Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Nujayfi Uses the F Word Again

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 15 October 2011 12:29

In an interview with the BBC during his recent visit to Britain, parliament speaker and Iraqiyya politician Usama al-Nujayfi once more uttered the controversial “federalism” term. Nujayfi reportedly said that the Sunnis of Iraq feel they are being treated as second class citizens and if no improvement takes place many will feel compelled to call for the establishment of “geographically-based federal regions”.

Nujayfi’s comments constitute a careful modification of his previous reference to federalism (and even partition) as a possible option for the Sunnis of Iraq. In the first place, instead of indicating the possible establishment of a single, sectarian Sunni administrative unit, Nujayfi is foreshadowing calls for multiple federal regions in accordance with the constitutional provisions that enable governorates to transform themselves to standalone federal units or to merge with several governorates to form multi-governorate federal regions. Indeed, Nujayfi says he “favours” the establishment of such entities, which would mean a departure from the official Iraqiyya line which has tended to be sceptical to the establishment of additional federal entities in Iraq, but at the same time, especially more recently, surprisingly prepared to extend concessions to the one existing federal entity (Kurdistan). Secondly, Nujayfi this time emphasises Sunni commitment to the territorial integrity of the Iraqi state as a whole, although it should be noted that his whole approach of talking on behalf of the Sunnis signifies a political mindset that nonetheless remains focused on sectarian subdivisions.

Still, on the whole, Nujayfi’s comments mainly add to the string of examples of federalism used as a threat by elite politicians rather than necessarily reflecting any strong popular commitment to the creation of such entities. To some extent, this reflects the exasperation of Iraqiyya leaders who have been unable to get the concessions they are seeking from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, partly thanks to their own haplessness. In this perspective, federalism comes across as a tool of opportunistic politicians, as also seen in some of the recent calls for federal regions by governorate council members in areas that do not enjoy any genuine tradition for making such demands, including Wasit. Unfortunately, the overly permissive law on the establishment of federal regions from 2006 enables such opportunism, since a mere third of governorate council members can call for a referendum on the creation of a federal region. This in turn can lead to useless referendums for initiatives that in reality do not enjoy support anywhere close to the levels needed to win a referendum.

Nonetheless, any growth of such calls for federal regions in the Sunni-majority governorates would create an interesting dilemma at the level of the central government. So far, Maliki has deliberately resisted initiatives for federal referendums initiated by politicians from his own State of Law coalition in several governorates south of Baghdad and most prominently Basra, which does have a consistent pro-federal tradition dating back to 2003. The main reason he has been able to contain these initiatives  (and, indeed, unconstitutionally obstruct them) is precisely the fact that they originate from his own partisans. A multiplication of similar calls from the Sunni-majority governorates would be more difficult to resist, and in turn could create domino effects in the Shiite areas that would altogether threaten Maliki’s ambition as a nominally nationalist and centralist strongman for Iraq.

At the same time, it is interesting that the calls for federalism come at a time with persistent reports about a deepening of the subdivisions within Iraqiyya, with precisely Nujayfi reported as one possible alternative point of gravity to Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiyya and his Wifaq movement. Whether the federalism threat is just a negotiating card in a strategy that ultimately aims at negotiations between Maliki and parts of Iraqiyya remains to be seen.

17 Responses to “Nujayfi Uses the F Word Again”

  1. Salah said

    The “federalism” and “geographically-based federal regions” all of them were new Iraqi politicians terms, they almost use this as part of their self-necessities and their political gain.
    Most mean stream Iraq they hate to hear these terms as they feel uncomfortable of this policy and dividedness which one of them thought about an exception of the Kurds (not all of them).

    In recent new party breeding as we hear that one of Da’awa member thinking to split and create new party (just like Dawlat Alqanoon from Da’awa before) which more not less as same as their roots, now we hear this:

    أفادت مصادر سياسية : ان الشارع الأنباري يكثر الحديث هذة الأيام عن ولادة حركة تصحيحية داخل جسد القائمة العراقية تتبنى تصحيح مسار القائمة العراقية وتركن الى البرنامج الأنتخابي الأصيل الذي امنت به الجماهير وعلى أساسة دعمت قادتها وحركاتها …

    والأختلاف في هذة الحركة أنها ليست حركة أنشقاقية خارج أطار العراقية أو أصطفاف جبهوي سياسي او مذهبي أو حزبي داخل العراقية كونها تحمل الطابع الشعبي والعشائري كون الأنبار من المحافظات المعروفة بطبيعتها وتقاليدها وأعرافها العشائرية العربية .

