Saturday, May 31, 2014

Iraq: Post-election scramble continues


Pope Francis received Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani on Friday.
Barzani's office issued the following:

Rome, Italy ( – Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday.
At the outset of the meeting, Pope Francis said that he was aware of the situation of Kurds and of their tragedies in the past. He commended President Barzani and the people of Kurdistan for what they have achieved, particularly in offering the Kurdistan Region as a safe haven for Syrian refugees and for Christians fleeing violence in other parts of Iraq.
The Pope also praised President Barzani for KRG’s policy of promoting tolerance and peaceful co-existence among different religious communities. He expressed his hope that the KRG would continue to enjoy peace and prosperity.
For his part, President Barzani talked about tolerance in Kurdistan as a long-standing tradition that has popular support. He said that peoples of different religions have made sacrifices together in the past and now live side by side in peace and freedom.
On the situation of refugees and Christians who have sought refuge in Kurdistan, President Barzani said that the KRG would continue to provide assistance to them as a humanitarian duty.

Rudaw notes Barzani also met with Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and that "the Kurdish flag was displayed alongside the Iraqi flag" at both meetings.  Barzani's Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein explains, "Putting the Kurdistan flag is a message for the people of Kurdistan that the outside world understands the status of the Kurdistan Region.  It's the recognition of the identity of Kurdistan's people and the legal identity of the people of Kurdistan."  On the subject of the Kurds, Hiwa Barznjy (Niqash) explores where the Kurds stand on the issue of Iraq's next prime minister:

The two most popular political parties originating in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP. The KDP appears to have 25 seats in Baghdad while the PUK has 21 – the next largest Iraqi Kurdish party, the Change movement, has nine seats.

And the PUK and KDP feel differently about working with al-Maliki for another term. The KDP are presently totally committed to getting rid of him while the PUK isn’t quite as sure about that. The PUK’s ailing leader, Jalal Talabani, who has been in hospital in Germany for over a year, is actually the President of Iraq and it is well known that the PUK has a better relationship with al-Maliki than the KDP. The question of whether the PUK would cut a separate deal with al-Maliki to become part of his coalition government has already been mooted.

The other question is whether the KDP would drop out of the united Kurdish group to support Ammar al-Hakim, who they are allegedly closer to. Al-Hakim is the leader of one of the other major Shiite Muslim parties in Baghdad, the Ahrar bloc, which represents the interests of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in politics.

Parliamentary elections were held April 30th.  May is ending but there's no one named prime minister yet.  In 2010, Iraq set the record for the longest time between elections and the formation of a government.  They've since been bested and Nouri may be hoping they can reclaim their title.

Nouri wants a third term but he's unwanted by so many political blocs and Iraqi citizens.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) notes:

The Iraqi Kurdish are not the only ones to have made this kind of announcement. The Sadrist movement, led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and represented in Parliament by the Ahrar bloc, has also said they don’t want to see their former ally, al-Maliki, given a third term as Prime Minister.

Another of al-Maliki’s most important former allies, the Muwatin, or Citizen, coalition which represents the interests of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by another cleric Ammar al-Hakim, has expressed similar sentiments.

Both of the latter are mostly composed of Shiite Muslims, the same sect as al-Maliki. Meanwhile al-Maliki’s long time opponents – mostly Sunni Muslim blocs and parties as well as some secular blocs – have also said they won’t contemplate a third term for al-Maliki.  

Al-Maliki’s bloc has won around 94 seats and it’s highly likely this share will increase to over 100 – anything from 102 to 110, analysts suggest - as the big bloc attracts smaller parties to its ranks to try and form a coalition big enough to be allowed to form the next government.

Meanwhile all of those who oppose a third term for al-Maliki number more than enough to form a government – they have around 180 seats out of Iraq’s 328 seat Parliament. And some have suggested, perhaps rather optimistically, that these groups could form a kind of grand coalition because they all have the same focus: keeping al-Maliki out. Such a coalition could be described as grand because it would cross most of Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian boundaries, uniting all those who usually jostle for political power for their own sector of Iraqi society; it would herald a true post-sectarian age for Iraqi politics. 

Still on the issue of the elections, All Iraq News reports MP Nabeel Harbo states that his alliance (Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi heads the Motahidoun Alliance) is considering suing Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission over the refusal to investigate serious allegations of voter fraud:

Speaking to All Iraq News Agency (AIN), he said "Motahidoun Alliance provided evidences to the IHEC over the breaches that accompanied the elections," noting that "We are waiting for the IHEC to deal with these evidences with justice and independence." 

Turning to Nouri's War Crimes, he continues bombing the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Separately, mortar shelling on several neighborhoods in Fallujah wounded seven people and damaged several houses, a medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua. Three of the wounded were from one family, the source said, adding that some of the victims are in critical condition."

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Yarmouk roadside bombing left three Iraqi soldiers, security forces killed 5 suspects in Hammam al-Alil, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured police brigadier Atheer Mohammed, security forces killed 15 suspects in Falluja, a Jurf al-Sakhar bombing left 4 people dead and ten more killed, 2 civilians were shot dead in Mosul, a Samarra bombing killed 4 people, and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.

The following community sites -- plus, Ms. magazine's blog, Cindy Sheehan, and Z on TV  -- updated:



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