Saturday, October 02, 2010

Still no government formed in Iraq

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports, "A coalition of Shiite political blocs chose Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as its candidate for Iraq's top government job on Friday afternoon - a step that could break a months-long standoff over who will govern the country. Despite the new support, Maliki must still find more votes in the Iraqi parliament if he is to remain in power and form a new government. The fact that the Shiites now supporting Maliki are mostly Sadrists - followers of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who staunchly oppose the American presence here - also has the potential to alarm Washington." That's the opening, she goes on to offer a pretty thorough look at various potential angles. Yesterday came the news that Nouri had the support of the Iraqi National Alliance (he's had it before and lost it before but no one wants to note that reality). And yet the political stalemate continues.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twenty-five days with no government formed.

Jim Muir (BBC News) notes that yesterday Iraq 'won' " the world record for the length of time it is taking to form the new government, passing the 208-day mark set by the Netherlands in 1977. But it seems likely that the old record will be broken by quite a substantial margin, as the process of settling the contending factions into a viable governing formation still has some way to run." In addition, Muir notes that it does not appear as though Nouri has 100% support from the Iraqi National Alliance. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "After a meeting on Saturday, Iraqiya leaders said they would now try to court two Shiite parties that oppose Mr. Maliki, as well as two smaller parties that won 10 seats, though that would still leave the bloc without enough seats to thwart Mr. Maliki’s re-election."

89 seats for State Of Law, 70 for the Iraqi National Alliance. That's 159. If Nouri has support of all the Alliance which Jim Muir and others do not appear to be the case. Hmm. Let's do some math. There are 325 seats. Take 159 away? That's 166. Take Iraqiya's 91 away and that's 75.

There are 75 seats up for grabs. Maybe Nouri will get them, maybe he won't. But nothing that's happened indicates the stalemate has ended. How could it? The stalemate only ends when Iraq forms a government.

Meanwhile Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) reports:

Mindful that the likely return to power of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the head of yet another Shi'ite-dominated government could potentially trigger a Sunni backlash, the Iraqi military is putting on a show of force in Anbar province — an erstwhile hotbed of insurgency. But that plan risks inflaming hostility in a community that already feels politically marginalized.
[. . .]
Eyewitnesses in several Anbar cities report an increased military presence in the streets, in the form of Army patrols and checkpoints. Here in Fallujah, patrols have been increased dramatically since Friday's announcement. "The message is: 'We are here, watching you, so don't get any ideas'," says Mohammed al-Shabib, sheikh of the powerful Issawi tribe in Fallujah.

Wow. Oh my goodness. If only there had been some way to see that when the news was breaking on Sunday. If only. But it's so unexpected. It's so out of thin air. Let's drop back to "And the war drags on . . .:"

As the violence continues, so do Nouri's little mind games with the Sunnis. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports that Anbar is about to get even more tense and possibly more unstable as police officrs there ("hundreds") are about to kicked out because they were Sahwa -- known at the time they were hired, in fact, the reason they were hired. The blame is being laid at the Ministry of Interior whose minister, remember, is appointed by Nouri. Not noted by Fadel is that the Sunni-stronghold could be the location for strong protests should an announcement be made that State Of Law's Nouri will remain in place as prime minister despite his slate coming in second and despite the fact that he is both controversial and unpopular.

Oh, what do you know, it was completely foreseeable. It is not a surprise, it's not shocking. It is totally and completely seeable. It's just the press chose to look the other way -- no damn surprise there.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (three more injured) and a mortar attack on the Green Zone. Press TV notes, "A missile was fired on Saturday afternoon from southern Kirkuk in the direction of the US forces' al-Hurria airbase, a local police source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency."

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