Wednesday, December 15, 2010






"Can Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki create unity in Iraq?" wondered Marlam Saleh on Middle East Today (Press TV) this weekend where she was joined by Iraqi political analyst Bassem Abu Tabeekh, the National Alliance's Intifad Kanbar and Notre Dame University's Eugene Dabbous. Excerpt:
Marlam Saleh: What has allowed for this deadlock to somehow end? We have all three leaders being named but now Mr. Maliki has a lot on his hands. Can we say that the issue of civil war was a major threat before? And do you think now it does still exist?
Bassem Abu Tabeekh: Well hello to you, to your TV, your guests and thank you for inviting us today. Actually all this now, the new situation in Iraq. And the elected the speaker man for the Parliament and the prime minister and the minister of Iraq -- the president of Iraq. All this been agreed in Kurdistan which is whole package. Before they went to the Parliament, they agreed who's going to be in which. Now Alawi having been elected to have the strategic council in Iraq now the problem is going to be Alawi can be given order or only advise the government? This is the only situation now. He trying and doing -- He tried to break the agreement which is all the members of all the politicians and the prime minister and the president of Iraq and the chairman all agreed on all the deal in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, that is all accepted Now Allawi try to break it to get more benefit and more advance -- advance for him. Now this civil war, now, there's some politician, they try to raise the voice, tojust give signal to the Iraqis is going to be a problem and give pressure to al-Maliki and others that no civil war will be. We had the situation. America tried to do that but they failed. and another neighboring country, they don't want to beat Iraq back into -- international community tried to make civil war in Iraq. Everybody happy and they don't want to beat Iraq. There is a law in Iraq and with the law --
Marlam Saleh: Allow me -- allow me to get Mr. Intifad Kanbar's take because he is in Baghdad of course. He could give us a general perspective. Mr. Intifad Kanbar, what can you tell us about the talks taking place right now? We've heard Mr. Maliki's bloc. They're saying that they have made concessions in order to let this work. And you heard Mr. Bassem Abu Tabeekh saying that, no, actually Mr. Allawi could be standing in the way of an agreement. What do you think?
Intifad Kanbar: Well this is going to be -- we were trying to make it -- a partnership, a national partnership, government which we are hoping and working very hard to include, not excluse everyone in this government including Al Iraqiya. However, some of the demands by some factions within Iraqiya are quite unacceptable by some -- by the Iraqi National Alliance and others; therefore, it's making it more difficult to have full participation of Iraqiya. But I'm cautiously optimistic that Iraqiya will participate on a large scale in the government. I think the question 'What is the fate of Mr. Ayad Allawi?' I think his position will be in question. Specifically on the issue of the formation of the Council of Higher Policies which may contradict the Constitution and may require an amendment in the Constitution which takes two years. All that will be formed in a way that is going to have an advisory role, not an executive role. Something that I'm not sure Mr. Allawi will accept.
Marlam Saleh: Yes, now some would say that the Kurdish president is a barrier to the Iraqi Arab identity. What do you think about that?
Intifad Kanbar: The -- Iraq in it's majority, the majority of the population in Iraq, yes, is Arab. But Iraq is a mix and we don't believe in the idea of minority. Every number of people in Iraq have equal rights and there's no rights for the majority and rights for the minority. Therefore Iraq is a country that has a combination of Kurds, Armenians, Chaldeanians, Assyrians and all -- Mandaeisms, Yazidians and those people have equal rights in accordance with the Constitution that has been ratified and approved by the Iraqi people. Thererfore, Iraq identy -- Iraq has an Arab side but there is a distinguished Iraqi identity which represents all this moasic of the Iraqi identitiy.
Today Alsumaria TV reports that the Iraqi Parliament has yet again delayed a session. They were supposed to deliberate today but they've postponed it until Saturday -- not that they were up for hardest working legislative body or anything before the latest move. The big agenda item being pushed back? The issue of the National Council for Strategic Policies which is supposed to be headed by Ayad Allawi. If it is not an independent body with independent powers, Allawi has stated he will walk out on the government. As noted yesterday, Omar (Iraq The Model) has offered an English translation of the (or a) bill proposing the creation of the NCSP. Lara Jakes (AP) reports Allawi's spokesperson states he will be joining the government being put together.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now nine months, seven days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

As the stalemate continues, David Ignatius (Washington Post) reports:

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met here Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and urged him to start planning now for a "long-term strategic partnership" in which the United States will continue training the Iraqi military and police, and providing other, unspecified security assistance. Mullen said later that Maliki seems to want such a relationship, "but the direction hasn't been worked out."
The biggest story about Iraq may be what hasn't happened. There were widespread fears that when U.S. troops pulled out of Iraqis cities in mid-2009, the country would slip back toward civil war. That didn't happen. The same fears were expressed when the last combat troops departed this summer. It didn't happen then, either.

He goes on to offer a balance portrait of Nouri (that is balance when you're describing a thug) but surprisingly, he seems unaware of the rumors that there's a scramble to curry Tehran's favor among numerous Shi'ites. Ahmed Chalabi is only the one with the loosest lips who is supposedly stating that if Nouri fails at the 30-day deadline, Jalal Talabani will be naming him (Chalabi) as the next prime minister-designate. Since Chalabi is also angling for a key post in Nouri's cabinet, it's surprising how many are repeating this rumor. Ibrahim Jafari is also mentioned as someone in contact with Tehran as an alternative to Nouri. Today the White House issued the following:
Vice President Biden and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon met today with General Lloyd Austin III, Commanding General of the United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I), to review political and security developments in Iraq. They discussed the progress Iraq has made toward providing for its own security. Tomorrow, the Vice President will chair a United Nations Security Council High-Level Meeting on Iraq, the purpose of which is to recognize and reinforce the tremendous progress that the Republic of Iraq has made and to discuss ways in which Members can continue to support Iraq's government and people. On Friday at the White House, the Vice President will chair his monthly Principals meeting on Iraq.

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