FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Can Iraq’s Leaders Do a Deal?

Iraq’s leaders moved closer to forming a new government Tuesday when they met for the first time since an election in March produced a political stalemate.

As they began talks in the northern city of Erbil on creating a power-sharing government, car bombs exploded in two of the country’s holiest cities killing 14 people, a reminder of the government’s failure to quell violence.

At least 150 people have been killed in shootings and bomb blasts in the last week. The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is likely to keep his job in a new government while his rival Ayad Allawi, whose al-Iraqiya Party won the most seats in the election eight months ago, appears to have miscalculated his political strength.

In rejecting early compromise proposals, Allawi gave  Maliki little choice but to seek support from Iran and revive his alliance with Shia religious parties, notably the followers of the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

“The big winners inside the country are the Sadrists and the Kurds and the losers are the Sunni,” said the Iraqi political scientist and commentator Ghassan Attiyah. “Outside Iraq the winners are Iran and Syria and the losers are the US and Saudi Arabia.”

US influence in Iraq is fast diminishing and President Barack Obama evidently intends the remaining 50,000 American troops in Iraq to be withdrawn without trouble.

The meeting of the leaders of the main political blocs in Erbil begins three days of negotiations continuing today in Baghdad. These will end with the session of the Iraqi parliament on Thursday that will try to select a Speaker. Al-Iraqiya is still formally rejecting  Maliki as Prime Minister, but the party is beginning to fragment with as many as 40 of its 91 MPs willing to accept him. Few al-Iraqiya MPs say they are willing to follow  Allawi into opposition. The problem for  Allawi, Prime Minister of Iraq in 2004-5, was that, although al-Iraqiya won 91 seats against 89 for  Maliki’s State of Law Party, his success was something of a mirage. Though  Allawi is a secular Shia, his voters were mostly Sunni and his party only came top in the polls because the Shia alliance, that previously ruled Iraq in coalition with the Kurds, was split.

In the months since the election,  Allawi’s political position has grown weaker as  Maliki succeeded in conciliating many who were previously his political opponents. Showing political flexibility, Iran and Syria finally came to accept he should remain Prime Minister as did the Kurds with whom he was previously at loggerheads.

The US failed to mediate an agreement between  Maliki and  Allawi. Saudi Arabia tried to rally the Sunni Arabs but it was never in a position to mediate because Saudi leaders refused to speak to  Maliki or reach an accommodation with Iran and Syria.

Turkey, which has growing influence in Iraq, has been more successful in helping create a new government.

The new government is likely to be weaker than  Maliki’s first administration that has been in power since 2006. Many of his difficulties sprang from what other Iraqi political leaders saw as his tendency to monopolize power. These misgivings were shared by Iran and Syria.

This distrust is likely to continue and the Kurds and the Sadrists will want to ensure that they have a share in deciding who should get what jobs in government, particularly in the army, police and intelligence. A new power-sharing government under  Maliki will in fact mean the fragmentation of power and greater difficulty in making decisions.

Maliki will have to give a number of top jobs to al-Iraqiya in order to prevent the Sunni community feeling marginalized and disappointed as it watches its apparent political triumph in the March election evaporate.

One solution would be to create a national security council on which members of Iraqiya would be well represented, but whose authority could be more apparent than real. If the Sunni, a fifth of Iraq’s population, do not get what they want there is unlikely to be a sectarian civil war such as that which raged in 2005-7. The Sunni were largely defeated then and may be unable to stage a new uprising. But the failure of the Sunni to get a share in power will increase their sense of alienation and expand the pool of support for groups such as al-Qa’ida. The prolonged failure to form a government has discredited politicians in Iraq and reinforced the belief that they are primarily interested in making money for themselves.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail