On Sunday, Allawi met with US ambassador to Iraq James F Jeffrey and commander of US forces General James Mattis, reports suggesting that the two American officials tried to persuade Allawi to accept a post in a government led by Al-Maliki.
US officials are keen to find a way of including Allawi in the new government, while at the same time addressing Iraqiya's demand that there be a check on what the bloc describes as Al-Maliki's otherwise authoritarian and sectarian government.
Aside from Allawi's contribution, the other main challenge facing Al-Maliki is the precise make-up of his new cabinet, amid fierce jockeying for power and reports that ministerial seats are being bought and sold.
Discussion among the country's political groups has revealed serious disputes over the allocation of ministerial positions.
Al-Maliki has said he intends to appoint some 39 ministers in an attempt to maximise cabinet seats and satisfy ambitious politicians, even if this leads to millions of dollars of extra expenses in salaries and other expenditure.
The above is from Salah Hemeid's "Putting Iraq together again?" (Al-Ahram) and how many posts will Nouri have to create? We noted it months ago, Nouri was promising cabinet positions repeatedly -- the same ones. Now he's got the deal he wanted and he's having to create cabinet positions in an attempt to make good on his promises. Will everyone be taken in by his sucker deals? Real cabinet positions come with power and not just a title. From yesterday's snapshot:
A number of reports are being filed on Hussain al-Shahristani. Ben Lando (Iraq Oil Report) is the only one so far who gets it right: al-Shahristani is not just the Minister of Oil, he's also the Minister of Electricity. Nouri named him that when the Minister of Electricity quit in May. No, it's not a real post because all cabinet ministers must be approved by Parliament and Parliament never approved al-Shahristani to the post of Minister of Elecrticity. The news today is that al-Shahristani has been nominated Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Electricity Issues.
Does that sound strange? It should. It's not a real position. Nouri just created it. We warned you he had overpromised on posts -- promising several people they could be the same post -- and now he has to create new posts just to give the appearance of keeping his promises.
Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports today, "People close to Mr. Shahristani, an ally of Mr. Maliki's, said he would accept the new job provided that he keeps a hand on the tiller of Iraq's energy sector even if Mr. Maliki is forced to hand the oil ministry to other rival political blocs." Repeating, real cabinet positions come with power and not just a title.
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 eight months, twenty-five 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."
Reidar Visser (Foreign Affairs) offers:
But so far, the power-sharing deal has been disconcertingly lacking in substance. Right now, it appears that the notion of power-sharing in Iraq is nothing more than a spin-doctor operation by the Obama administration -- to which Iraq’s dominant Shiite Islamist parties are happy to pay lip service. Looking at the distribution of influential positions in the new government, only one player has been given true power: Nouri al-Maliki.
Iraqiya, besides having gained the speakership of the parliament -- an important position but one that remains checked by deputy speakers with relatively strong powers -- has only been promised a castle in the air: the presidency of a projected National Council for Strategic Policies. The council, which ostensibly would give Iraqiya influence in all major decisions regarding defense, internal security, and economic and energy-related issues, is thus far being treated by Maliki and his allies as a deliberative think tank whose main function would be to offer advice.
As for the Kurds, they have apparently received promises from Maliki on key demands regarding disputed territories and possibly the oil sector; in terms of specific cabinet positions, however, they, too, have few guarantees. The presidency, which the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani had demanded for personal reasons, is now an essentially powerless position. This new office lacks the strong veto power of the transitional three-man presidency council, which expired when Talabani was elected as an ordinary president without any deputies on November 11, bringing the five-year transition stipulated in the Iraqi constitution to an end.
How bad are things in the government-forming process? Xinhua reports, "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will chair a high-level UN Security Council meeting on Iraq later this month to 'recognize the very real progress' that country has made so far, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN who also holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for December, told reporters here on Thursday." UPI adds that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday "described the nomination of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as a 'breakthrough' in the democratic experiment under way in Iraq. Delays in forming a new government, however, were cause for some concern for U.N. member states." And they don't expect, even if a cabinet is pulled together, anything to "develop before early 2011". The meet-up will take place December 15th -- or that's the plan currently -- and interestingly there will be talk of taking Iraq out of receivership. Nouri desperately wants control -- and that includes the oil dollars from pre-war that the UN controlled via their program -- and the US desperately wants the theft of Iraqi oil laws passed.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Yochi Dreazen (National Journal), John Harwood (New York Times) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "One-Week Wonders: We Pay Attention So You Don’t Have To." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, US House Rep Barbara Lee, Mariam Memarsadeghi, US House Rep Shelley Moore Capito and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion about environmental concerns in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Radio notes. The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations today at 10:00 am EST (and streaming live online). For the first hour (domestic news discussion), Diane's panelists are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (CBS and Slate) and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times. The second hour (international news discussion), will find Diane joined by Nadia Bilbassy (MBC TV), James Kitfield (National Journal) and David Loyn (BBC).
