it is a basic human rights issue. If you support the right of Palestinians for self determination then you have to support the Kurdish right for independence. This, however, is almost impossible int eh current geopolitical atmosphere with a large Kurdish population in Turkey and Iran wanting the same and given that the Turkish government and the Iranian government will not allow for the Kurdish portions to secede, then these two countries will not allow the Kurds of Iraq to separate and if the Kurds declared independence, then they will be starved economically (through taxes on exports of oil and imports)…… The leaders of Kurdistan know this better than anybody else but nobody has the courage to talk with honesty to their people.

    That said, I love what Barham’s vision of the future of the region will be which will bypass the nationhood of Kurdistan. An economic trading zone that knows no borders between Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and even Palestine and Israel. Unfortunately, I will be long gone to dust before such vision is a reality and meanwhile we have to solve the problem of Kirkuk which is about oil regardless of what anybody says. To solve it, one has to solve the basic oil income sharing and then approach Kirkuk with pragmatism. Declare it the federal capital of Iraq and the seat of the parliament or the summer capital or some special status that will save face of all the leaders from looking like they lost Kirkuk for their people and create a win-win-win dynamic. But before that happens, we have to have trust…or come to blows one more time…

    As for ISCI – The Islamic parties have constituency in Iraq and they have to have a vehicle. It is healthier for seculars to have a balance between the strength of ISCI and Da3wa and Sadris lest one party becomes dominant and hence will have a hegemony over politics in Iraq. Sort of the like the 40 years dominance of the Democratic party over the House of representatives.

  15. Salah said

    I think Maliki would have preferred to be seen as an Iraqi nationalist and to be free of Iranian influences
    Reidar

    What are your considerations from Maliki stand from “Arab Spring” in Syria? most of analysis saying he is following Iranian wishes more than “nationalism” wishes of Iraqis”

  16. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, yeah I think Maliki is showing his second, more sectarian and pro-Iranian face on this with his refusal to support calls for democracy in Syria. I see many of these elements as connected, i.e. Maliki’s pressure on the federal supreme court to manipulate the elections results in 2010, his turn to the “National Alliance” as a “Shiite” premier candidate, his calls for a “Sunni” defence minister etc. Maybe it has already gone too far, but I find it noteworthy that Maliki remains one of the few Iraqi political leaders that stand up against the mushrooming of federalist initiatives in the governorates, from Basra to Nineveh.

  17. Barham Saleh’s scenario is a good integrating solution for all the region, I think the biggest proponent of this scenario is Johan Galtung. The scenario is useful even as an aspiration because you can estimate the distance from the final status by the degree of fear which leads to sectarian and ethnic distrust, and which the Kurds have the most of.

  18. Tore said

    Kurdistan condemns draft Iraq oil law
    http://www.aknews.com/ar/aknews/2/260373/

  19. Reidar Visser said

    There is actually a connection between that item and the discussion above. I never understood how the Iraqi government had agreed on the draft oil law so swiftly and here is the explanation: the Kurds were probably absent from the brief meeting in which the law was “adopted”. That said – and here comes the link to our discussion – it is hard to understand how the Kurds could disagree with the government version but promote the parliament version. As far as I know the only major difference between the two drafts related to the role of the PM in chairing the oil and gas council in the govt version, but here the Kurds are talking about centralism and dictatorship etc. Either there have been more changes to the latest version of the government bill (and the report does indeed indicate that such changes exist), or the Kurds are not very serious about the parliament version of the bill which they co-sponsored with Iraqiyya – which is certainly something to think about for Iraqiyya in relation to wider coalition-forming questions.

  20. observer said

    http://www.aawsat.com//details.asp?section=4&issueno=11969&article=638852&feature=

    Reidar,
    Do you suppose that the Kurds are following the same “narrative” of Iraqia vis-a-vis Maliki’s “dictatorial” tendencies. Just more evidence to accumulate. By the way, there is grumbling inside the UIA regarding Maliki’s support of the Asad regime lately. I await with patience the results of Maliki’s visit to Tehran and to see what the Iranians reaction to the impending fall of the Asad regime. Maybe they will be more aggressive in Iraq and create problems for the US by increasing the speed of disintegration of Iraq. No Sofa. Maybe even attack the oil field workers to reduce the production of Iraqi oil. Plenty of options in their bag, but mostly options in which Iraqis will pay with blood and treasure. Maliki will have to decide if he is a Nationalist or will be in the form of all the arab despots (i.e. Keep his hands on the reigns of power even if it destroys his country).
    peace