    وبالنسبة للكثيرين من الذين تحدثنا معهم وناقشناهم يعتبرون أستضافة رئيس الحكومة نوري المالكي لعدد من شيوخ ووجهاء ومثقفي وبرلماني محافظة الأنبار هو الأعلان غير الرسمي لهذة الحركة التصحيحية والتي نوه الأعلام الى شخص النائب عن القائمة العراقية من محافظة الأنبار (كامل كريم الدليمي ) بأعتباره هو المبادر والمتبني لهذا المشروع ؛ كونه عضو مجلس النواب الحالي وعضو لجنة المساءلة والعدالة والمصالحة البرلمانية ، وله علاقات جيده ومقبولة مع رئيس الوزراء العراقي وهو ما اعتبره الكثيرين مميزات تسهل على حاملها التواصل وتحقيق ما يتطلبه الشارع السني عموماً والأنباري على الخصوص . هذا أذا ما أدركنا أن الشارع السني في (ديالى ، بغداد،صلاح الدين ، ،كركوك الموصل ، بابل والأنبار ) كان المعقل والداعم الرئيسي للقائمة العراقية والجمهور الأضخم لها .

  2. Reidar Visser said

    The interesting thing is that all of a sudden Nujayfi and Kamal Kerkuki, the Kurdish politician, are reading from the same sheet: Kerkuki welcomed the recent Nujayfi statement on federalism.

    On the other hand, Maliki is probably not terribly happy about pro-federal currents among the Sunnis, and would prefer people like Sadun al-Dulaymi and the Sunnis within White Iraqiyya (there are a few) instead. Maybe the defection from the Karbuli group under Kamil al-Dulaymi quoted above is also part of that trend.

  3. Salah said


    وعن تأثير الثورات الحالية على العراق، قال النجيفي إن هناك دوامات خطيرة حول العراق، ويجب ترتيب الوضع الداخلي خاصة في المسألة المذهبية التي بدأت تنتشر في المنطقة، موضحاً أن بعض التغييرات التي تجري في المنطقة غير منضبطة وتدخل فيها أجندات خارجية.

    وشدد النجيفي على أنه يجب ترتيب الوضع الداخلي في العراقي والتعاون لإيجاد قواسم وثوابت مشتركة بين الجميع؛ لأنه ليس معقولاً ولا مقبولاً أن يبقى العراق بهذه الطريقة وتلك الحالة من عدم السيطرة وتحقيق مصالح البلد.

    ونبّه إلى أن الفترة المقبلة حرجة جداً؛ لأنها ستحدد إلى أين يتجه العراق، وأنه في حال عدم التوافق يمكن أن ينحدر العراق إلى منحدرات خطيرة يصعب السيطرة عليها.

  4. Kermanshahi said

    See, this is what I’ve been saying the whole time about these guys, they are not pro-centralisation, that’s just an excuse, they are just racists. This guy has built his entire carear around hating Kurds, under pretence of being oppposed to their federalism, yet when it comes to his own people, the Sunni Arabs, he doesn’t mind creating a federal region or even seceding from Iraq. Ironic, isn’t it, to hear these words from Nujayfi? But it’s unsurprising to me, these peoples’ principles are fake, they are just racists.

    As for al-Maliki, he is only opposed to federalism because he is the Prime Minister and he wants as much power as possible. Unlike the Ba’athists, he is not trying to cover up for his racism but just for his power-hungryness and lack of principles. But if this al-Maliki were part of an opposition party and were to become, say, governor of Basra, you can bet that the first thing he would do is ask for an autonomy so that he can enhance his powers.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Kermanshahi, I feel certain that Nujayfi’s comments will arouse negative reactions among Sunnis and secularists. White Iraqiyya, which still has some Sunni secularists, has for example already criticised Nujayfi’s latest interview with the BBC. Similarly, both Allawi and Mutlak came out with relatively anti-federal remarks when Nujayfi gave his previous comments in June.

