Attempts to form Iraqi government and Turkey

November 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

Attempts to form Iraqi government and Turkey

 By Hasan Kanbolat

None of the parties in Iraq could garner enough seats in the general elections of March 7 to form a government. This started a government crisis that would last eight months. Now there are attempts to overcome this crisis. Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 The playmaker, as was expected, is again Nouri al-Maliki. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister al-Maliki will continue to serve in their respective posts. Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni politician, was appointed as parliament speaker. Arif Tayfur of the Kurdish Alliance and Qusay al-Suhail of the Sadr group were re-elected as deputy parliament speakers.As such, the political equation in Iraq is similar to the picture that emerged right after the 2005 election. It is made up of an alliance between Shiite Arabs with some Sunni Arabs added. However, the election this year differs from the 2005 election in that the Sunni Arabs were much better organized and were able to form a block that got the highest number of deputies in parliament. Furthermore, the evermore-powerful Maliki made more concessions to the Kurds.

Sources say Maliki accepted all 19 conditions (regarding the distribution of income from oil sales, more authority for the Kurdistan federal region, Article 140, etc.) put forth by the Kurds. Indeed, up until the eve of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Kurdish security forces patrolled even central areas of Kirkuk. Kurdish influence in the disputed region is also increasing. The de facto dominance of Kurds is slowly becoming official.

For example, the north of Mosul has become Kurdish in terms of population and the area is under Kurdish control. Khanaqin, Jalula and Kifri in Diyala province are completely under Kurdish control. In regions such as Karatepe, both Kurdish officials and officials representing the central administration serve in office. A dual form of administration is evermore present in the disputed area. Maliki is making concessions to Sadr. In three provinces, they allowed new governors who are close to Sadr while the previous governors close to Maliki moved out of office.

Al-Iraqiyah, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, is not happy about the process and for the most part did not participate in the presidential election. Although the Iraqi parliament comprises 325 seats, only 192 deputies attended the session which voted Talabani in as president. The new government now wants to appoint Allawi to head the National Strategic Policy Council, which will lay out strategic policies for Iraq. However, the powers and authorities of this council, created only to satisfy Allawi, are not yet clear.

Allawi is understandably not happy with this council. The concept of “prime minister” does not appear in the Iraqi constitution. Instead, there is the “head of the Council of Ministers.” Al-Iraqiyah wants Maliki to use the term “head of the Council of Ministers” and suggests the authorities of the “prime minister” be shared with the National Strategic Policy Council. The Shiites do not even pay lip service to this demand. Allawi feels a little cheated. However, one should accept that Allawi has so far been unsuccessful in his political maneuvers. For this reason Maliki has already started to divide up the al-Iraqiyah bloc.

Sources in the region claim the US has given the green light for this. What matters for Maliki and the US is that a government is formed in Iraq and stability of a certain extent is achieved. They are not concerned about the continuation of violence, as long as it is manageable. They accept that drawing the Sunni Arabs into manageable violence is enough. This is why they are working to maintain control of the four provinces (al-Anbar, Mosul, Kirkuk and Baghdad) where Sunni Arabs are strong. The aim is to bring al-Anbar under control through Deputy Prime Minister Rafi al-Issawi and Mosul through Parliament Speaker al-Nujaifi with Mosul, Kirkuk through the Kurds, and Baghdad through cooperation between central security forces with the Sadr group. The Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces are deemed insignificant.

Some circles in Iraq are concerned that Turkey might stand by the Sunni Arabs and stand in opposition to the Shiite Arab and Kurdish alliance. We can also see this concern in Talabani’s recent statements against Turkey. However, Turkey responded to this concern at the highest level, with President Abdullah Gül saying: “He [Talabani] said that we do not support him and we don’t want him to become the president. Ankara has never disturbed the balances, and the end result in the new process unwound in favor of Talabani.” Turkey is continuing its policy of embracing all ethnic, religious and political groups in Iraq from an equal distance to all. Maliki, in order to avoid falling under the control of Iran among its neighbors, has to trust Turkey and cooperate with it.

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