Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Parliament on Holiday again after Kurdish Abstentions

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 19 December 2011 12:34

The significant facts of Iraq’s unfolding political crisis this morning appear to be the following:

1. Parliament was unable to achieve a quorum. After a half-hour delay the attempt to hold a session was given up. Parliament will reconvene on 3 January 2012.

2. In a context when Iraqiyya is already boycotting parliament, it was reportedly the absence of the Kurdish parties that prevented a quorum. The Kurds themselves are stressing that “many deputies were absent” and say they are not boycotting in solidarity with Iraqiyya.

3. Several leading Iraqiyya leaders have travelled to the Kurdistan federal region over the past 24 hours.

4. The Iraqi higher judicial council has reportedly issued a prohibition aimed at preventing Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi of Iraqiyya and his security detail from leaving Iraq. Hashemi travelled to Sulaymaniyya in the Kurdish region yesterday.

The failure of parliament to hold its scheduled session seems to signify at least a symbolic blow to Maliki’s ambition of doing as he pleases in the wake of the US withdrawal. (Maliki yesteday formally conveyed a request to parliament for sacking his deputy from Iraqiyya, Salih al-Mutlak.) At least for now, the Kurds appear to be putting some kind of break on. Whether the ultimate aim is to get a better deal from Maliki (as has been their past inclination) or to genuinely work for a more radical restructuring of the Iraqi government remains to be seen.

17 Responses to “Parliament on Holiday again after Kurdish Abstentions”

  1. Michael said

    “The Kurds themselves are stressing that “many deputies were absent” and say they are not boycotting in solidarity with Iraqiyya.”

    Indeed; I suspect few would be willing to suggest that they were. The absence of Iraqiyya alone did little to prevent the political continuation, therefore once again the Kurds have found themselves faced with an opportunity to play Kingmaker. Recognition of this shrewd (and principally self-serving move) will also likely answer your final, open-ended question.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Michael, I included that point because some pro-Iraqiyya media tried to spin the absence of the Kurds that way earlier today, leading in turn to specific Kurdish refutations. For example, take the Baghdadiyya television channel:

    أعلنت هيئة رئاسة البرلمان رفع جلسة المجلس إلى الثالث من الشهر المقبل لعدم اكتمال النصاب القانوني لانعقادها اليوم واكد مصدر برلماني ان قرار التأجيل اتُخذ بسبب مقاطعة كل من التحالف الكردستاني وكتلة التغيير لجلسة اليوم تضامنا مع القائمة العراقية

    In general, I agree with you that the Kurds are probably more likely to put their own interests far above any considerations of solidarity with Iraqiyya.

  3. Michael said


    Therefore the real question is what they intend to gain in this instance.

    Perhaps on this occasion it’s simply the opportunity to be able to hand the initiative back to Maliki in exchange for preferred control of resource that’s driving this one? Let’s not forget that while the Kurds are serving their own interests, those interests can be realised while Maliki remains at the helm.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    The other question is, does Maliki really care whether parliament manages to hold meetings or not??

  5. Good point Reider

  6. Michael said

    I agree; (and believe that I said something to that effect during a debate on another of your blog entries).

    What interests me most at this stage is while undoubtedly a capable politician, whether Maliki has now become too closed-minded to recognise that his increasing autocracy could potentially prove his eventual undoing.

    In a second term President; (especially one who has clearly been selective in his past employment of political alliances), making oneself singularly powerful may serve Maliki (and others) well in the short term. However, the longer-term imperative to remove such an autocrat may also present interested parties with an opportunity to push an alternative (and regionally sympathetic) candidate, unburdened by any natural opposition that such a selection would ordinarily bring and aimed firmly at a full, first-term Presidential candidacy. Maliki could in effect be making his own position untenable.

    Such a scenario is of course highly speculative.

  7. Zaid said

    i agree with ur suggestion that the absence of a working parliament is probably not big a deal. it obviously looks bad if parliament can’t hold its sessions, but it won’t stop the business of governing the country. the government can continue to rule the country by decree, which is standard in iraq anyway.