  21. Sami Alaskary said

    Dear Mr. Visser,
    I am a regular reader of your articles. It is natural to agree with some of your ideas and analysis and disagree with other. But in genera; I like your deep understanding the situation in Iraq and the role of key players in my country. I do believe that Iraq missed a good opportunity to form a strong and workable government after last year general election. Iraqyia and state of law could form that strong government but the now it is unlikely to have that chance again unless they get rid of Allawi. If that not going to happen Maliki have no alternative but to rely on the support of the Sadrists and the Iranian backing.

  22. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar, remember when al-Maliki went to Qom to assure Iranian and Sadrist support for his second bid for Prime Minister? We don’t know exactly what they said there, but it seems that he made some certain agreements with the Mullahs there and is living up to them. At the time some thought Iranians had no other choice but the back him to prevent Iraqiya from gaining power, but it seems they knew what they were doing and they got a good deal out of him.

    Observer, as for Syria, there is no way al-Assad is going to fall without a foreign intervention. There is simply no force inside Syria which can topple him Even Khadafi, which has still not fully been deposed, would have still been in power if it wasn’t for the intervention, he was about to capture Benghazi when foreign forces attacked Libya and changed the course of events. Even Saleh in Yemen, which was already been faced by 3 insurgencies which have each expanded this year and has now been met with protests much larger than those in Syria + desertion of his own base which have now set up the JMP against him, is still technicaly in power despite all this armed opposition. In Syria the state security forces are more powerfull than those in Libya and Yemen, they also have more money, more friends and they haven’t lost any ground at all. So Western media may be talking about an “impending fall” of the al-Assad regime, but there is nothing which actualy indicates that that is about to happen.

    And remember, no Iraqi uprising ever managed to depose Saddam, either…

  23. Reidar Visser said

    Mr. Askary, many thanks for your comments. I was also once optimistic about an alliance between State of Law and Iraqiyya, especially in early 2009. At that time, however, despite the animosities between Maliki and Allawi, there seemed to be good relations between Maliki and Nujayfi/Mutlak. The past six months at least it seems to me that those relationships have deteriorated.

    Nonetheless, less than two weeks ago, Ahmad al-Jibburi of Iraqiyya, who is even from Nujayfi’s bloc, reiterated precisely the scenario of an alliance between State of Law and Iraqiyya:

    اعلن النائب عن القائمة العراقية احمد الجبوري عن سعي اغلب اعضاء القائمة العراقية الى تشكيل حكومة اغلبية سياسية مع دولة القانون .

    وقال :” ان عددا كبيرا من اعضاء القائمة العراقية يسعون الى تشيكل حكومة اغلبية سياسية تضم ائتلافهم مع دولة القانون وذلك بسبب فشل حكومة الشراكة الوطنية في تحقيق اهدافها “.

    I am unsure whether there is any substance to this.

    Kermanshahi, just a point of chronology: As far as I recall, Maliki was selected as the National Alliance nominee around 2 October 2010 whereas his Iran visit was on 18 October 2010.

  24. observer said

    Kerminshahi,
    I refer you to the invitation of the Syrian opposition to Russia of two days ago and last week’s pronouncements of Sakozy declaring his “disappointment” that the UN security council has failed to act to protect the civilians in Syria. Moreover, watch the Turkish actions both vis-a-vis Syria and the coming visit of Erdogan to Ghaza. Everything in good time. Nato could not have been engaged with Libya AND Syria at the same time. As it is, Nato proved to be ineffectual and they needed US support to provide drones, cruses missiles and AWACS guidance – and with the Americans mired in Afghainstan and Iraq, you can’t expect them to open the Syrian front just yet. Now that the game is almost done in Libya, next tick box is Syria. The Assad regime is DONE. It is not a matter of if, it is just a matter of when. Even if he managed to quell the demonstrations (highly unlikely), he is done as a regional force to be contended with. Iran thinks that it is a regional force, and it is good that the Mullah’s have convinced themselves with their own rhetoric… Really, they actually believe they can screw around with the west and play the Nuclear file as if they can dictate their conditions. yesterday they came up with a new maneuver offering complete transparency on the nuclear issues, hoping to have Europe and the US break rank. Obama ain’t Bush and Europe is not going to forget that Obama tried everything to open the dialogue but failed. Nobody is going to buy the new Iranian manuver.

