Iraq and Gulf Analysis

Archive for January 3rd, 2012

Kurds Challenge Maliki Ally in Parliament

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 3 January 2012 14:09

As Iraqi parliamentarians reconvened for their first session of 2012 today, the full spectrum of ongoing political crises were on display.

Symptomatically, the basic facts of who attended and who did not at times took precedence over the substantial content of the session. In the first place, the secular and increasingly Sunni-backed Iraqiyya party remained absent. A comfortable quorum was nonetheless reached with around 180 deputies present from the Shiite Islamists, the secular White Iraqiyya breakaway faction from Iraqiyya, and the Kurds.

That did not last long, however. Protesting against statements by Hussein al-Asadi, an ally of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Kurds withdrew from the session, demanding an apology from Asadi. Asadi had accused the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, of illegally providing shelter for the newly indicted Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, thereby supposedly violating the anti-terrorism law.  

Other members of the Shiite Islamist parties including Maliki’s own State of Law alliance intervened and provided assurances that Asadi would not attend parliament until he had recanted. The Kurds promptly returned to the session.

These developments show two things. Firstly, the Kurds remain committed to the parliamentary process despite the boycott by Iraqiyya. Symptomatically, they did not achieve an outright condemnation of Asadi, but rather a document containing several clauses that would address the matter through parliamentary procedure.

Secondly, there are forces in the Maliki alliance – such as Asadi – that still dream of dominating parliament through a wafer thin alliance with White Iraqiyya, ignoring the Kurds. This trend – which failed to prevail today – should not be underestimated. Already, lawyers in Shiite-majority governorates like Diwaniyya are threatening to sue Talabani for failing to surrender Hashemi.

In another sign of Maliki’s inability to proceed with a bolder course in parliament, no vote of no confidence in vice premier Salih al-Mutlak, also of the Iraqiyya party, was held. The true test, however, will come later in the month with an expected national conference to deal with the latest political unrest. It is noteworthy that Maliki has used the past few weeks to speak out vocally against several power-sharing clauses of the shadowy Arbil framework that led to the creation of his second government in December 2010. This continued a trend seen throughout 2011, when Maliki increasingly sought to evade any discussion of the exact contents of that agreement.

Whether the Kurds attending the national conference will be satisfied with a verbal fudge of the kind seen in the Talabani-Asadi altercation today remains to be seen.

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