Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council Finally Comes Out For Maliki

On December 16, 2010 it was reported that Ammar Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), had finally come out in favor of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s second term. Hakim made his announcement in a speech in Baghdad marking the beginning of the celebration for the Imam Hussein Bin Ali. The Supreme Council was the last major party to support the premier, marking their decline in Iraq’s political system.

The SIIC followed a bewildering, and ultimately self-defeating path before and after the March 2010 election. The party’s problems began with the 2009 provincial balloting. The Supreme Council faced a devastating series of losses, going from controlling most of the south and Baghdad to only Muthanna. That was a foreshadowing of its showing in 2010, as the SIIC was seen as being sectarian, too close to Iran, and having mismanaged the governorates. They didn’t seem to learn their lesson however as they joined the Iraqi National Alliance along with the Sadrists in August 2009, which was pushed by Iran to unite all of the Shiite parties. Within days the leader of the SIIC Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed away, leaving a power vacuum, as his son Ammar took charge of the organization. The National Alliance failed to convince Prime Minister Maliki to run with them. The Supreme Council then decided to back the Accountability and Justice Commission’s banning of dozens of members of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement for alleged ties to the Baath Party. After the voting in Mach 2010, the National Alliance and Maliki’s State of Law joined together into the National Coalition. Hakim felt threatened however because Maliki and the Sadrists had all done better than the SIIC in the balloting, and it had become a minor party as a result. That led Hakim to become one of the strongest opponents to Maliki, then reverse course and try to align with Allawi, but nominate its own candidate for prime minister, Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, in September 2010. Since Allawi was set on becoming Iraq’s leader this was a non-starter for Hakim. To make things worse, when Sadr came out for Maliki on October 1, the Badr Organization did so as well, effectively splitting the SIIC in two. When Allawi finally gave in, and agreed to Massoud Barzani’s power sharing agreement in November that kept Maliki in power, the Supreme Council was left out in the cold.

Hakim and his party lucked out because the new Iraqi regime will be a national unity government. That means all of the major parties will be included, even the SIIC. Now that the discussion has shifted from who will be Iraq’s next leader to controlling ministries, the Supreme Council has finally come around and backed the premier to try to partake in the spoils. It’s likely to only get 2-3ministries, reflecting its decline.

The SIIC went from one of the leading parties in the country, and being a backbone of the Jaafari and Maliki governments, to now being a medium sized organization that was unable to shape any of the major negotiations over the new ruling coalition. It is now an afterthought when posts are being distributed, and its decision to support the prime minister hardly gained any attention. This means some of the party’s ideas such as federalism and a Shiite autonomous region in the south are likely dead. On the other hand, exile and anti-Saddam opposition lists like the SIIC still run Iraq, occasionally wielding sectarian issues to stay in office. The party is not going to disappear, and still holds 20 seats in the new parliament, but its fall from grace hopefully means that more nationalist and domestic lists are coming to the fore, which would be a major development in Iraq’s politics.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “Hakim pledges support for PM Maliki’s govt.,” 12/16/10

Al Jazeera, “Iraqi Shias form new alliance,” 8/24/09

Ramzi, Kholoud, “after months of negotiations, maliki holds on to power,” Niqash, 12/15/10

Serwer, Daniel and Parker, Sam, “Maliki’s Iraq between Two Elections,” United States Institute of Peace, May 2009

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