Monday, April 1, 2013

The Final Dissolution Of The Iraqi National Movement?

The Iraqi National Movement (INM) was formed before the 2010 parliamentary elections with Iyad Allawi as its leader to challenge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law. The INM, otherwise known as Iraqiya, was always a divided list, because it was made up of so many different parties and individuals with divergent views. As soon as negotiations started for a new government, Iraqiya began to fracture. In the latest episode, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, and several ministers decided to return to the cabinet, breaking a boycott by the INM. Mutlaq and the others claimed they were returning to win concessions for the protesters in Anbar, Ninewa, and other provinces, but the real reason is because they have compromised with the prime minister, and are attempting to position themselves before April’s provincial vote. The rest of Iraqiya immediately condemned their actions. This could mark the end of the list, which has had such a troubled history since its birth.

Deputy Premier Mutlaq’s decision to break his list’s boycott of the cabinet might have led to the final break up of the Iraqi National Movement (Reuters)

The latest crisis within the Iraqi National Movement started when Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq and two other ministers from the list attended a cabinet session despite a boycott. On March 26, 2013, Mutlaq, Education Minister Mohammed Tamim and Industry Minister Ahmad Nasser al-Dalli Karbuli returned to the cabinet. They discussed the demands of the protesters from Anbar, Ninewa, and other provinces, and were included in a special committee dealing with the matter. Afterward, Mutlaq announced that the government had agreed to meet all the major demands of the demonstrators including passing an amnesty law, releasing prisoners, amending arrest procedures, ending the use of secret informers, and changing the Accountability and Justice Law. This broke a three-month old boycott by Iraqiya that started in December 2012 to protest the arrest of former Finance Minister Rafi Issawi’s bodyguards. Mutlaq was convinced to return after he was invited to dinner by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The deputy premier’s relationship with Maliki has gone back and forth from confrontation to reconciliation. In December 2011, Mutlaq gave an interview to CNN where he called the prime minister a dictator, and he responded by calling for a no confidence vote to remove his deputy from office.  The two then cut a political deal, and Mutlaq returned to his work in May 2012. Then in December 2012, the deputy prime minister came out for the protests in Anbar, and said he was resigning to support them in January 2013. That argument only lasted two months as the two have reconciled once again. Mutlaq has no real power within the government, so Maliki could simply wait out his protests. His deputy had more to lose out of office, because he would lose out on the patronage networks and money that every politician in the government gets access to. It was no surprise then that Mutlaq would come back into the fold after each flare up. The reaction it caused was also predictable.

Mutlaq’s latest actions might have caused a fatal blow to the National Movement. Iraqi National Movement lawmaker Ahmed Alwani accused Mutlaq of betraying his party, and the protests in Anbar. Haidar al-Mullah, the spokesman for the deputy premier’s Iraqi National Dialogue Front responded that Iraqiya was dead. He claimed that former Finance Minister Rafi Issawi and Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi had taken over the list, and were taking it towards an Islamist program instead of a nationalist one. He added that the constant absence of Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi was another major factor. Lawmaker Mishan al-Saadi of the Dialogue Front also told the press that the National Movement was no longer. When Mutlaq cut a deal with Maliki back in May 2012 to return to his job his decision was not met with this type of open criticism. His recent move on the other hand, has brought up the depth of the divisions within Iraqiya. As April 2013’s provincial elections near, the competition between the parts of the Iraqi National Movement are increasing, because the major factions are running separately. Their stance towards the protest movement has become a central issue. Mutlaq tried to frame his return to the cabinet as a triumph for the demonstrators as he claimed that it agreed to all of their major demands. The rest of Iraqiya saw Mutlaq as a turncoat who broke their boycott in favor of a compromise with Maliki. Their differences being aired to the press is part of this campaign to differentiate each other before the vote. It also shows that the INM are no longer working together as whole.

The problems within Iraqiya were already apparent over the boycott. Electricity Minister Abdul Karim Aftan returned to the cabinet in February, saying that he was a technocrat who had to do his job. Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Turhan Mathhar Abdullah Hassan also broke the boycott, while a few lawmakers from the list criticized the decision to pull out the ministers as well. Talal al-Zoba’I and Talal Hussein for example, both said that the boycott was made by the list’s leadership who never consulted with the rank and file. There were also arguments over whether the Iraqiya ministers should resign to support the demonstrators, after Agriculture Minister Izz al-Din al-Dawla stepped down to condemned the shooting of protesters in Mosul. The same thing happened during the last boycott that was started in December 2011. That time the National Movement pulled out of both the cabinet and parliament. Speaker Nujafi, Electricity Minister Aftan, and Industry Minister Karbuli never complied, and the boycott only lasted until the end of January, because the list was going to break up over it. The boycott achieved nothing as the government continued its work, because the National Movement didn’t have the numbers in either the cabinet or parliament to stop anything. The same thing is true for the current boycott, except this time it appears Iraqiya has finally broken up.

While the Iraqi National Movement still exists, it is in name only. There are several different factions, which are going to compete against each other in the April elections. Jamal Karbuli of the Solution List, Saad al-Janabi of the Iraqi Republican Grouping, and Deputy Premier Mutlaq of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front are running together as the Arabic Iraqiya. Speaker Nujafi of the National Assembly and former Finance Minister Issawi of the National Future Gathering have formed another list, while Iyad Allawi has registered under Iraqiya. There are a large number of National Movement members who have not decided who will they will join. Still, in Shiite provinces, many of these parties are going to run together to try to pull votes. The break-up of Iraqiya was a long time coming. From the beginning it was made up of too many parties with too many divergent views. From the moment it entered into negotiations to form a new government after the 2010 elections its differences became apparent. During the 2011 boycott, several parliamentarians quit or were expelled, because they disagreed with pulling out of the government. Now the major leaders have all split marking the final end of the list.

Politicians will continue to talk about the Iraqi National Movement, but for all intents and purposes it is over. Mutlaq, and the two minister’s choice to cut a deal with Maliki to break the on-going boycott brought out all of the differences within the list into the public eye. Iraqiya has now broken up into different factions, which will compete against each other in many of the provinces in the April elections. The ultimate winner is Prime Minister Maliki. The INM was his main opponent. His strategy was to always wait them out, because he knew that they were riven with rivalries, and did not have the numbers to pose a real threat to his rule. That has now come to fruition, and the premier is in a stronger position. The different parts of Iraqiya are likely to work and fight with each other over the coming years, but are unlikely to come together in such a large gathering as they did for the 2010 elections.


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AndrewSshi said...

This strikes me as several kinds of Not Good. Yeah, it was way too broad a coalition to hold together, but at least they were a bloc in Iraqi politics that *wasn't* explicitly ethno-sectarian in its goals.

Joel Wing said...

Yes it did start out as a nationalist rather than sectarian party, but then quickly fell into identity politics.

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