    Mr. Alaskari, interesting prospect of Iraqia “getting rid” of Allawi. How likely do you think that prospect is?. I am very interested to understand the basis of your suggestion.
    Peace.

  25. Santana said

    Guys- See this- as I mentioned before- something is brewing…..

    U.S. Commanders Pushing for Permission to Run Covert Ops to Counter Iran

    Published September 06, 2011 | NewsCore

    U.S. military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, according to officials quoted Tuesday.

    The move comes amid growing concern in the Obama administration about Iran’s attempts in recent months to expand its influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East and what it says is Tehran’s increased arms smuggling to its allies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

    Compounding the urgency is the planned reduction in the US military presence in Iraq by the end of the year, a development that many fear will open up the country to more influence from Iran, which also has a majority Shiite population.

    If the request is approved by the White House, the authorization for the covert activity in Iraq likely would take the form of a classified presidential “finding.” But unlike the secret order that authorized the CIA’s campaign against Al Qaeda in 2001, the current proposal is limited in scope, officials said.Still, such a step would reflect the U.S.’s effort to contain Iranian activities in the region. Ending the U.S.’s involvement in the Iraqi conflict was a central promise of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, and the administration wants to ensure it doesn’t withdraw troops only to see its main regional nemesis, Iran, raise its influence there.

    Officials declined to provide details about the kinds of covert operations under consideration, but said they could include more aggressive interdiction efforts at the Iraq-Iran border and stepped-up measures to stop Iranian arms smuggling after the American drawdown.

    The United Nations has blocked Iran from exporting sophisticated arms, guided missiles and nuclear technology. U.N. resolutions don’t ban small arms exports or the kind of primitive weapons Tehran has provided Shiite militias in Iraq, defense officials said.

    The U.S. has conducted secret operations against Iran in Iraq before. In recent months its military has quietly boosted efforts to capture Iranian agents and intercept Iranian munitions in Iraq. The U.S. government conducts covert operations when it wants to maintain the ability to deny a secret mission took place for security or diplomatic reasons.

    The White House has become more worried about Iranian meddling in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain in recent months and has pushed the military and intelligence communities to develop proposals to counter Tehran.

    In Iraq, U.S. officials say they have evidence that Iran has been providing Shiite militias with more powerful weapons and training, helping to increase the lethality of their attacks against U.S. forces — in particular, with the crude but deadly IRAM, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions.

    Iran also has stepped up its support of the embattled Syrian government, providing equipment and technical know-how for the crackdown on antiregime protests and has provided backing to Shiite protesters in Bahrain, officials say.

    Iranian officials have repeatedly denied that they have played any role in arming militants in Iraq or worked to destabilize other Arab nations. Tehran has claimed the U.S. has leveled charges of arms smuggling to justify a continued American military presence.

    Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. and Iranian competition for influence in Iraq was part of an attempt by both countries to preserve their interests in the Middle East amid a reordering of interests under the Arab Spring revolutions.

    “From a U.S. viewpoint, containing Iran is critical and our strategic relationship with Iraq is critical,” Cordesman said. “This is one set of moves in a much more complicated chess game.”

  26. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, isn’t this the kind of murky stuff that will prompt Maliki to reject the whole idea of a post-2011 US military presence?

  27. Santana said

    Hi Reidar-

    Who cares- I am just saying that “the gloves are coming off””…the U.S is fed-up trying to get him to play ball.

  28. Sami Alaskary said

    Santana, i do agree with Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, when he says ‘ the U.S. and Iranian competition for influence in Iraq was part of an attempt by both countries to preserve their interests in the Middle East amid a reordering of interests under the Arab Spring revolutions;.and to make that happening they need to talk to each other and reach an agreement on wide spectrum of issues among them and in the center of them Iraq. I understand that Iraqi government is engaged in such attempt to bring both side to sit and talk. Of course it is not the first time that officials from US and Iran have such meeting in Baghdad, but this time is different as situation in the Middle East is rapidly changing in the wake of Arab spring.

