As weeks quickly pass, Iraqi politicians
inch towards government formation
By Bashdar Ismaeel,
longtime contributing writer for ekurd.net
November 1, 2010
As months have quickly accumulated since the
national elections were held in Iraq, in contrast
politicians only inch towards the much elusive
milestone of forming a new government.
Whilst it is possible to provide a detailed overview
of the current situation in Iraq and the key
socio-political characteristics that have hampered a
sense of nationalism let alone national unity since
its inception, the facts provide the best summary.
Any government formation effort that breaks all
previous records in terms of the time expended
highlights the complicated social, ethnic, political
and sectarian composition of Iraq.
Although hope of a breakthrough in government
formation was prematurely conceived when Moqtada al-Sadr
lent an arm of support around incumbent Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki on his quest to hold on to
the premiership, a plethora of hurdles,
permutations, mistrust and personal agendas remain
that have actually blighted the process even further
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel, senior UK Editor.
the Kurds now enjoying the decisive "kingmaker" role
they have been afforded, at least in theory all that
is left for the Kurds to do is "make their king" and
break this impasse. However, this is Iraq and seldom
are things as straight forward as this.
Not only does Iyad Allawi's al-Iraqiya group which
holds 91 seats stubbornly refuse to accept "defeat"
to what has now become a highly entrenched and
bitter rivalry with al-Maliki's State of Law
coalition, but it still continues to actively and
eagerly tout for support to attain the premiership,
far from reluctantly taking part in a loose
nationalist alliance with all other parties or
assume the role of the opposition.
Further to the ongoing jockeying that leaves the
race for the premiership at least in practice wide
open, it is perhaps the lack of buy-in from the
weary Americans and a host of neighbouring powers,
each with their own distinct agenda that has
prevented Iraq from going past the elusive post.
As negotiations have unfolded, it has become
increasingly evident that al-Maliki's alliance is
more leaning to the acceptance of the 19 key Kurdish
demands. However, the US is far from happy to
firstly see the pro-Iranian Sadrist's inevitably
receive a whole host of key posts in the new
government as a reward for their support and
secondly to see a repeat scenario of the last major
elections in Iraq, the sidelining of the Sunnis
leading to devastating consequences that took years
It is almost certain that Washington has waned
heavily on the Kurds to ensure that they do not
enter an exclusive government with Sadrist and al-Maliki
as partners. Conversely, Tehran is putting
increasing pressure on Ammar al-Hakim to loosen his
steadfast resistant of al-Maliki with viewing to
solidifying a Shiite stranglehold in Baghdad.
With the influential positions of Turkey and Iran in
particular, Iraqi politicians have seemingly met
with their neighbouring counterparts as much as
their fellow Iraqi political competitors.
Almost inevitably the majority of Sunni dominated
neighbours want to prevent a strong Iranian hand in
Iraqi affairs and a sidelining of al-Iraqiya. While
in theory the Kurds could still be sidelined if al-Iraqiya
and State of Law were more inclined to work
Kurds could simply threaten to secede from Baghdad
altogether. However, the danger is that if the
Sunnis are sidelined what affective options would
they have? They can hardly threaten to secede in the
same way as the Kurds, meaning taking up of arms
would be perceived as their only option.
The problem in Iraq has always been the same. How do
a number of warring and embittered groups that have
been essentially stitched together share a piece of
the Iraqi cake?
If this cake could be shared exponentially based on
a population breakdown then the solution is logical.
However, the Sunni's who in theory can muster around
20% of this cake would never accept a minority
status under the Shiite shadow who in comparison can
demand 60% of this cake. While the Shiites clearly
warrant a bigger slice of this cake on paper, the
Sunnis would never accept anything less than equal
By the same token, although the Kurds only form 20%
of the population, they would passionately and
vigorously resist any attempts that will ever see
them as minors encapsulated by a Shiite majority or
a pan-Arab alliance. For the Kurds, it is simply
equal status within Iraq, an equal partnership to
decide matters in Iraq and an equal say in the
direction of the country or they would decide to opt
with no partnership at all and pursue their own
So how affective can democracy become in a country
where regardless of numbers all parties demand their
share of power and representation? Or where no party
will refuse to be sidelined, even if by the very
nature of a healthy democracy that may be the case
if another alliance outmuscles them in coalition
Even if al-Maliki holds onto power with the support
of the Kurds, which has emerged as the most likely
scenario, Allawi will refuse to play second fiddle
in Baghdad especially when he considers himself as
the real victor of the polls.
Furthermore, any al-Maliki deal with the Kurds would
effectively be played on the al-Iraqiya doorstep.
Would the Sunni nationalists in Kirkuk and Mosul,
already at loggerheads with the Kurds over disputed
territories, watch as they are firstly sidelined
from power and secondly perceived to be cast off by
Shiite-Kurdish deal making?
As arduous and painful the government formation has
proven to be, any hailing of a new government once
the dust finally settles will be premature as the
real work begins.
Once coalitions have been formed, the next task
which acts as the platform for the real tussle for
power is the formation of the cabinet. This where
the real key to power lies. Each group within a
ruling coalition would need to be appeased
sufficiently for their support by getting their
returns on the positions of authority.
The real gauge on the political health of Iraq will
be once the new government starts to work. As much
as there was numerous permutations to forming power
that have lengthened the process, there will be an
equal number of permutations which may see the
government become shaky, untenable and susceptible
This is particularly true if a government is formed
that is all inclusive and contains all major powers
as the US and some Iraqi sides hope. The sharing of
power will be tentative at best and decision making
will be ineffective, quarrelsome and prone to
divides. In other words, on paper an Iraq would
exist that would look united with equal national
representation, while in practice will hold back and
hamper real economic and political progression.
Any inclusive government would not only result in a
delicate balance of power within the cabinet, but
would also see the power of the Prime Minister
greatly diminish. The hands of the Prime Minister
would be affectively tied by the consultation and
necessary appeasement of all other "powerful" hands
around his table.
As the political bandwagon stumbles on, the real
people that suffer are not wealthy politicians in
fortified enclaves but the very people that
democracy is designed to sever and whom the
politicians have been elected by - the people.
It is becoming increasingly common that politicians
are more determined to serve their own goals than
the goals of their people.
Not only does the Iraqi economy continue to decline
and the standard of living suffer but the real
threat of a new dawn of insurgency and terrorism
grows by the day.
Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance
writer and analyst,
contributing writer for ekurd.net website.
Ismaeel whose primary focus and
expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern
current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to
promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the
diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in
Iraq and the Middle East.
Most recently he has produced work for the
Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times,
Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe,
Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion.
He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le
High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. His work has been
republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet.
You may reach the author via email at:
, Bashdar's website
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