  8. In re Reidar’s #4 above, I wonder who, if anyone, among Iraqis and their neighbors has any commitment to the whole principle of a ‘constitutional democracy’ as implemented by the US occupying authorities… I could see the big neighbor to the east being delighted to see the whole ‘constitutional’ edifice imploding visibly just at the time Obama is crowing about (and fundraising around) the idea that he has brought the occupation to a ‘responsible end’. I just remember the degree to which the mullahs (in that era, primarily Khomeini) were so delighted to rub Jimmy Carter’s nose in the dirt at the time of the resolution of the hostage crisis. Anyone here seen any commentaries on the US legacy in Iraq coming out of Tehran recently?

  9. Salah M. Yahya said

    Now the political break down inside Iraq raises fear that this will raises ethnic / sectarian conflicts, in other words the break down in politics will reflected on ethnics/ sectarian conflicts.

    Although the differences and fear existed between Iraqis, but the political parties specially Malik and his alias will benefits if this happen or reflected as worst case scenario if things not stopped now.

    As for US or other developed nations how they can give their little support for Iraq’s as they done before 2003, in the recent time with Arab spring we saw US and other developed nations they voices against regimes behaviours against their citizens. Even Hillary Clinton did pay an unprecedented visit to Myanmar in her recent visit to Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
    We all know US keep some pressure on Maliki behind the doors but they never come publicly and officially to do so, we did not see US and other nation condemns Maliki actions despite on every one mouth with his moves in politics in Iraq. Is this have to do with “‘constitutional democracy’” which must say it’s not to that level of democracy its more to “Mullah” ‘democracy style in Iraq?

  10. observor said

    anybody who thinks that Maliki did this without getting a green light from Obama needs to check his/her basic assumptions. Calls coming in from UK and US diplomats are indicating that they are surprised, but they can rest assured that while they maybe surprised, niether the white house nor 10 Downing street are as suprised. The warning signs where all over the place.

    On the confessions of the body gaurds – not that I care for them one bit, but be sure that no confessions in Iraq come out without torture. Hell I would confess to my own mother’s guilt of any given crime just to end the pain….

    Good times!!!!

  11. Salah said

    بترايوس في بغداد فجأة والتقى المالكي والنجيفي وغدا يبحث مع طالباني في الازمة السياسية العراقية

    بريطانيا تستدعي (الملك الأردني) لسماع رأيه حول (الإقليم السني العراقي) ودمجه بالأردن

    كيف تفجرت قصة الهاشمي ولماذا؟

  12. Mohammed said


    Please enlighten me as to why you think Maliki got the “green light” from Obama? I just don’t see what benefit al-Maliki has in rocking the boat right at this point in time. Right now, as you said, he has all the power. So why stoke the flames and anger people the day the Americans step out of Iraq?

    There are two main actions here:
    1) Saleh al-Mutlaq – Calling for his removal as deputy prime minister is to be expected after the CNN interview he gave. Can a member of Obama’s cabinet call Obama a socialist or dictator? Obviously Obama would ask for that person’s letter of resignation immediately. So you have to expect a response. Now unless Mutlaq, Maliki, and Obama are all in league with one another to bring Iraq into chaos, I just don’t understand the timing there. I then have to chalk this one up to stupidity on Mutlaq’s part to see how much he could push Maliki’s buttons, and Maliki is completely justified for calling on Mutlaq to be sacked.

    2) The Hashemi Issue – I have to plead ignorance here. I agree that confessions can surely be fashioned to whatever end you want a long as the torture is severe enough. But again, I have to question the timing of all of this. Why would al-Maliki do this right now? There are two to three possibilities: a) Hashemi is employing corrupt guards who are up to no good (and doing things that Hashemi is not aware of or did not sign on to), or b) Hashemi is on all this, or c) this is a fabricated story used to attack al-Hashemi. If Adel Abdel Mahdi’s body guards can go rob a bank, then so can al-Hashemi’s. Thus, any of the above three scenarios are possible. But again, if Maliki made all this up, why would he do this now? It seems like he is just creating headaches for himself. What concession is he looking for? He pretty much has everything he wants right now, except for the problems with all these federalism initiatives in Sunni provinces (and a move against al-Hashemi is likely to make the federalism issue even more acute for al-Maliki).