  29. Santana said

    Sami-
    For what it’s worth-A Washington Lobbyist who worked for the CIA for many years in the Middle East told me that there are no direct talks between Iran and the U.S anymore because everytime Iran approached the U.S to “work something out” the U.S insisted that it would be transparent and out in the open whereas Iran wanted it “under the table” so they do not to burn their bridges with their assets in the Middle East- that view Iran as the balancing power to the West in the region.I think all current exchange of info is brokered thru Maliki or Daawa.

  30. observer said

    Mr Askari,
    I note with interest your non response to the question of the prospect of Iraqia “firing” allawi. I presume that you either do not have an answer or know the answer pretty well but do not want to defend an untenable position.

    The reason why it is not possible for SOL and Iraqia to be partners is not the presumed hostility between Allawi and Maliki as frequently stated in this blog (and other places). Iraqia simply had more seats than SOL, however, SOL insisted that Maliki be PM in a coalition of majority of SOL+Iraqia. Iraqia would not accept that and SOL simply had to manipulate the constitution interpretation, and in order to comply even with the skewed interpretation they had to bring along at least ISCI (to have more than 91 seats) or have Iraqia “give the PM position to Da3wa. Of course Iraqia could play the same game and bring in Kurds + ISCI and even Sadris. But SOL friends in Iran would not let that happen and forced the She3a Islamic parties to pull together despite their differences (under threat of cutting off funding, arms, and even scare tactics). This is why Reidar’s wishes did not come to be and there was a stalemate for 7 months. You have no idea of the pressure put on Allawi by the American to let go of his promise to Barzani and Hakim and give in to SOL demand that they retain the PM position. But Allawi would not renege on his word (yes that is how incompetent he is as a politician but it is also the sign of an honorable man). But there is also another background – I know first hand that Allawi never trusted Maliki to come through with his promises and his prophetic words regarding how Da3wa will act just like the Baath did and use a “national front” to get rid of its opposition slowly (in a repeat of the 68 to 75 period in Iraq) is coming to pass and events have proven him right on the voracity of Da3wa promises.

    And do please pass my regards to (y)our friends at the IRDC😉
    Peace

  31. observer said

    Santana,
    I will not believe the gloves are coming off until i see it on the ground. The US will not force a confrontation with Iran (even if that is int eh cards) over Iraq until Syria is done. Syria is not done yet and it will take probably longer than Libya to resolve. Do recall that Baath is more organized in Syria than Kadhafi’s rag tag army of Libyans and African mercenaries. Even with the rag tag defenders of Kafdafi, Nato took 6 months to get to this point. I think it will take a lot longer in Syria if it came to blows. Asad may yield (ala saddam) and decide to live to fight another day and may give some major concessions to prevent the UN security Council form acting forcefully. Iran may help him see the light and channel some economic help through its friends in Baghdad. It will take a lot longer and I just do not see the US making sudden moves in Iraq. But maybe – just maybe, they will not stop a motion of no confidence (like the did in 2007) and let politics take its course in Baghdad. Then it depends on how talabani going to play it vs. barzani and where the sadris want to play. Recall that to pull a no confidence you need more than the Kurds. You need ISCI and possibly sadris. They both have to keep Iran happy – so it aint close to the end. Hell, the fat lady has not began warming up yet😉.
    Peace

  32. Kermanshahi said

    Observer, you are wrong, Obama is Bush, he looks different, but that’s all. Both when it comes to external policies in dealing with wars, with countries like Iran, with issues like Palestinian issue, and with internal policies like tax-cuts, ect. he has basicly just continued Bush’s policies and if anything he has done it in a more extreme way. If he invades Syria he will have another disaster and his already unlikely reelection will become just completely impossible. If Syria isn’t touched, there is no way possible for the Assad regime to fall from internal opposition. It is just practicaly impossible for Syria’s internal opposition to topple Assad, at most he will go because his regime get’s rid of him, like the Egytpian regime got rid of Mubarak, but then you’ll still have the same guys in power and American influence will still be limited.

