Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Maliki Pulls It Off Again: The State of Law Minority-Government Strategy Is Working

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 4 October 2011 22:08

What is nominally the second partnership-government of Nuri al-Maliki can increasingly be described as a minority government of his own Shiite Islamist State of Law bloc relying on ad hoc support from other players including the Kurds, Sadrists and White Iraqiyya. The outcome of tonight’s high-level meeting of political leaders in Baghdad suggests that Maliki’s apparent strategy of proceeding with the slimmest possible parliamentary support base could in fact be working.

The main issue at today’s meeting appears to have been conflict over the agenda. It had originally been envisaged that the meeting would address such issues as the security ministries, the proposed national council for high policies, and more broadly the future of the “Arbil framework” that led to the formation of the second Maliki government in December 2010. However, Maliki apparently managed to turn the meeting into a more limited discussion about the parameters of the US “instructor” presence after 31 December 2011. On this issue, the meeting concluded with a formula that apparently gives Maliki what he wants: There will be instructors but they will enjoy no special legal immunities. Maliki will be able to sell this arrangement to his constituency in the same way that he sold the SOFA agreement in 2008, arguing that by appealing to the values of nationalism it is possible to squeeze the Americans: In 2008, the Bush administration pushed for a long-term arrangement and ended up with a 3-year withdrawal plan; in 2011 the focus is on mere “instructors” and Maliki will apparently not give the Obama administration what it wants in terms of legal immunities for those instructors. No agreement on numbers was reached at today’s meeting.

In terms of politics, the significant development today was the withdrawal from the meeting of two Iraqiyya leaders, Ayyad Allawi and Tareq al-Hashemi, apparently in protest against the more limited agenda. The lone protest by Allawi and Hashemi in turn symbolises the problems of the opposition to Maliki. At least four Iraqiyya leaders (Usama al-Nujayfi, Salman al-Jumayli and Salih al-Mutlak plus Arshad al-Salihi of the Turkmen Front) must have remained in the room after Allawi and Hashemi left. Maybe the recent visit to Iran by Usama al-Nujayfi and the rumours about friction between him and Allawi has played a certain role? Similarly, the participation at the meeting by Qusay al-Suhayl (Sadrist) and Muhammad al-Hashemi (representing ISCI) signifies the reluctance of those forces to challenge Maliki, despite the widespread assumption in some Iraqiyya circles close to Allawi about their willingness to do so. Significantly, too, there was no word about any Kurdish withdrawal. As expected, White Iraqiyya participated.

What this all means is that the repeated calls from Iraqiyya for fresh elections are unlikely to go anywhere. If Maliki should get into trouble with the Kurds, as some recent parliamentary defeats might suggest, he can probably rely on elements from Iraqiyya that are critical of Allawi as far as oil and gas legislation and Kirkuk are concerned anyway. More probably, though, Maliki may seek to continue to defer decision on these contentious  issues as much as possible until such time that he believes his own State of Law coalition can win a parliamentary election and form a smaller majority government proper.

23 Responses to “Maliki Pulls It Off Again: The State of Law Minority-Government Strategy Is Working”

  1. Follower said

    Hi Reidar,

    Thank you.

    Don´t you think that the matters at the meeting was already agreed upon before it actually took place. Perhaps that is why Allawi withdrew? The fact that disputed territories, security ministries, national council for high policies and the rest of the so-called Erbil Agreement was not on the table point to that. no?

  2. Reidar Visser said

    I can well imagine that Talabani and Maliki agreed, but as late as yesterday midday Baghdad time there were reports from Shiite sources that the meeting would tackle the US instructors, the strategic policy council and “government balance”. Allawi had warned previously that he would not attend a meeting that ignored those issues, so it is hard to see why he opted to show up unless he had some expectation that they would at least be addressed. There was also a report earlier in the day that the tripartite committee formed to deal with the implementation of the Arbil agreement had arrived at certain recommendations.

  3. Was the agenda dictated by the US??

  4. Santana said


    Allawi and Hashimi did not leave before it ended….if you are getting your info from Buratha then you should know that they disseminate quite a bit of BS on a regular basis.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, opinion still seems to be divided on this. The alleged withdrawal was also reported on more mainstream channels like Sumaria and Aswat al-Iraq yesterday. Today there is another story from Sumaria where Talal al-Zubaie of Iraqiyya seems to acknowledge that the two left early but says it was “not an act of withdrawal”. Thus, a “khuruj” and not an “insihab”!

    That nevertheless leaves me with a bit of uncertainty as to what actually happened. Zubaie repeats the complaint that the broader political issues were not addressed.

  6. Santana said

    Reidar- you said “Opinion still seems divided on this” …..regardless what the news says- I got it straight from one of the two….that is more credible than news guys across the street reading into everything from a distance.

    Also-I am not saying they left happy either.

  7. Reidar Visser said

    Thanks. I guess the final thing you said is what I find important in this. What I still wonder about is whether there was any particular reason some of Iraqiyya left early but not all? Whatever the reason was, it certainly made them look disunited. As I have been hinting at previously, I’m still wondering whether Nujayfi’s recent regional travel is seen as a challenge by Allawi.

