Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The 9-Point Letter from Arbil

Posted by Reidar Visser on Saturday, 5 May 2012 23:11

Over the past week, much fanfare has attached to a 9-point ultimatum letter that was written by the Maliki critics convening in Arbil on 28 April (Kurdish president Masud Barzani, Ayad Allawi and Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya, Muqtada al-Sadr) and then sent to the bloc leader of the Shiite alliance, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. It has been clear for some time that the letter demanded Maliki’s adherence to the contents of the letter within 15 days or a move to sack him would be initiated in parliament. However, the 9 points themselves have not been published before they appeared in the hardcopy version of the Sabah newspaper this morning.

Unfortunately, the letter exudes the usual Iraqi grandiosity and abstraction that have also been the main weaknesses of previous “agreements”. The first two points include generalities like providing services to the Iraqi population, adherence to the constitution, striving for consensus and maintaining democracy! Which Iraqi wouldn’t subscribe to that in theory?

The third point is somewhat more specific, in that it calls for the adoption of the Arbil agreement, the 18 recent points of Muqtada al-Sadr (all of which are useless generalities except for a praiseworthy call for Iraqi support for the oppressed peoples of Bahrain and Syria alike), and, apparently added for good measure, the “memorandum of understanding which the Kurdistan Alliance presented and to which the chief of the government agreed”. The latter sounds perhaps like the Kurdish 19 points of autumn 2010 which were augmented to 25 points in bilateral dialogue with the Shiite alliance in late October that year? Maliki is supposed to have said yes to that and possibly signed as well, but this is difficult stuff that is even harder to implement than Arbil.

The fourth point of the leaked letter is a little bit more specific in that it addresses the problems of ministries governed by deputies and acting ministers. It also underlines the independent commissions and the importance of them staying independent. The electoral commission, in particular, is highlighted as an area of concern.

Alas, with the fifth point it is back to hopeless generalities. Revive the role of parliament. Yeah right. Bring it to life! Maybe that is not for the executive to take care of after all. Sixth point, unsurprisingly, bring an end to dictatorial tendencies in government, please. Seventh, avoid a politicized army and security forces.

The eighth point contains the ultimatum: Unless there is adherence (iltizam) to these principles the matter will be left in the hands of the Shia alliance to initiate a move to withdraw confidence in the government and form a new one – a “real partnership government”. Oh, and just one more: Ninth, the premiership will be limited to two terms to secure peaceful transfer of power and democracy and avoid dictatorship. Just an afterthought, apparently.

In a way, the hapless language of the letter rescues Maliki and the Arbil conventioneers alike. What is demanded, after all, is “adherence” not “implementation”. Probably the safest thing for Maliki is to make that declaration before 13 May. “I adhere”. He will probably add, as long as everything is within the constitution. Most of it isn’t, of course, and actually requires several years of special majority votes in parliament, popular referendums and possibly supreme court reviews. But that is a different story. It is one that was conveniently forgotten at Arbil in 2010 and it can be forgotten again.

Both sides will declare victory; Maliki will remain premier as long as the Sadrists don’t get even more exasperated than they already are. Perhaps the one remaining hope now relates to the electoral commission: Maliki is unhappy with the current one and needs a new one. That can only happen via a majority vote in parliament. Maybe that – more than letters from Arbil – can serve as an effective reminder that he also sometimes needs to broaden his alliance beyond its current state.

8 Responses to “The 9-Point Letter from Arbil”

  1. faisalkadri said

    The exercise of building a loose coalition and issue a hollow ultimatum just to pull the plug on it reminds me of Keynesian economics 🙂 Like paying people to dig holes in the ground then paying them to fill them over in the hope of improving the economy, except the paymaster, the economy and the puppeteer is Iran.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    With respect to actual expectations, it is even worse. Today, Muhammad Iqbal of Wasat/Iraqiyya declares Maliki must “accomplish” what is being demanded or else…

  3. Mohammed said

    You can’t blame Iran for the anti-Maliki forces coming up with unrealistic expectations. Ultimately, muqtada al-Sadr is making a choice to be influenced by Iran. Iraqiya and KRG should recognize that and develop realistic plans instead of “pie in the sky” goals. Iraqiya is full of smart intellectual people, but emotions seems to be getting the better of most politicians in Iraq. Why not just get Maliki to re-affirm prior pledge not to seek a third term, agree on security ministries, and independence of IHEC, central bank, etc. The rest should be settled with next elections in 2014


  4. Observer said

    Still blaming iraqia for malikis short comings… This is the language of malikis apologists.

    So the argument is: if it were not for the intransigence of iraqia, maliki would not have to go to iran.. Really? And what explains all the power grabbing? So that next elections he does not have to go to iran to get his seat? Do you realize how circular this argument is? Of course the circle can be broken if iraqia screws the kurds and we are back to the arabs vs kurds equation which kept raq weak for all of the last century.

  5. @ Observer – Sir, haven’t others, I think Dr. Reidar among them, also blamed Iraqiya, specifically Iyad Allawi, for being stubborn on refusing to relinquish claims on the PM position, resulting in Maliki making a deal with the Shia Islamists and Iran?

    You yourself have told me earlier that Iraqis vote based on sect. Let’s assume that your ideal coalition Govt after the 2010 elections would be Iraqiya taking the PM position & forming a coalition with SOL & the Kurds, excluding the Iranian-backed Shia Islamists. A secular, cross-sect coalition.
    Based on that, how do you think Iraqi Shias would have accepted a former Ba’athist as PM who is the leader of a party widely perceived to be not just Sunni, but largely made up of former Baathist elements? Or the Kurds accept the people who are the remnants of a group that attempted genocides on their people?

    I’m sorry, but based on what you yourself have told me about the voting inclinations of Iraqis, your expectations are fantasy.

  6. observer said

    If Maliki had stuck to at least the spirit of sharing power, it would be a different Iraq today. If it were not for the skewed interpretation of the court, Iraqia’s claim to the PM would not have been in question. Your information about the reported stubbornness of Allawi is not correct. Allawi gave up on the PMship very early on in the discussions. Anyway, this is for history books.

    How did Iraqia get the biggest number of seats? Enough She3a (about 10%) voted without consideration of sect. Now with the new interpretation (by a court that NOW everybody recognizes is not even close to partial) there is no need to figure out the alignment before the elections. Watch for changes in the line up in the next elections (if there is a new one that is).

    At any rate, the question of blame is a useless discussion. My point is that you people do not take the history of Iraq into account. The Kurds must be protected if Iraq is to survive as a state we recognize. The alignment of Arabs against Kurds is just as dangerous as the alignment of Sunnis against She3a.

  7. @ Observer – my apologies, I hadn’t known Allawi gave up the Prime Minister position early on. As that is the case, what was/were the primary issues that the blocs disagreed about that resulted in 10 months of deadlock?

    Indeed, the next elections should be interesting.


  8. observer said

    The INA could not get its house in order either. There was a reason why Maliki ran alone and not with the Sadrists or the Majlis. Allawi supported candidates from Majlis after it became apparent that the US was not willing to go the distance to support the constitution that it helped pass despite the objections with promises of reforms etc. Mahdi was not acceptable to Iran and of course not to Da3wa. Then Iran forced Sader to support Maliki – that is when INA aligned. They still needed votes from Kurds and blessings from Iraqia. Allawi actually internally advocated for opposition – but Iraqia is run as a coalition (claims of Allawi’s dictatorial style not withstanding)… The allies within Iraqia wanted positions and so it goes.

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