Friday, 12 November 2010
Iraq: Deal Reached but Pitfalls Remain
After months of deadlock, Iraq's political leaders have finally reached consensus over the formation of the next government. This consensus is, of course, a fragile one and is already beset with problems. However, a basic power-sharing agreement has at least been hammered out and agreed upon, albeit begrudgingly by some parties. Unsurprisingly, the deal was reached under sustained pressure from the US.
Anxious for Iraq not to slip back into the sectarian strife that characterised the period of the pre-2007 troop surge, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been in constant touch with the main players in recent weeks to try to force them into a deal that would see the country move forward. Indeed, it was Washington rather than Tehran that finally pushed the country's various political actors into compromise.
Under the deal, Nouri Al-Maliki gets to keep his cherished prime minister's post; Jalal Talabani gets to retain the presidency leaving Ayad Allawi with the head of the National Council for Strategic Policy. However, Allawi also insisted on his Iraqiya party taking other key positions, including the head of parliament as well as a number of key ministries including the Foreign Ministry.
Iraqiya also made a number of other demands that they considered as pre-conditions for agreeing to relinquish the prime minister's post. One of these is that the file of the Accountability and Justice Commission, which is responsible for de-Ba'athification, be cancelled.
The de-Ba'athification issue is crucial for Allawi because he wants a number of former Ba'athists - who were included in the government's list of those banned from contesting the March elections and who are part of Iraqiya - to take up some of the compensatory seats awarded to Iraqiya in the parliament. He also has his ally and former Ba'athist Saleh Al-Mutlaq, who is on the list, lined up for the post of Foreign Minister.
More importantly, Allawi also demanded that the National Council for Strategic Policy be awarded executive powers, and that these powers be clearly delineated in parliament prior to voting for any of the main posts. The various other parties reportedly agreed to these conditions before Thursday's parliamentary session.
Allawi was, however, to be bitterly disappointed. During a very fiery four-hour session of parliament, some non-Iraqiya MPs, and those from the National Alliance in particular, refused to discuss the de-Ba'athification issue and that of the National Council for Strategic Policy. They insisted that such matters should be postponed until after the three presidency posts (President of the Republic, Prime Minister and Head of Parliament) had been voted upon. This refusal to discuss what are vital issues for the Sunni bloc prompted an infuriated Allawi and other Iraqiya members to storm out of the session in protest.
Despite Iraqiya's absence, the voting went on. Jalal Talabani was elected as president and he duly tasked Nouri Al-Maliki with forming the next government. Al-Maliki now has one month to form his government. Osama Najaifi from Iraqiya meanwhile was elected as Head of the Parliament.
The affair is clearly a triumph for Al-Maliki who, after months of criticism from every side for his insistence on taking another term in office, has finally got what he wanted.
For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.
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