    I think there are people who are ideologically committed to the vision of a centralised state on both sides of the sectarian divide. Maliki’s discourse in this respect has been pretty consistent from 2006 to 2011 despite fluctuations in the popularity of the federalism option within the Shiite Islamist camp. It should be added that once more, the comments by Nujayfi are being wildly misreported in Iraqi media. He did not talk about a single “Sunni region” but rather about several governorate-based regions in the Sunni-majority areas.

  6. Reidar,
    I am glad you finally agreed that Maliki is not secular 🙂
    It’s the combination of being centralist and the narrow Islamist interpretation of that that makes Maliki’s policies so anti democratic.
    And Nujaifi’s tantrums are stirring the pot and risky in the context of winning votes for himself and for Iraqiya, but then again who can guarantee the running of the elections; Maliki wants to appoint his cronies to the election commissions..

  7. Lars said

    Reidar, vil lige henlede opmærksomheden på den her:
    There have been reports of a political coup white within the National Alliance for the removal of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister.
    Al-Shammari said (of the Agency news) on Monday: that what is traded from a bloodless coup within the National Alliance is a blow of imagination and the impossible can not be achieved because of the National Alliance component of the forces of political and religious authority and Merpthm different from the other blocks…

  8. Salah said

    I am glad you finally agreed that Maliki is not secular?

    There is proverb in Arab land saying:

    أهل مكة اعرف بشعابها

    Reidar missing how much these folks coloring themselves, they are behaving as same as same as their heating Moa’awia Bin Abu Sufian

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Lars, my sense is that the story about a “coup” in the National Alliance is probably exaggerated. Shammari rejects it and he is from Fadila which is pretty marginal to the alliance as the whole and would not have much to lose from challenging Maliki. Only ISCI and the Sadrists have been flirting publicly with this idea and they always seem to step down from it when things get truly critical.

    The comments from Shammari are interesting also for the wilayat al-faqih-like relationship between the National Alliance and the marjaiyya that they indicate. But then again, Iraqiyya recently referred to the marjaiyya as a source of legitimacy for its policies!

  10. Salah said

    You all know Iraq’s majority Muslim sect (this not very accurate,should be Iran’s Shiites in iraq) playing a powerful role in a chaotic, post-Saddam world. you all know there is Marjia’aya for Shiites, now under Maliki “The secular” the Dawa’awa\ 2 party have “his” own Marjia’iaya…..

    الشاهرودي مرجع حزب الدعوة يفتتح مكتبه الرسمي في النجف

    Who is “الشاهرودي” let take a look to his Bio….
    حمود الهاشمي الشاهرودي، رئيس السلطة القضائية الإيرانية سابقاً، عضو “مجلس صيانة الدستور”، عضو “مجمع تشخيص مصلحة النظام” في الدورة الخمسية الحالية في إيران،

  11. Kermanshahi said

    Al-Maliki is part-time Nationalist, part-time Islamist, it’s jsut whatever suits him best at the moment.

    As for the Ba’athists which disagree with al-Nujayfi’s comments, it is merely that they still think they can control all of the country + at the moments Kurds are the only ones benefiting from federalism, so they still want to be anti.

  12. Sumerian said

    Nujayfi and his inferiority complex! It’s not that the Sunnis feel that they are second-class citizens. They just feel that they are not the “boss” anymore and there’s a huge difference here. I feel bad for the Sunnis. They ruled Iraq and always considered themselves the “real Iraqis” based on what the British taught them during the Mandate on Mesopotamia. Their best option is not federalism…. this is not enough. They should declare independence, or maybe join a neighboring Arab state. That will put an end to their endless fear of the “Persian” and the “Safavid” influence in Iraq. Honestly, Shiites in Iraq will always have connections with other Shiites whether in Iraq or any other country. All Sunni Muslims consider themselves “one nation” so why do we have to expect that the Shiites in Iraq will act differently?

