Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The UIA faces the threat of being outnumbered.

It looks like the real negotiations between the political powers have just begun with great pressures on the politicians to contain their differences and start building the state especially with escalating public contempt about the delay in forming the government.
There's also pressure from the international community in this regard; today the security council urged the Iraqi politicians to form the government as soon as possible and to make it a government that represents the entire Iraq spectrum.

Yesterday and today, the political scene here was marked by intensive meetings some of which are considered very important and can possibly bring some new facts to the scene.
First was a meeting between the UIA and the Kurds which focused on the "Allawi issue". The UIA as usual stressed on respecting election result and considering it the main criteria for distributing cabinet posts with emphasis on the interior ministry.
MP Sherwan al-Waili from the UIA said that they will not give away the interior ministry and mentioned that their bloc will not accept altering the constitution and wants to reactivate the deba'athification.
Al-Waili used a milder tone when asked about their attitude towards Allawi and his list and said "we don't have redlines on the entire bloc but we have reservations on certain persons".
But then added "the UIA sees no need to invite the Iraqi list and we think we can manage with only the Accord Front and the Kurdish alliance" and explained this by saying that giving Allawi a role in the government will most likely confuse the work of the government. Al-Waili also said the UIA refuses the way Talbani used when he voiced his warning from excluding Allawi.

On the other hand, the Kurds kept their position and insisted on the necessity of including everyone especially Allawi and on the need to form a "board of elders" that will serve as a watchdog over the performance of the government.
After the meeting, Kamal Muhiddine a leading figure in Talbani's party said "we're smelling attempts of power-monopoly…we insist on including Allawi not as a political maneuver but because of a real desire to include all parties and discourage them from cooperating with external powers which can endanger the entire political process".

The other important meeting was the one between Talbani, Barzani, Adnan al-Dulaimi and Allawi in the presence of the American ambassador. In this meeting they stressed on the need to form a national unity government.
Not much leaked from this particular meeting but by following several local media sources one can find that this meeting was relatively successful in maturing the idea of establishing a new alliance that is bigger than the UIA in order to nominate another PM other than Jafari.

We've been hearing whispers about this idea in the past few weeks but yesterday Nadeem al-Jabiri of al-Fadheela spoke openly about it in a statement that was published today on the main papers in Baghdad when he said "the other components of the parliament have the right to form an alliance and if this new one becomes bigger than the UIA then we will have the right to nominate a new PM". Al-Jabiri spoke seriously about this option and confirmed again that his party (16 seats) will not support Jafari's cabinet incase this cabinet refused to adopt his proposed national rescue project which basically aims at treating sectarian tensions and forming an inclusive government and apparently this doesn't match the vision of many UIA members.

A lot of the Iraqi politicians said that this option is not far from possible; Khalaf al-Ilayan from the Accord Front said it's possible to form such a large bloc with the participation of the Kurdish alliance under the umbrella of the "united congress for national work" which already has the Iraqi list, Accord and Dialogue fronts in it.

Interest in this direction is growing by the day, the Sunni and Allawi have formed a team from their leading figures to do further negotiations with the Kurds in a series of meetings that will soon follow the first meeting in order to change the idea into facts on the ground.
As a matter of fact, these negotiations have already begun and will also discuss a number of articles in the constitution that the UIA wants to keep unaltered.

Frankly I believe it was the UIA itself that complicated the situation by choosing Jafari and insisting on imposing their vision on the rest of the political powers and this has pushed those political powers to use the same pressure game and in an equal magnitude because after a stage of talking about the 80-seat Maram now they are talking about uniting in a bloc that outnumbers the UIA if the Kurds decided to join in.
Moreover, if the Fadheela went on with their threats and left the UIA to join the other camp, this will leave the UIA in a very difficult position.

Statements and quotes in this post are taken from today's editions of al-Sabah, al-Mada and al-Mashriq newspapers.

Update 10:35 pm

According to Radio Sawa, president Talbani just said after a meeting with Aadil AbdulMahdi that "The political map in Iraq is about to change and each party will be reevaluating its position and the coming few days will reveal the results of this reevaluation".

When asked about the nomination of Ibrahim Jafari, Talbani said "Being nominated doesn't mean that he's been appointed, it still requires the approval of the parliament".

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