Grandmothers Against the War's Joan Wile is the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. This is her latest column:
"PLEASE STOP YOUR NIGHT RAIDS,"
PLEAD AFGHAN PEACE YOUNGSTERS
by Joan Wile, author, "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press, 'May '08)
My group, New York City's Grandmothers Against the War, recently "adopted" the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, to provide moral and material support for their efforts to end our war in their homeland. The youngsters, who live in a mountain village 100 miles NW of Kabal, have accomplished miracles of peace-building in their community and around the world. They have just sent a letter to world leaders, which I am reproducing below, begging, "Stop your night raids," and inviting participation in a 24-hour Skype conference Dec. 18-19, to be called a Global Day of Listening, with as many people as can be inspired to participate. Among those who have already signed on are retired army Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative NonViolence, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, Mark Johnson of Fellowship for Reconciliation, a number of high school peace classes, a group of our grannies, tentatively called Grannies in Support of Afghan Peace Youths, and many others. Details about how to participate are at the end of their letter. Here is their plea:
OPEN LETTER FROM AFGHAN YOUTHS TO OUR WORLD LEADERS
Dear Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Gen. Petraeus, Mr. Rasmussen, and all our world leaders:
We are Afghans and we ask the world to listen. Like yourselves, we couldn’t live without the love of our family and friends. We were hurt by your criticism of Mr Karzai for voicing the people’s anguished pleas, “Stop your night raids.”
Please, stop your night raids.
If you could listen, you would have heard 29 NGOs in Afghanistan describe how we now have “Nowhere to Turn”.
If you could listen, you would also have heard Mr Karzai and the 29 NGOs express concern over your Afghan Local Police plan; the world will henceforth watch our militia killing the people, your people and our people, with your weapons and your money.
If you could listen, you would have heard the sound of your drones crystallizing the nights of hatred among the Afghan, Pakistani and global masses.
Instead, we hear your determination to ‘awe, shock and firepower’ us with Abrams tanks. We hear distant excitement over your new smart XM25 toy, a weapon you proudly proclaim will leave us with ‘nowhere to hide’.
Nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide.
Your actions have unfortunately dimmed our hopes that we the people could turn to you. Along with our Afghan war-makers, you are making the people cry. Yet, we understand. You are in the same trap we’re in, in a corrupt, militarized mania.
Love is how we’re asking for peace, a love that listens, and reconciles.
And so, we invite you to listen to the people of Afghanistan and to world public opinion on the Global Day of Listening to Afghans, to be internet-broadcast from Kabul this December.
It is time to listen broadly and deeply to both local and overseas Afghan civil groups and the numerous alternative solutions they have proposed for building a better socio-political, economic and religious/ideological future for Afghanistan.
We have shared the pain of our American friends who lost loved ones on September 11, by speaking with and listening to them. Though, if the world could listen like these American friends did, the world would know that few Afghans have even heard about September 11 and that no Afghans were among the 19 hijackers. The world would have heard our yearnings as we were punished over the past 9 years.
If the world could listen, they would know how much we detest the violence of the Taliban, our warlords, any warlord, or any bullet-digging finger-trophy troops.
And now, for at least another four more years, we will grieve over souls who you are unwilling to ‘count’ and we are unwilling to lose. It is extra painful to us and to your troops because clearly, there are non-violent and just alternatives.
We understand the pain of financial hardships but try telling an Afghan mother about to lose her child or a soldier about to take his life that the only way their illiterate and angry voices can ruffle the posh feathers of our world leaders is when it disturbs not their human or truth deficit, but their trillion dollar economic deficits. How do we explain that without denuding ourselves of human love and dignity?
What more can we say? How else can we and our loved ones survive? How can we survive with hearts panicking in disappointment while perpetually fleeing and facing a ’total’ global war, a war that wouldn’t be questioned even in the crude face of a thousand leaks?
We would survive in poverty, we may survive in hunger, but how can we survive without the hope that Man is capable of something better?
We sincerely wish you the best in your lives.
We are Afghans and we ask the world to listen.
Be at peace!
Meekly with respect,
The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Global Day of Listening to Afghans
19th December 2010
Why not listen? Why not love?
To share the pain of Afghans and people in conflict all over the world, please join us in Afghanistan by taking a few minutes on the 18th & 19th of December 2010 to Skype call us or call us directly, from wherever you are
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