    This is the tragic flaw in failed states… people refuse to admit that they live in a failed state! It’s like doing drugs! The victims here are the people who live in the so-called Iraq and those who empower the fantasies of national unity (haven’t seen any clear evidence of it yet) are the drug dealers who provide these victims with the poison! I feel for the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq but I think that they all need a crazy civil war to make them “make up” their minds… eventually this is going to happen.

  13. Kermanshahi said

    You know, the Sunnis should consider themselfes lucky that they are allowed so much political representation in Iraq and the Shi’as allow them to influence the politcal process so much. Look at Saudi Arabia, how many Shi’as have they got in their government? Every single Sunni country treats Shi’as like second class civizens and they don’t give them any right, but in Shi’a countries like Iraq and Lebanon, suddenly there has to be power-sharing and secterian quotas which benefit Sunnis. Seriously, you can’t have it both ways.

    I first wanna see a Shi’a speaker of parliament in Saudi Arabia. Oh wait, they don’t even have a parliament! The campaign doners of Nujayfi, al-Mutlaq, Alawi and al-Hashemi don’t even believe in democracy, they say it’s an infidel belief which gives legitimacy to rejectionists. And than these guys running on campaign cash from a King which hangs non-Wahabis as infidels, doesn’t allow any elections and bans women from driving, go around scaremongering about Iran all day and people believe them. And to top that the Nujayfi brothers have been in bed with Saddam all their lives.

  14. Kermanshi and Sumerian,
    You both talk as if the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds are united homogeneous entities. The current events challenge your assumption and call your bluff. The Americans are leaving, the Shias and Kurds are in power, that should make you both happy. Let’s see if they can keep the peace.

  15. Sumerian said

    There will be no peace in the failed state of Iraq because the Sunnis will not accept any role but that of the “boss”. Again I understand their feelings. The British taught them that they are the real Iraqis and the Kurds are just Kurds and the Shiites are Persians. The Shiites on the other hand deal with this identity crisis. They want to be fully accepted by the Arabs, but the know that that won’t happen. Hopefully the Kurds will declare their independence. That will lead to the collapse of the British Iraq which means a new beginning.

    It’s so funny that “being in power” is still linked to “happiness” for many people… some things never change!

  16. observer said

    Interesting theory. So your contention is that the Sunnies will not be ever happy until they “recapture” the Green Zone. Dude, I really do not want to waste time “debating” with your impeccable logic, but since you use Sumerian as your moniker, let me give you a pause with a recent theory I heard. Here is how it goes.

    The plain of southern Iraq (i.e. the lands of Sumer) is composed of alluvial materials that were transported by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates from the mountains of Kurdistan. Given that both the water and the soils that comprise the lands of Sumer, or Mesopotamia, the Kurds should demand Fao as part of Kurdistan. Brilliant – don’t you think?

    The point of the story, everybody has the right to have theories, but until proven by facts, they remain just theories. Making statements, such as you do, does not make theories true. You may very well be convinced that you are right, but until your theory is accepted by others, it remains a theory. Get my drift?

  17. Sumerian said

    What Green Zone, Dude? There will be no Green Zone in few months! You did waste time by reminding me that my opinion (Sunnis rejection of the Shiite rule of Iraq) could be wrong. That is correct. I might be wrong, and the Sunnis would suddenly stop calling the Shiites in Iraq “Persian” and “Safavid” and accept the fact that they can’t democratically recapture “the green zone” or the “bloody zone” their dictators turned Iraq into during the past 90 years.

    What you missed is the main focus behind this article: the statements of Mr. Nujayfi. He makes it clear that he feels that the Sunnis are second class citizens now! That was his statement not mine. Call it theory or statement or whatever… we are still waiting to see “real” signs of the so-called Iraqi unity. Expect for the fake slogans, we can’t find any real evidence of it. And who was trying to have others “recognize” or “accept” his theory? I’m not writing a PhD dissertation or maybe destroying someone else theory.

    Loved your theory about Sumer and Kurdistan! Geologists say that South America used to be attached to Africa… time to give Brazil back to Nigeria!

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