    Don’t be fooled by rhethoric, Iranian leaders are not irrational, they are infact very intelligent and since they came to power, have played all their cards right. That’s why Iran has been gaining ground. Now there is SPECULATION (!! as Bush would say) about how they may loose ground if al-Assad falls, although there is nothing to indicate that that is even close to happening. But even if it happens they still have plenty of options.
    Now if you think Iranian policies are centered around some hopeless strategy to divide US and Europe, you are very much mistaken. It is based on the US’s extreme unpopularity in the region, which is why US has constantly resorted to supporting dictators and unsustainable situations. As you may (or in your case you may not have) noticed, US always supports the loser in every war and thus majority of their allies are completely hopeless without their support. With record defecits and debts, high-unemployment and a continued recession, the question is how will US be able to sustain this in the long run? They havent’ backed regime change in any country other than Iran, Syria and Libya, so their allies are still vulnerable, yet as Obama continues to wage war on the US middle class to help his rich doners, the econmy is not restoring, so eventualy their money will not be able to sustain all these unpopulair allies. The power of the Israeli lobby also continues to screw over US interests in the Middle East, continiously increasing it’s unpopularity. Iranian leaders are putting US to the test of time and I do not believe they will sustain it.

  33. observer said

    Kermenshahi, your reading of the situation is tinted with your anti American attitude. I am not going to go into a point for point debate with you as it is pointless. You are free to have your opinion of the imperial US attitude. I, however, have lived in the US long enough for me to believe otherwise.

    Be that as it may, Syria is DONE. It is not a matter of IF it is a matter of when – unless of course Assad changes sides😉 in the last minute and gives away the Golan – but even that will spell the end of his regime. Saddam was done in 1991. Too bad it took 12 years of sanctions and Spetmeber11th to happen… but that is history and history accumulates . Mubarak and Ali Zain Abedeen were removed by their own respective armies when the army refused to be used to quell the people, not because the US wanted them gone or decided that it was their time to go.

    Be that as it may, as I said previously, in my opinion, Assad and his Baath are done. It will take time and if he actually persists in the killings and the videos keep on coming out then expect a Nato action with possible Turkish troops on the ground with air cover provided by France, US, and even UK out of Cypress. You are free to have a different opinion, after all it is a free world. In my opinion, after Syria is done, the Mullahs in Iran need to look at their faces in the mirror and decide if they want to be fighting the whole world or are they better off making friends with the world. There will be more than one way to deal with Iran when the right time comes. Yes the US is economically exhausted, but this actually makes it even more important to keep the oil prices low!! Yes Iranian mullahs are smart, but they have starated to believe their own rhetoric and the superiority of their regime. Truly tragic for the Iranian people. Your elections are slated for 2013. Plenty of time to settle Syria and be ready for the street demonstrations in Tehran that will inevitably follow your elections when the Mulahs will want a conservative to lead and the people wanting to have a reformer in place.
    Peace

  34. observer said

    kerminshahi,
    Here you go. Soon as I read the article, I thought of you.

    http://www.aawsat.com//details.asp?section=4&article=639667&issueno=11974

    It looks like Turkey need not put boots on the ground. You have a nucleus of a force that can be used to liberate Syria from the Baath with proper air cover when the time comes. The fat lady is warming up in the wings!! Maybe in 6 months the new army will role into Damascus or maybe the remainder of Assad’s army will wake up and recognize that they will be prosecuted for killing the demonstrators and stage a coup against Assad to save their skins. Either way, Assad is done, and the Mullahs of Iran need to start looking for Plan B.
    Peace

  35. Kermanshahi said

    Saddam was done in 1991? But was he? He managed to crush all internal opposition and no-one managed to remove him except a foreign invasion. In case of Assad I say the same thing, no-one will be able to remove him unless Syria is invaded. But since the removal of Saddam was not such a great succes, I don’t think they dare repeat it. That’s why they want Turkey to do it for them, but you’ll be hard pressed to have Erdogan do anything. I’v been following the guy for 8 years, at first I believed his speaches but soon learned that he is nothing but talk. He has never taken any action against anyone, leave alone Syria. And I know about the Syrian free army, it won’t work. The way Assad has organisedhis army there are not enough arms in control of Sunnis to threaten him.

    But can Assad go in the same manner as Mubarak did? Yes. Because unlike Khadafi, Assad is not a real dictator, he is merely the figurehead of his regime, just like Mubarak and ben Ali. What could happen in Syria, is if those who really pull the strings, believe they cannot save Assad anymore, they could pressure him to step down and meanwhile keep all power in their hands, just like in Egypt, were nothing has changed at all. They could even find a puppet Sunni to head their government, like they did with Mitaki in Lebanon. But this won’t affect the strategic balance in the Middle East at all.

