Saturday, October 30, 2010
This is How The Game Is Being Played In Iraq
By Tariq Alhomayed
This comment was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 30/10/2010
The process of forming the next government of Iraq is still ongoing nearly eight months after the elections, and there has been an increase in the media leaks and speculation over different [political] scenarios with regards to this. However the critical question that must be asked here is: what is going on behind the scenes?
A well-informed source told me the following:
That Washington is not in agreement with Tehran over Nouri al-Maliki's nomination, and wants to attract him [al-Maliki] to their side. Washington believes that if it does not do this, al-Maliki will form a government with the support of the Iranians, and that it will be difficult for the US to reach an understanding with al-Maliki following this. Therefore, Washington support for al-Maliki today would guarantee that he does not stand against them tomorrow, on the basis that they [the Americans] are the ones who helped him to remain in power. All that Washington wants from al-Maliki [in return] is for him not to disrupt or postpone the proposed agreements [between the US and Iraq], and particularly the security agreements, whilst what Iran wants from al-Maliki is another story.
The source also said that "Iyad Allawi's mistake, with regards to Washington, is that he negotiated with the Sadrist trend without informing them." When I asked the source about Washington's opinion of al-Maliki negotiating with the Sadrists, he said "this is different, for the Sadrists allying with Allawi means that they will form a larger bloc, and will therefore obtain greater influence [should this bloc come to power], which is something rejected by the US, whilst the Sadrists allying with al-Maliki will not grant them this advantage, and therefore the Sadrists will not be able to dictate their conditions on al-Maliki."
As for the situation in the region, the source said that "an unannounced meeting took place in Doha: attended by everybody from Syria, Turkey, Iran and Jordan." A Turkish source said that this meeting was not planned, and took place on the sidelines of the reception held by the Al Jazeera Center for Studies for Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. During this meeting, the parties discussed the idea of a "new Taif [Agreement] for Iraq" [in reference to the 1989 Taif Agreement that aimed to end the Lebanese civil war and return political normalcy to the country]. According to both Arab and Turkish sources, the Turks have taken a strong position against "neighboring countries" intervening in the formation of the Iraqi government, a reference to Iran. This Turkish position has been supported by Qatar.
The sources also revealed that the news of this "new Taif [Agreement] for Iraq" and the possibility of it being held in Damascus – something that was first reported in Asharq Al-Awsat [19/8/2010; under the headline "Sources – Iraqi Taif Agreement in Syria under Arab – Turkish Sponsorship] – being leaked to the media may have thwarted its occurance. This resulted in another idea being proposed, namely a meeting in Baghdad of all Iraqi blocs [to resolve the issue of the formation of a government]; however this also did not succeed.
As for the Arab world, the sources revealed that there is an idea that has begun to take shape recently that believes that there is a constitutional flaw in the position of the Iraqi Prime Minister. Therefore, the idea of accepting a second term for al-Maliki could help rectify the situation with regards to limiting the powers of the prime minister, not just for the present but for the future, returning some of these powers to the Iraqi President, in addition to increasing the standing of Iraq's parliament. However this idea is facing a new setback today, according to the sources, as the Arabs, the Americans, and even Iran, have been surprised by the most recent media leaks that indicate an agreement being formed between the Iraqiya bloc, the Kurdish blocs, and [Ammar] al-Hakim. This agreement could see Adil Abdul-Mahdi becoming prime minister of the new Iraqi government.
Therefore, is Allawi able to continue surprising us in this manner, and confusing everybody by truly reaching an agreement with the Kurds and al-Hakim? This is yet unknown, but let us carefully monitor the situation.