Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nouri's hold on State of Law slips away

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 168 violent deaths so far this month.  Today, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mada'in roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left five people injured, a Qara-Tepeh bombing claimed 1 life and left two injured, 3 people (two college students, one Sahwa) were shot dead in Mosul, and "Gunmen, wearing military uniforms, assassinated on Thursday 5, Dec the police officer of Aski police station after storming his house on the night of one of his sons wedding, killing three others, including the groom."

Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq notes that "200 Badush prison guards in Mosul" have resigned "due to assassinations and threats."

Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki got some more bad news:

State of Law is the coalition Nouri created.  Today it's the coalition with a high profile defection.  Iraq Times notes that State of Law's leader in Parliament, Izzat al-Shahbandar, is the topic of speculation with rumors flying that he had resigned from State of Law.  Alsumaria then reported that they could confirm the resignation via multiple sources.  Hours later, All Iraq News noted Izzat al-Shahbander had publicly announced his resignation and declared, "The SLC [State of Law Coalition] turned into a sectarian coalition."  All Iraq News also noted that al-Shahbander met with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday.  Kitabat quotes him stating that Nouri's positions and actions do not reflect his own beliefs and he cites Nouri's refusal to work with political opponents or to respect the ongoing sit-ins.
This is a major blow to Nouri.  It's a loss at a time when Nouri's personal prestige was already on the decline.  It's a loss that al-Shahbander and Moqtada can spin as 'the building of a new Iraq.'  The two were at odds for some time.  In fact, in 2011, the Sadr bloc was accusing al-Shahbander (and other State of Law MPs -- but they specifically named al-Shahbander) of procuring women for Nouri in the Green Zone. Now that can be put behind them, is the message, and the unity and good of Iraq can instead be embraced.

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports on the disintegration of Nouri's hold on State of Law:

As political parties prepare for upcoming general elections, some very important alliances are falling apart. Shiite Muslim parties allied in the current governing coalition led by PM Nouri-al-Maliki say they will campaign alone - and they won’t promise al-Maliki another term. Amid a surge in sectarian violence, could the country finally be entering a post-sectarian political era?  

Prominent Shiite Muslim politicians in Baghdad have confessed that there is one major reason why the previously strong alliance of Shiite Muslim parties is breaking up. This alliance was what allowed current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form his ruling coalition, the State of Law bloc. But now, as political parties start negotiating partnerships and jockeying for position ahead of the upcoming general elections, scheduled for April 2014, the formerly strong Shiite Muslim alliances have fallen apart.

A special meeting was held in Baghdad on Nov. 18 at which all member parties of al-Maliki’s alliance were present. A statement was issued afterwards declaring, “Shiite Muslim parties are enthusiastic about competing in the coming elections together”. But this seems to have been spin: The reality on the ground is very different.

“The State of Law bloc has asked that all other parties that want to enter into an alliance with it agree ahead of elections that if they win, the future Prime Minister will come from the Dawa party and that that party will not nominate anyone other than Nouri al-Maliki,” a senior politician, who did not want to be named, told NIQASH. “This is why the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrist bloc are avoiding any such alliance.”

The strongest Shiite Muslim parties in Iraq are al-Maliki’s Dawa party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, headed by cleric Ammar al-Hakim and the Sadrist bloc, headed by another cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. There are also other minor Shiite Muslim parties such as the National Reform Trend headed by former Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the Islamic Virtue Party, or Fadhila, headed by controversial Najaf-based cleric, Mohammed Musa al-Yaqoubi.

Both the Sadrist bloc and the ISCI seem firm about their intentions not to enter into an alliance with al-Maliki’s party again. Both al-Hakim and al-Sadr have been critical of al-Maliki’s government, with al-Sadr being very harsh, very publicly and al-Hakim tending to be quietly critical. 

Nouri is wrapping up his two-day visit to Iran.  Hamza Mustafa (Asharq al-Awsat) reports:

The visit comes amid increasing division within the governing Shi’ite coalition in Iraq. It follows an announcement by the Sadrist Bloc in Iraq’s parliament, led by Moqtada Al-Sadr, and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by Ammar Al-Hakim, of their intention to fight the next parliamentary elections on separate lists and open the door to new alliances in order to choose an alternative prime minister to Maliki.
Meanwhile, the State of Law Coalition, which Maliki leads, insisted on Maliki’s nomination for the premiership for a third term, a move rejected by the Sadrists and the Supreme Council.
Jawad Al-Jubouri, a member of the Sadrist Al-Ahrar Bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The visit may seem like a state visit by a senior official, such as a prime minister, who is working on Iraqi international relations, especially with neighboring states. However, the problem is in the timing of the visit, because carrying out two visits in close succession to two important countries, the United States and Iran, makes observers suspicious.”

It is interesting that all of this can be -- and is -- reported by everyone but the western media.  Is there a special reason AP, AFP and Reuters can't report on this?  CNN?  The New York Times?

I'm asking because Nouri was doing poorly going into the 2010 elections but that's not what the western press 'reported.'  They said he was doing great, he'd win by record totals.  Quil Lawrence (NPR) even announced Nouri the winner before the votes were counted.

But, funny thing, when the votes were counted Nouri's State of Law didn't win by a huge margin.  In fact, they didn't win at all, they came in second.

So maybe we need to be asking right now why the western media is ignoring these difficulties Nouri's currently facing?

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