Al Hakim Sees Baghdad As Federated

Al-Hakim Sees Baghdad as Federated Province
Sadrists Urge Alliance with Sunni Arabs

Al-Zaman/ AFP [Ar.]: Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the victorious (fundamentalist Shiite) United Iraqi Alliance suggested Friday that Baghdad province join Kurdistan, the Middle Euphrates, and the deep south as a confederacy with special privileges, overseen by a federal government. He said that the constitution had given the Iraqi people this right, adding, “The choice of federalism is the right one, because it has strengthened the unity of Iraq on the one hand, and on the other has ensured justice. It has saved the country forever from the troika of dictatorship, racism and sectarianism.”

Al-Hakim said it was unlikely that the establishment of provincial confederacies in the south would lead to a break-up of Iraq: “The notion of the partition of Iraq is just not plausible, since we have made our choice, and have chosen to remain united in Iraq.” He affirmed, “The Iraqi that everyone wants to realize is an Iraq of rights, participation, equal opportunity, love, peace and liberty.”

He said in defense of the Shiite-Kurdish political alliance, “Our trial and tragedy are one, for the tyranny and persecution we experienced has pushed us to achieve the a partnership among all the elements of the Iraqi people.” He said that his brother, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim (d. Aug. 29, 2003 in a huge carbombing), who had led the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq for two decades, had always stood by the Kurdish people, and had emphasized the need for a strategic alliance of Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Kurds. He called on the Kurds to work jointly with him in order to “safeguard the constitution from any attempt to alter it that might erase the gains that have been achieved by the Iraqi people.”

(Cole: The Sunni Arabs had been promised that the new parliament would reopen negotiations on some articles of the constitution that they rejected. Al-Hakim is here correctly pointing out to the Kurds that if they ally with the Shiites, the Sunni Arabs can just be voted down in any attempt to change the constitution. The window for doing so will in any case close four months after the new parliament comes into session.)

Al-Hayat [Ar.] says that its sources tell it that al-Hakim and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani reached a broad agreement on the outlines of a Shiite-Kurdish alliance in the new parliament. Talabani was keen to see the prerogatives of the president expanded, to which al-Hakim is said to have assented. He also wanted written guarantees as to the referendum to be held in 2007 about whether Kirkuk will acceded to the Kurdistan confederacy. Both agreed to seek a government of national unity, bringing in Sunni Arabs and secularists. They put off dealing the American demands that the secular forces be given a prominent role in the security forces. (The security forces are at the moment dominated by hardline Shiite fundamentalists close to Iran, and the US embassy is pressing hard to dilute them with a ministerial appointment to Interior from the Allawi faction. Allawi, however, is widely considered a Baathist light, and the elected government is a little unlikely to turn security over to him, especially since his list ran poorly in the elections.)

The two did not take up the issue of who the prime minister will be. Talabani deeply dislikes the current PM, Ibrahim Jaafari, whom he accused of overstepping his constitutional authority on numerous occasions. The Dawa Party asserted on Friday that Jaafari was its candidate for PM again. His rival is Adel Abdul Mahdi, of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (al-Hakim’s party). Al-Hakim and Talabani agreed that the majority party should discuss the issue internally first.

Representatives of the Sadr movement said that they had withdrawn from the discussions between the UIA and the Kurds at Sulaimaniyah in protest that the Iraqi Accord Front [Sunni Arab religious] and the National Dialogue Council [Sunni Arab secularist] had not been invited to participate. The Washington Post quotes a Sadr aide as favoring an alliance with the Sunni Arabs rather than with the Kurds.

(Cole: As I noted earlier, many Turkmen in the contested northern oil city of Kirkuk are followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. An alliance with the Kurds would require that the Turkmen Shiites be sacrificed and Kirkuk turned over to the Kurds. This outcome seems to suit the al-Hakim and his Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but is not palatable to the Sadrists. A national unity government, including both Kurds and the Sunni Arabs, would help resolve this dispute, but that would weaken the Kurds’ hand in Kirkuk.)

Incidentally, the small Sadrist “Risaliyyun” or Upholders of the Mission list, which ran separately from the United Iraqi Alliance, has announced that it will vote with the UIA. It probably only got one or at most a handful of seats, but the UIA only needs to top off its probable 130 seats to about 138 to have a simple majority.