Thursday, May 6, 2010

Iraq’s Shiite Parties Unite To Sideline Allawi, Up Next Maliki

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) was the dominant list in the 2005 elections. It was made up of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Dawa Party, the Sadrists, Fadhila Party, and several other smaller parties and individuals. In the January 2005 parliamentary vote it won 140 seats, and then 128 seats in December 2005. With those electoral victories it was able to name the country’s two post-return of sovereignty prime ministers, Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Iran were two of the biggest supporters of the list. Both wanted the Shiites to unite, and to take control of the new state.

By 2006 the UIA began to break apart. The Sadrists and Fadhila defected, and by the January 2009 provincial elections, Maliki created his own State of Law list to run against the Sadrists and Supreme Council who ran independently that time as well.

Immediately after the 2009 vote moves were underway to bring the UIA back together again. In February 2009, Moqtada al-Sadr said that he would rejoin a Shiite alliance if it had a different name and the Supreme Council was not leading it. Iran also began hosting Shiite politicians to lobby them to unite. In August that led to the Iraqi National Alliance made up of the Supreme Council, the Sadrists, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party, and a few other Shiite and Sunni parties. They pushed hard for Maliki to join them, but in October he announced that his State of Law wound run independently again after the National Alliance refused to give him control of 51% of the candidates and name him as their candidate for prime minister. Even then there were constant reports before and after the March 2010 election that Maliki would rejoin the other Shiite parties.

That finally happened on May 4 when it was announced that the State of Law and the National Alliance were merging. Together the two lists have 159 seats, just four seats shy of the 163 needed to form a ruling coalition. Tehran again had a hand in bringing the Shiites together as immediately after the balloting, State of Law and the Supreme Council sent delegations to Iran to meet with Sadr to talk about a new government. Few details have been announced about how the new list will work together, most importantly how they will nominate a prime minister. This has been a constant sticking point, as the Sadrists and others oppose Maliki. For now the main goal of the new Shiite coalition is to maintain their control of the state, and keep Iyad Allawi out of power. That doesn’t mean his National Movement won’t have a seat at the table of a new government, but Allawi will not be allowed to become prime minister again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that Iraq’s politicians are any closer to forming a new regime. The new Shiite alliance said that they would next turn to the Kurds to join them. Other smaller parties may be brought in as well. That still leaves one major hurtle to overcome, how to outmaneuver Maliki, which will likely be the last move before a new Iraqi government is announced.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Iraqiya fears sectarianism in new alliance,” 5/5/10
- “Al Maliki sets conditions to join Coalition,” 8/25/09
- “Two Iraqi major blocs form an alliance,” 5/5/10

Associated Press, “Iraqi Sunni concerned over new Shiite alliance,” 5/5/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “URGENT/Coalition to be announced between State of Law, INA,” 5/4/10

BBC, “Iraq election: Shia groups agree coalition deal,” 5/5/10

Daragahi, Borzou, “Maliki’s bloc forges alliance with another Shiite faction,” Los Angeles Times, 5/5/10

England, Andrew, “Iraqi Shia groups form alliance,” Financial Times, 5/5/10

Al Jazeera, “Iraqiya: Shia alliance made in Iran,” 5/5/10
- “Maliki allies with rival Shia party,” 5/5/10

Kazimi, Nibras, “Announcing the ‘New’ UIA,” Talisman Gate, 8/24/09

Myers, Steven Lee, “Shiite Alliance in Iraq May Push Allawi Aside,” New York Times, 5/4/10

Raphaeli, Dr. Nimrod, “Al-Maliki Turns His Back on Iran, Embraces Iraqi Nationalism,” Middle East Media Research Institute, 9/2/09

Reuters, “Iraq’s Shia blocs form alliance to bolster push for government,” 5/5/10

Visser, Reidar, “At Long Last, Tehran Gets Its Alliance and the Clock Is Turned Back to 2005 in Iraq,” Iraq And Gulf Analysis, 5/4/10

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