Sunday, April 29, 2012

Big Erbil Meet-up, Nouri not invited

In Iraq, the political crisis continues.  Gozde Nur Donat (Today's Zaman) observes:

In the midst of a massive wave of political transformation across the entire Middle East, Iraq’s Tehran-backed Shiite leadership has turned a blind eye to the country’s fragile truce among various ethnic and sectarian groups, throwing Iraq’s key power-sharing agreement into disarray in an attempt to consolidate power and further stoking concerns that the unprecedented political crisis in the war-torn country may risk its division.
“The current political situation in Iraq is like a time bomb that could explode at any moment,” Sadrist lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji, whose group backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2010, recently told the media.
The lawmaker accused the prime minister of creating the current political impasse in Iraq and said the Kurds could be the first domino to fall in a broken Iraq. “Baghdad has the same problems with other provinces,” he said, adding that “this will lead to the dividing of Iraq, and there will be no Iraq on the world map.”

Al Mada reports that there was a meet-up in Erbil today.  Among those attending were Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Ayad Allawi (head of Iraqiya) Speaker of Parliamen Osama al-Najaifi and a representative of Moqtada al-Sadr's.  [Moqtada's presence isn't noted in this article but he was also present.] The consensus was that there must be a national partnership and that the Erbil Agreement must be implemented.

This wasn't at all surprising.  They and others have been calling for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented for months and months. Nouri al-Maliki is the one who agreed to the agreement and then trashed it when he got what he wanted out of it.

March 2010 saw parlimentary elections.  State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's slate) came in second to Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi).  Nouri did not want to honor the vote or the Constitution and refused to allow the process to move forward (selecting a new prime minister).  Parliament was unable to meet, nothing could take place.  This is Political Stalemate I and it lasted for over eight months.  In November 2010, Political Stalemate I finally ended.  What ended it?

The US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  This was a written document where everyone made concessions and everyone got something out of it.  Nouri got to be prime minister.  He was loving the Erbil Agreement then.  And as soon as he was named prime minister-designate, he began demonstrating he wouldn't honor the Erbil Agreement.  He had called for a referendum and census on Kirkuk for December 2010.  He was supposed to have done that by the end of 2007.  But he refused to even though Article 140 of the Constitution demanded it.  But as he was trying to get everyone to agree to the Erbil Agreement, he was trying to appear resonable and scheduled the referendum and census.  After being named prime minister desisngate, he called off the census and referndum.  It's still not taken place all this time later.  He was also fully on board with the idea of an independent national security commission and it being headed by Ayad Allawi.  But then he got named prime minister-deisgnate and suddenly that was something that couldn't be created overnight but would take time.  17 months later, it's still not happened.

Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get a second term as prime minister and then trashed the agreement.  He used everyone's concession to him but refused to honor his concessions to them.

This is Political Stalemate II, the ongoing political crisis in Iraq and, no, the political crisis in Iraq did not start December 19th or 21st as Nouri went after political rivals from Iraqiya (Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 elections).  From Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart. 

Lara Jakes (AP) calls the meet-up a "mini summit" and feels that the participation of a wide range of groups -- including Shi'ites -- "underscored the growing impatience with the Shiite prime minister." Dar Addustour quotes from a press release noting the Erbil Agreement and the power-sharing and that the participants stress the need for things to be done logically (that may be "scientifically," I think it's logically), fairly and that the needs of the Iraqi people are paramount, they must be served and there should be no disruption of services.

The paper also notes that Ammar al-Hakim (head of the Islamic Supreme Countil of Iraq) was not present.  And it notes various reasons for that.  One common trait is he was not invited.  Why he was not invited is in dispute.  One explanation is that al-Hakim is seen as too close to Nouri, another given is that his stand is known and that those present were calling for possible solutions and debating their potential. 

Alsumaria reports on the meet-up and publishes a photo of the meet-up -- Moqtada al-Sadr is seated between Talabani and Allawi.   Alsumaria notes that there's also a call to implement Moqtada's 18 points.  That's apparently on the same level of importance as returning to the Erbil Agreement.  Moqtada's 18 points were presented Thursday in Erbil.  There's been talk of them in the press; however, there's not any publication of the 18 points themselves.  They have been said to support the Erbil Agreement, they're supposed to guarantee judicial independence and be good for Iraqis but that's from statements made on Moqtada's behalf and not from anyone working with the 18 points.  Here's AP reporting on the 18 points on Thursday:

On Thursday, Moqtada Al Sadr offered an 18-point plan to solve the Iraq crisis, mostly through dialogue and political inclusiveness. The plan calls for having good relations with neighbouring nations, but to not let them meddle in Iraq's affairs. That appeared to be a reference to Iran, which is close to Nouri Al Maliki's Shiite-dominated government.
In a nod to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, Al Sadr said Iraq's oil must be used for the benefit of Iraq's people, "and no individual has the right to control it without participation from others".

Al Rafidayn notes that the meeting today was closed-door and took place at the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That's the political party Talabani heads. They also note that the meeting lasted three hours.

Also Al Rafidayn notes that Ibrahim al-Jaafari (leader of the National Alliance) declared Friday that Iraq needs to hold a national conference and needs to do so next month, the first week.  The previous deadline Nouri was working with came from Massoud Barzani.  The KRG will hold provincial elections in September and Barzani's made clear that if the political crisis isn't solved by then the issue of what the KRG does next can go on the ballot.  al-Jaafari just moved the deadline up and moved it up signficantly.

Like Ayad Allawi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari has held the post Nouri al-Maliki currently does, prime minister of Iraq.  In fact, Ibrahim was the choice of Iraqi MPs in 2005 and 2006.  The US refused to allow al-Jaafari to be named prime minister again and insisted that their pet Nouri be named.

Turning to violence, Alsumaria reports that a tribal leader's home in Basra was bombed -- no one was killed or injured,  1 police officer and 1 bystander were shot dead by assailants in Salahuddin Province (with another police officer injured), 2 people were shot dead in Diyala Province and a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 1 life.

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