Monday, April 24, 2006

At least this time there's a deadline.

The political atmosphere was fluctuant in Baghdad today just like the weather was, from sunny to dusty to rainy except that the political one is still carrying heavy clouds that I hope these will be gone soon and take away the violence with them.

After the 128-day long fighting over the top government posts, another political fighting has begun over the rest of the cabinet posts but the only good difference this time is that the PM has a definite deadline of one month to present the final formation.
Preparations began yesterday with meetings in Erbil and Baghdad; in Erbil Talabani and Masoud Barzani met with Khalil Zad to discuss the next stage and during this mini summit, Talabani sent an indirect message to the blocs that did not get a share of the 7 posts were distributed on Saturday alluding to the willingness to see these blocs have a role in the cabinet.

This message was obviously addressing the Accord Front of Salih al-Mutlaq who publicly expressed his contempt with the process through refusing to give votes during the parliament's session and also to the Iraqi list of Allawi whose leaders (Allawi and Yawir) were absent on Saturday and authorized their fellow member of the list Mehdi al-Hafidh to negotiate with other blocs which indicates that this bloc is not serious about being part of the government and I think will accept a role only if granted the desired posts which are believed to include deputy PM for Allawi, defense minister for Hachim (former speaker of the National Assembly) and two public service ministries, and members of the bloc expressed that giving the deputy PM post to Allawi will prove that the distribution was not along sectarian and ethnic lines.

But the question here is; at whose expense this is going to happen, the Kurds? Or the Sunni? Or maybe they will resort to appointing 4 deputies to the PM instead of 2 like some suggest; one for each of the Kurds, Sunni, Allawi and al-Mutlaq?

The disputes are not only limited to the space between the blocs but also moved to the inside among members of the same bloc and this gets more pronounced in bigger, multi-party blocs to be the toughest inside the UIA according to people I talked to who are close to some of the blocs. And we've heard statements from some parties within the UIA saying they are looking forward to keeping the ministries they filled under Jafari's government, for example Fadheela Party wants to keep the oil ministry while the Sadrists want to keep the public service ministries they held like the education, transportation and health ministries and in general the UIA insists on getting at least one of the two security ministries (defense and interior) saying that this point is nonnegotiable, and here comes the name of Qasim Dawood as the most likely candidate. New Sabah has a good report on this topic.

Another dispute is expected to rise between the Sunni and Kurds, this time over the foreign ministry which the Kurds want to keep while the Sunni Arabs think of it as a key post through which they can bring Iraq back to the Arab medium which is regarded by the Sunni Arabs as their strategic depth.
I also got to hear that Adnan al-Dulaimi is upset about not personally getting a presidential post…looking at all these points that need to be resolved I tend to believe that forming the cabinet will take the entire 30-day deadline and not 10 days like some politicians expect.

Meanwhile, seven car-bombs struck in Baghdad today and I noticed that they all targeted police patrols and some vital state locations and not marketplaces or mosques; some suggest that this is the usual violence that accompanies every session of Saddam's trial but I see that these attacks and their nature (non suicidal) represent a message of dissatisfaction with the shape of the new government (and I'm not accusing the political parties here) and probably this is why they waited for one day to send this message at the first weekday after the weekend to make it clear that this was directed against the government.

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