    Observor, I must confess that I am totally ignorant here in the USA about Iraqi ground politics asides from reading the blogs and the news and calling my relatives in Baghdad. I really have no horses in this race. I just want the Iraqi people to prosper (irrespective of sect or ethnicity) because they have suffered more than most. I will tell you that I believe that a good portion of the people in al-Dawah/ISCI/Sadrists are corrupt, and I am equally skeptical of Iraqiya (although I do not know you Observor, I must say I am very impressed with you, and generally agree with a good deal you have to say about Iraqi politics, but respectfully disagree with some of your views on Allawi’s politics). So I don’t know who we can trust right now.


  13. observer said

    MIf either of Mutleg or 3essawi or Hashimi has an iota of slef respect, they would have resigned ages ago. Allawi gave up on the agreement of Irbil ages ago and advised Iraqia to quit government and take on full opposition (as ISCI) has done. But these people in Iraqia need the jobs so they can give out favors to their voters so they want to keep both roles (which is impossible). How can you (or I) respect people who have no self respect? For the life of me, I do not know how these guys got elected by their voters, but then again look at the ranks of SOL. Iraqis will for now continue to vote for their sect until they actually give up on Islamic parties… Long time. Let us hope that “democracy” can survive that stretch of time.

    Green light – I will give you one name and you can extrapolate . Reall what April Gellespie told Saddam in July 1990.

    I agree with you that few of the actors are innocent. I can tell you that Adel Abd Al Mahdi was innocent of the crimes of his body guards in Zewia Bank and I expect that Hashimi would be too smart to do what he is being accused of, but people will believe what they want to believe. I will ask you to tell me how come the erstwhile security forces where able to resolve the bombing in parliament but the other thousands of cases are recorded against unknowns? The one fact you (or rieder) can not deny is that the judiciary in Iraq is a tool of the executive and there is no such thing as independent judiciary.

    Maliki started with Iraqia now, then he will get after ISCI including good old Chalabi (he started with the latter already with the TBI made up case against Uzri). Da3wa/Maliki need to get rid of their opposition (think Baath/saddam 1968 – 1975). If you have any clue about the level of details they are going to in Iraq to place a Da3wa cadre in every DG position of any importnace, then you will recall why Saddam stopped people from using their last names (Tikriti, samirae, rawi, 3ani were the names of all the DG’s by 1975). This is a plan that has been under execution for quite a while. Nobody wants to believe this, but it is happening on the ground. If the diplomats continue to sequester themselves inside the Green Zone, they will not be able to gauge the level of penetration of Da3wa in government positions.

    Maliki is counting on Iran supporting him and keeping the ISCI, Saris, etc. in line. The Kurds are playing a dangerous game of holding the middle. The Kurds are two factions now. One faction is playing with fire, wanting Maliki to go on with his policies so they can make the argument for independence, and one faction is recalling the events of Germany in 1930’s and the Baath in 1970’s, of slowly eliminating enemies (or sidelining them while smaller minorities are dealt with). I have no idea which faction is going to win the day, but all the Kurds better hope to god that the US will stand by them when the time comes for the confrontation with Maliki. My heart goes out to the small people who will be the fodder of any of the hundreds of ways the political calculations would go wrong.

    Oh and here is a nice link for you. Let us see how good the security forces are in identifying the culprits. my bet is that they are not going to bother since it is the forces of the government that is protecting the perpetuators

    peace be with you…

  14. Observer,
    “people in Iraqia need the jobs so they can give out favors to their voters so they want to keep both roles (which is impossible).”
    I think the strongest reason for some Iraqiya people to stay in government is not the (positive), i.e. to dish out favors to their supporters like you describe, it is the Negative, or self-protection. These people have their own supporters for mutual protection, if the heads are out of the government then the supporters (read miltias) will lose legitimacy and become vulnerable to Maliki’s forces. The same logic applies to the Sadrists.
    Being in the opposition in Iraq is simply too dangerous facing a paranoid leader.

  15. observer said

    I know what I know and it is not a guess as to why. I happen to disagree with the reasons for keeping the government jobs.

  16. Ashley said

    What do you think about this?

  17. Reidar Visser said

    Some say Iraqiyya are highlighting Jaafari as a potential new nominee but I’m not sure whether they are sincere (many see him as closer to Iran than Maliki is). The Kurds have bitter memories of his previous tenure in 2005 (they consider him as a more fundamentalistic centralist than Maliki.)

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