  8. Santana said

    To answer your question-the trips Nujaifi makes is part of his job as Speaker – but going to Tehran and calling for a “Pan Islamic Union” did not sit well with Allawi nor some of the other Iraqiya guys-Allawi was not aware of this till after the fact.

  9. The main result of the meeting is No immunity to US “advisers” but the way the result was reached is so embarrassing and unmentionable.. If this doesn’t make you think of UN run census and elections then there is something wrong with you 😉

  10. Salah said

    Nujaifi’s trips Tehran was dual side he did met with Al-Khurafi, Kuwaiti foreign affair discussing Mubarak port which some reports from inside Iraq that he pass his line of parliamentary regulation meeting officials and give promises which he should not do.

  11. observer said

    Maliki had been trying to break Iraqia apart since the elections. He has not succeeded yet. On the contrary, more and more groups are knocking on the doors of Iraqia to join ranks. The readings of opinion polls are quite telling. Of course nothing matters until the 6 months before the elections. Will there be an early elections? Never say never in politics.

  12. observer said

  13. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, I hate to be so critical, but that report sounded a little bit like a whitewash to me. Al qa’id al-wahid, full knowledge of every meeting that takes place, etc.etc.

    I also wonder whether the report might be somewhat dated? I mean, I see that it is published as “news” by Sharqiyya and on the Wifaq website, but the reference to governorate elections sounds distinctly anachronistic to me:

    القائمة تعد للدخول في انتخابات مجالس المحافظات تحت قيادة الدكتور علاوي

    Few others are talking about the governorate elections (2013?) right now, and even the qada and nahiya sub-governorate elections appear to be in the distant future. Could it be a “reprint” of something that dates back to 2008-2009??

  14. observer said

    Reidar, I am not sure what you are trying to imply… Is it that Iraqia is about to fall apart? While nothing is impossible in politics and in Iraq in particular, do you really think that Iraqia is that fragile? I would argue the opposite given the number of parties expressing a desire to join ranks and the opinion polls (the most recent shows allawi gaining further and maliki falling behind). Is it because Allawi is being more feisty lately, or is it because Maliki’s government is failing and corruption is increasing, or is it a combination of both? I have no answer.

    On organizing for 2013 & 2014.. it is never too early and it is even more important if somehow there is in fact early elections ;).

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, in this case I only meant to enquire about the somewhat odd reference to upcoming governorate elections.

    But if Iraqiyya wants to stay united, they certainly need to work on streamlining their public relations. Consider for example the latest statement that Allawi is not nominating himself for the strategic council partly because of hints from the clergy!

    وقال النائب محمد الخالدي لوكالة كل العراق [أين] اليوم الجمعة إن ” قرار رئيس القائمة العراقية إياد علاوي بالتخلي عن رئاسة مجلس السياسيات يعود الى أن ولاية المجلس شارفت على الانتهاء ولايستطيع أن يعمل شيئا خلال الفترة المتبقية من عمر المجلس “.

    وأضاف إن ” اعلان علاوي بتخليه عن رئاسة مجلس السياسات جاء بعد أن يأس الشعب العراقي من هذا الموضوع بالاضافة الى أنه جاء استجابةً لرغبة المرجعية الدينية التي طالما كانت تدعو الى الترشيق الحكومي وعدم استحداث مناصب حتى لاتستنزف ميزانية الدولة العامة “.

  16. observer said

    Reidar but allawi has previously stated that he is not interested in the position especially since the 80 % threshold was set. The point of referring to the clergy is intended to assure the She3a street that he is in contact with Shehrestani and he understands their position vis-a-vis assurances that the She3a will not loose any of their newly gained “advantage” if they choose to support clean government as opposed to Sh3a political parties.
    The objective is to save Iraq from division and build a strong federal Iraq, as opposed to a williat faqeeh satellite.

  17. Reidar Visser said

    But there has to be a unified position! The above says Iraqiyya is abandoning the council as such in part thanks to the general advice from the marjaiyya that unnecessary offices of state should be abandoned. That would mean abandoning the council as an institution. But below is another Iraqiyya statement saying they still favour the council even though Allawi personally will not aim to chair it:

    النائبة وحدة الجميلي أكدت أن “زعيم العراقية تخلّى عن رئاسة المجلس الوطني للسياسات العليا وهذا لا يعني أن الائتلاف يترك هذا المجلس ككل باعتباره احد مطالبه”، موضحة في تصريحات لـ”المدى” أمس “هذا المجلس بلا طعم ولا نكهة بعد المماطلات التي اتبعها ائتلاف دولة القانون، فضلا عن أن الولايات المتحدة التي كانت صاحبة الفكرة الأولى في إنشائه تنصّلت عنه والعراقية لا تزال متمسكة به على أن تكون رئاسته إلى شخص آخر غير علاوي كأن يكون من الخط الثاني في الائتلاف لان قيادات العراقية جميعها أخذت مناصب حكومية”.