    As for the US, look I don’t claim that if you live there, everyone you see in the street is an imperialist or a bad guy. No, ofcourse not, infact I know that majority of Americans oppose the occupation of Afghanistan, the occupation of Iraq and oppose future useless wars against other countries like Syria and Iran. But their leadership is imperialist, and the US establishment has become a dictatorship, no new views are allowed into power. Arabs have primitive version of dictatorship, the same guy is President for decades, in US however they let the faces changes but the policies remain the same. Remember when Obama ws going to end the wars, close Gitmo, reach out to Iran, bring peace to Palestine and give people a proper social security? Instead he brought them more wars, more illegal actions through patriot act, more bailouts for bankers, spending cuts for the poor and tax-cuts for the rich. Iranian dictatorship is slightly less primitive than the Arab version, but not as advanced as how they have it in the US but when it comes to revolutions, they know hwo to deal with it. While Arabs wait until the crowds are big enough and than start shooting, IRI close off squares, keep crowds on the roads, then try disperse the crowd, prevent them from forming and this while keeping casualties as low as possible. Only 40 people died in the failed Green revoltuion during 8 months, compare that to Arab revolts with thousands of deaths. IR has a large base of support in the countryside and pooer neighbourhoods, whenever there is problems in the cities, they poor in their supports, bring them by bus, and unlike Arab regimes they don’t need to bribe fake supporters, there are millions of people who believe the Ayatollah represents god and to go to heaven they need to do whatever he tells them to. Ideology helps, Mubarak didn’t have any, IR has plenty.
    And if you look at Khamenei’s reaction to Iranian protests at the time, and compare it to Arab dictators’ reactions now, you can see he did exactly the right things. People were expecting him to back down after the first day of protests, but he didn’t give them any, he stood firmly and didn’t give in an inch, this is because you never negotiate with an angry mobb (like Ben Ali, Mubarak and Saleh have tried) ’cause it makes you look weak and it give them the feeling they have succes and hope to achieve more. Khamenei came out strong and decisive, and had his people deal with it in exactly the right way. Khadafi came out strong too, but in his case the excessive violence and crazy rhethoric just made him look mad and desperete. In Khamenei’s case he was calm and confident and he tackled the protests slowly, learning from the Shah’s mistakes. These people know exactly what they are doing, trust me.

  36. observer said

    kermenshahi,
    Saddam was done in 1991. he stood no chance of rehabilitation and joining the rest of the world. he and his minion, however, thought otherwise. of course it was the Iraqi people that paid the price of his stubbornness. Had the Iraqi army revolted (as was expected) there may have been another outcome for the Baath party’s hold on the reigns of power. But again that is history. In Syria, asad is similarly done (as was Mubarak before him, Kadhafi, Zaqin abedeen, and Saleh). It is a new era and the cold war is over. The Baath party may stage a coup and quiet the streets for a while, but the Republic of Fear (ala Syria) is done. The barrier is broken, and nothing but real reforms will be acceptable to the people of Syria, Egypt and Tunisia. The Islamic parties will take their turn at the helm. That is inevitable and that is one consequence of democracy that you can not get around (Look at Iraq). As long as the stage is set to prevent the Islamic parties form having only one true election, and have many elections and allow for a peaceful transition between successive government, then we are on our way to a better future. The Islamic parties are incompetent by definition as they are dogmatic and inflexible. This attitude will not survive in a globalized world where trade and economy control events.
    As far as your view of the American system being controlled by a cabal (implied in your words). I am not going to waste my time arguing with you. Instead, let me ask you to read Christopher Hitchen’s Fred Zackaria’s books. They give you a better way of trying to understand how the west works, and in particular how the United States works. Bottom line – it is the economy that runs the world. Democratic vs. Republican affects only the domestic politics of the US. International interests are something entirely different.
    As far as Iran in concerned. Today they have commissioned the nuclear reactor that the shah started in 1974. They want their nuke. They may very well get it, but if the mullah’s think they can dictate the price of oil through domination of the gulf, then they need to think again. They are actually making putting the nails into their own coffin. Watch as the US bases in the middle east proliferate. The Mullah’s have to be contained. It will not be through invasion that the Mullah’s rule will end. Rather it will be through bankrupcy of the Iranian economy as the Mullahs pour more and more money in useless military technology and supporting useless revolutionary movements throughout the middle east. A repeat of the methods used to bankrupt the old CCCP/USSR. It took 70 years of cold wart to exhaust the soviets, it will take a lot less to exhaust Iran.
    Peace

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