On October 18, 2010 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made his latest trip to Iran. There he met with top leaders in Tehran as well as traveling to Qom to see Moqtada al-Sadr. This was the first time the two had met face to face in several years since Sadr originally put Maliki in office. On October 1, the Sadrists made an about face and went from one of the premier’s greatest critics, to his most important supporters. Sadr’s support appears to be conditional however.
There are reports that the Sadrists have demanded that Maliki include Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) in any new ruling coalition. They’ve also said that they won’t stand in the way if Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council is able to put together a majority in parliament to become prime minister. The National Movement has come out in support of Mahdi.
Including Allawi and the SIIC will not be easy for Maliki. The two are trying to put together a rival coalition to keep Maliki out of power. The National Movement has consistently said that only they have the right to form a new government because they won the most seats in the March 2010 election. The SIIC on the other hand, has lost most of its popular support, but is attempting to hold onto its influence by pushing Mahdi for the top job in Iraq. The Kurds hold the fate of both Maliki and Mahdi as the largest uncommitted bloc left. Whoever they choose will be the next leader of the country. If they select Maliki then the SIIC and National Movement will be forced to give up their aspirations, and begin negotiations over their role in the next government because they don’t want to be left out of the spoils. However, it appears if the Kurds choose Mahdi, the Sadrists will go with him because they don’t want to miss out on ministries either.
Sadr and his followers have played their hand well so far in Iraq. They have allegedly been promised seven ministries, and an unknown amount of jobs for coming out for Maliki. They are now pushing their agenda further by demanding that Maliki form a national unity government, while letting him know that if his rivals come up with a ruling coalition they will go with them instead. By setting further conditions, the Sadrists hope to not only get concessions, but also be a real power player in Iraqi politics.
Alsumaria, “Al Maliki meets Al Sadr in Iran,” 10/19/10
Chulov, Martin, “How Iran brokered a secret deal to put its ally in power in Iraq,” Guardian, 10/17/10
Erdbrink, Thomas and Fadel, Leila, “Maliki meets with Iranian leaders in Tehran,” Washington Post, 10/18/10
MEMRI Staff, “Conflicting Reports on the Premiership in Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 10/20/10