  18. observer said

    Allawi indicated that he is not interested in the position of the leadership ages ago and not with this statement. Maliki wants to sideline Allawi. Allawi is confident that he can affect positions from the outside. The council is intended to make sure that Da3wa is not the only one in charge of policies (as is the defacto state of affairs right now). The Americans want to withdraw in any way shape or form and their strategy is to contain both Iraq and Iran ad one unit while working from inside Iraq through the political process since the military option is gone thanks to economic demands but more importantly due to elections demand on Obama (again one of those situations where the local politics in the US affect the strategic position of the US). At any rate, the point is to have a channel to affect policy in Iraq on the executive level other than a fractured, ineffective parliament which is unable to take its position as a monitor and a power balance.

  19. Reidar Visser said

    OK. But now Hussein al-Shaalan says Allawi thinks the council is a joke:

    أكد عضو القائمة العراقية في مجلس النواب حسين الشعلان إن تصريحات بعض اعضاء العراقية بشأن مجلس السياسيات الستراتيجية لاتمثل زعيم القائمة إياد علاوي بل أنفسهم .

    وأضاف الشعلان لوكالة كل العراق [أين] إن”بعض من اعضاء القائمة العراقية يريدون أن يبقى منصب مجلس السياسيات الستراتيجي للعراقية لكن زعيم العراقية إياد علاوي يعتبرها مهزلة وبالتالي لابد من ايقاف هذه المهزلة ،حسب قوله “.

    وأوضح إن”قسما من اعضاء الكتل السياسية الموجودين حاليا يصفون العملية السياسية بالأكذوبة”.

  20. Observer said

    The problem is not just the council but the whole attitude of Da3wa and SOL in governance. It is obvious (is it not), that Da3wa is behaving that they are in charge and that they have all the right to govern Iraq as they wish. The Kurdish demands that the Irbil agreement is executed is not just a show, it is rather an attempt to revive the principals upon which the agreement was reached, namely that Iraq must be governed in partnership, given the problems of Iraq.

    The whole process is a mess and I am now sure that we are approaching a calamity given yesterdays’ mess in the parliament and the continued impasse over 140, oil law, etc. Add to that the withdrawal of the US, and you have the ingredients needed for a major explosion. Also note that there is a marked increase in terrorist activities be it explosions in the streets, or in the form of continued “accidents” in the pipelines of Basrah, and Kirkuk.

    So, what is needed is a real spirit of partnership in Iraq. Is that going to happen? Your prescription of Iraqia/sol/Kurds seems like the logical choice, but there is no TRUST and it will not happen. What will happen is that Da3wa will continue to try to divide Iraqia, Iran will continue to push the She3a to “unite” to stop a momentum to push for new elections. the Kurds will soon face a financial problem with the oil companies demanding that they be reimbursed and Shehrestani is betting that he will force his vision on the Kurds by starving them (how can that be a way for the Kurds to get trust). It is pure power struggle, but meanwhile they are all forgetting the Iraqi voter. Maliki is behaving like there will not be any elections even in 2012 for local councils or 2013 for the national assembly.

    Will the Iraqi voter be awake in the elections and vote cross sectarians?

  21. amagi said


    Do you have any notion of what (if anything) is happening at a grassroots level? Most media coverage (what little there is that I can read, as I am not an Arabic speaker) is inevitably focused on this ‘political kabuki’ — now seems like as good a time as any to ask again, what sort of civil society is developing on the Iraqi street?

  22. Salah said

    Reidar Visser
    excuse me been bit out of the main discussion with democratic process in Iraq, I read this bit of news coming from these Iraqi politician who still do not know what they doing more that fighting each other and shadowy movements left the demolished state in miserable state for the last 8 years with billions no one tell what they done with it, I read with loud laughing:

    Iraq’s prime minister offered to help Libya, ……., build its fledgling democracy.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told his Libyan counterpart, Mahmoud Jibril, who was on a one-day visit to Iraq, that Baghdad is will to ready to lend support on writing a constitution and holding elections,

  23. Observer said

    I suggest that you read the NGO law. It is one that is designed to silence any organization that is not backed by a strong political party. Each NGO has to renew its registration every two years. Guess what happens to anybody that dares to criticize? Furthermore, funding is a problem for NGO’s in general as they do not know how to write grants. Those who can, must beg for it from the outside as there is little “philanthropic” spirit in Iraq.

    On the more basic level of people talking in markets and mudhiefs etc., I see more and more apathy no different than the attitude in the US vs DC. People do not tune in to watch parliamentary “debates” as they are tired of the haggling and it seized to be a novelty. People are complaining about lack of jobs, or having to bribe to get a job. Wasta is still the way to go to get anything done but now there is added bribery that is mandated more or less. There is dissatisfaction about services, but there is also sectarian feelings. When pressed to explain why there is no progress, She3a tend to blame Qaida or that She3a political parties have no “experience” in governance. I do no think that the street is ripe for change yet and may even revert to 2006/2007. I felt a marked change of attitude in the south regarding federation after Nujaifi “threatened” in DC that the Sunnies may want their own federal region designation. Regardless, there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the parties, but I do not think that the south is ready to vote for Iraqia despite the lousy performance of Da3wa. My gut feeling is that ISCI will fair better in the next elections vis-a-vis SOL, assuming that they will run separately.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: