Thursday, May 24, 2007

Coup Panic

Fear from coups and implied threats with coups have been a common feature of the political scene in Iraq.
After the formation of Maliki's government with all the rifts inside the major political blocs that accompanied that stage, the political map became quite complex that groups within the same bloc were sometimes thought to be conspiring against each other.
At the center of most coup rumors was almost always the Iraqi List and its leader Ayad Allawi.

Right now there's a new uproar, a panic attack in Baghdad about an alleged coup plan, again, by Allawi.
Yesterday al-Sabah gave half of its front page to a story condemning the alleged coup as well as a column by the editor in chief on the same topic.
The long piece is full of quotes from members of the parliament (4 from the UIA, one Kurd and one from the Accord Front) condemning, mocking, attacking and warning from the consequences of attempting to override the constitutional process but the paper fails to offer the slightest clue as to the nature and seriousness of this great "threat".
The half-page long story had only these lines about it:

The lawmakers gave these comments in response to news that alluded to discussions about the possibility of withdrawing trust from the government during a meeting organized by the Iraqi list led by Dr. Iyad Allawi in Amman May 17-19

As you can see there's no mention whatsoever of a coup or about overriding the constitutional process.
Requesting a vote on withdrawing trust from the government is not unconstitutional at all, on the contrary it's one of the most important mechanism put in the constitution to protect the country in cases of government failure, treason or massive corruption.
Since putting this mechanism into action requires approval from the majority in the parliament and since the angry MP's who spoke on al-Sabah think Allawi can't secure this majority I see that their panic is unjustified. Well, unless they know something we don't and they're hiding it from us.

I have checked out al-Mada and found they ran three updates on the story in 24 hours which is quite rare of an Iraqi paper. The coverage there is basically the same in essence; lots of condemnation, panic and resentment from our MP's except that al-Mada offered a little bit more info about what Allawi and his bloc are doing, not cear enough info though. The paper is just saying that Allawi is trying to attract some individual MP's and groups of MP's from other blocs and get them to join him in forming a new larger bloc. The paper adds that Allawi has been using support from Iraq's Arab neighbors for his project. Excerpt:

Sources who attended the conference said it wad dedicated to discussing the political situation in Iraq and its ramifications. The prevailing sense was that the situation in Iraq was deterioration and thus requires exceptional measures. The sources relayed that Allawi asserted that his political moves were supported by regional and Arab countries, particularly Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen and Syria.

The conference discussed the formation of a new political bloc that would take the burden of dealing with the situation Iraq is going through. The conference discussed the position of the parties that are involved in the formation like the Dialogue Front led by Salih Mutlaq and the Dialogue Council (part of the Accord Front) led by Khalaf Ilayan. There are also indications that an understanding was reached with some members of the Fadheela Party, the Sadr movement and the Islamic Party, as well as Kurdish elements.

Senior members of the Iraqi list said the main meetings and the talks on the sidelines of the conference revolved around joining efforts and finding a way through which the current political alliances could be broken.

Not exactly news since we had talked about a similar move a few months ago.

Here too, in al-Mada's report, there was no mention of any possible use of force by Allawi in his venture so I don't understand the panic especially that Allawi is very unlikely to get the required 51% of MP's around him.

And it's even stranger that no one in our media bothered to interview Allawi himself and give us a better idea of what his intentions are.

Giving it a second thought I think insisting on describing Allawi's maneuver as a coup and showing signs of panic is a defensive measure to discredit Allawi's plan, whatever that is. The word "coup" in the minds of Iraqis would be immediately associated with the followers of the former regime and their attempts to undo the change in Iraq that followed toppling the Baath regime and so anything associated with a coup will not be received well by most Iraqis.
At the same time there's a reason for our parliament and government to be afraid. The government is vulnerable because of all the challenges it facing and the poor performance it has shown so far. The panicking politicians know that America has been paying more attention lately to Iraq's Arab neighbors, the same neighbors that Allawi seems to draw support for his plan from. So perhaps the fear is about the possibility that Allawi and those countries could convince America that a shake up of Iraq's government at the highest level is the only way to have a stable Iraq within an acceptable timeline if the domestic and international pressure on Maliki doesn't succeed in pushing him to show the desired progress.

Anyway, the ministers from Allawi's list are not leaving the government soon. Al-Mada reported in an update that Adnan Pachachi "who returned to Baghdad yesterday to announce the withdrawal of the Iraqi list from the government has delayed the announcement out of fear that the list's ministers would not answer the demand of the bloc" while al-Sabah had a slightly different account of the delay this morning: "The ministers who belong to the Iraqi list decided to stay in the national unity government even if the head of the list Iyad Allawi decided to withdraw from the cabinet and parliament". Both accounts suggest division inside Allawi's bloc itself.

Just to be clear, I'm personally neither for, nor against Allawi in what he's planning to do because like I said we still don't know enough about the whole subject. I wrote this just to keep you as informed as possible about Iraq's politics these days.

On a final though, those who plan for actual coups cannot not hide their intentions and I see quite a difference between Allawi's plan to walk away from the government and those of Sadr. Looks like some of our earlier specualtions were correct.
Let's take a look at the explicit coup intentions that don't only want to return to the days of dictatorship but want to take us back to the dark ages:

One of the six Sadr movement officials told AP that "The Sadr movement offered Maliki a historic opportunity but the Prime Minister didn't use it. That's why we are planning to form the new leadership of Iraq" and added that Iraq will be Islamic under the leadership of the Sadr movement.

Sources close to Moqtada Sadr affirmed that the coming stage in Iraq will witness the control of Sadr's followers over the government through avoiding confronting the American forces and using verbal escalation to demand the departure of foreign troops, improving political gains in Baghdad and the south and strengthening the relations with Iran.

We're keeping an eye on this subject and will try to keep you informed.

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