Monday, December 13, 2010

Continued tensions, continued stalemate

Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi political parties agreed to allocate 16 ministries including two sovereign ministries to the National Alliance, an informed source told Alsumaria News. Al Iraqiya List is expected to get nine ministries while Kurdistan Parties Coalition will get four ministries, the source said." Wednesday is the deadline Nouri gave himself (and should have been the actual deadline) to form a government. Over the weekend, he announced he wouldn't make that deadline -- a replay of April 2006.

So the stalemate continues. For those who don't grasp that, the March elections did not put the Parliament in question. That's the legislative branch. The stalemate was always about the executive branch. That stalemate continues.

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, six 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."

The power-sharing agreement is in trouble and the Kurds remain the focus currently. Alsumaria TV reports that KRG President Massoud Barazani's call for self-determination Saturday have been walked back. By Barazani? No, so ignore it. Barazani rules the KRG and does he makes statements like he did on Saturday and, when they get walked back, someone else does it. In a few months, he'll give a sit-down interview -- as has been his pattern -- and we'll refine his statements from Saturday (self-determination for the KRG, Kirkuk belongs to the KRG) but he won't actually retract anything. Which is why other outlets aren't putting a great deal of weight behind the walk back. Today's Zaman this morning leads with, "Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has said that his semi-autonomous region has the right to self-determination and to the disputed city of Kirkuk, which is situated on top of some of Iraq's largest oil reserves." Barzani is the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Hurriyet Daily News reports on the six-day congress the KDP is holding ("its first congress since 1999") to discuss the status and the future of the political party. It would be foolish to disown the remarks and the sort of thing that Jalal Talabani would do -- and has regularly done which explains the PUK's dismal showing in the July 2009 elections. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that Barzani's "drawn the ire of the country's Sunni and Shiite Arab leaders, who argue that it presages a break-up of Iraq." That's not worrying to Barzani who is not dependent upon votes from outside the KRG. The perception that he has angered them, in fact, only strengthens him in the KRG.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Honey Pot"
went up last night. Today on Law and Disorder Radio (airs on WBAI today at 9:00 am EST and around the country throughout the week), finds Michael Ratner and Michael S. Smith discussing Latin America with Eva Golinger and the Michaels also discuss WikiLeaks at the top of the show and do so in a way that others should take a lesson from. And we'll close by noting this Al Jazeera video report that Information Clearing House has reposted.

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