Maliki Announces Gain in Parliament as Baghdad mourns Church Massacre

Iraq’s security problems continue to be severe, if not generally crippling the way they were in 2006, as underlined by Sunday’s guerrilla takeover of a Baghdad church and the subsequent deaths of dozens when the terrorists detonated suicide belts during a government rescue attempt on Monday. The al-Qaeda operatives who took hostages said that they were taking revenge for Qur’an-burnings by churches in the United States. Religious bigotry is the gift that keeps on giving.

The vacuum at the top has had an impact on somewhat worsening security, since Iraq still just has a caretaker government 8 months after the March 7, 2010, election (a record in modern history for Westminster style parliaments, which often get ‘hung’ but never for this long).

There may be some movement, however, toward the formation of a government. The massacre at the Baghdad church, and the attempt of Saudi Arabia to offer its good offices in the formation of a government, seems to have convinced a small Shiite party to play ball with Nuri al-Maliki. I saw al-Maliki, the incumbent and leading candidate to form the new government, on Aljazeera, announcing that he was in the last stages of putting together a viable ruling coalition. The Islamic Virtue Party, or Fadila, has announced that it will support al-Maliki for Prime Minister. He needs 163 seats out of 325. He has the support of his own State of Law coalition of Shiite parties, led by Da’wa, which has 89 seats. He also is supported, after Iran applied pressure, by Muqtada al-Sadr, whose supporters hold about 39 seats. And by the Badr Organization, the political wing of the Shiite militia trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which has to have 8 seats. The Islamic Virtue Party, a splinter of the Sadr movement that follows Ayatollah Muhammad Ya’qubi, has 6 seats. That comes to at least 142 by my count, more if some Shiite independents within the Shiite fundamentalist National Iraqi Alliance swing around to him.

Obviously, al-Maliki still needs a little over 20 seats to have a majority. But he is closer to that number than any other candidate, and, indeed, I think it is now the case that no one else could hope to form a government. If al-Maliki can gain the entire National Iraqi Alliance, with its 70 seats, he would have 159 and could probably pick up the other 4 fairly easily at that point. But it is likely he would not need to deal with small parties to find that support, because the Kurdistan Alliance would step in to back him, as its leaders have already suggested, if he gets that close to forming a government (the Kurds want a place at the table in Baghdad).

Much depends now on the decisions made by cleric Ammar al-Hakim of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, an NAI component that has vehemently resisted al-Maliki. But even more important are the Kurds, and what al-Maliki is willing to offer them (they want a referendum held in Kirkuk about its accession to the Kurdistan federation in the north of the country, a referendum they likely would win, but which threatens violence from Arabs and Turkmen.)

Meanwhile, Baghdad mourned the some 58 Christians killed in one of Baghdad’s most prominent churches when Sunni Muslim militants took the congregation hostage after a failed attempt on the Iraqi stock exchange. An Iraqi government swat team went in for a rescue, but the guerrillas turned out to be suicide bombers who detonated their payloads inside the church. Iraqi Christians are complaining bitterly that the government mishandled the rescue.

ITN has video:

13 Responses

  1. Apparently al-Qaeda thinks there are enough Christian churches in Baghdad … just as our “Christians” think there are enough mosques in NYC.

  2. Just as severe as 2006? Sorry Juan, you’re way off the mark here.

  3. I don’t understand why the American forces didn’t step in to offer their help and support. This was a hostage situation and the captures had demands, some of which releasing prisoners from Egypt. There is no question that the Americans are better equipped when it comes to hostage negotiations and swat teams. They could have helped just for PR, after being silent seeing torture if not to save these innocent christians lives. They want to still be there to help, why didn’t they?

    • Leila, the Iraqi Special Operations Forces were declared by Gen Jones in the summer of 2007 and Gen Petraeus on 9.11.2007 to be as good or better than any other special forces in any middle east country. They are really that good.

      Many Americans still serve as embedded advisors and trainers for the ISF. Americans also provide combat enablers to many ISF units.

      The correct role for US-Forces Iraq is to help the ISF and GoI as the GoI requests them.

      • Better than any in the middle east? There is no other country in the middle east that can’t provide security to it’s citizens like it is in Iraq. The american forces withdrew this year saying that the Iraqi forces are capable of providing security. Well, ACTIONS speak louder than words no matter what a general or anyone else for that matter says. Hundreds killed and injured every day. The war is getting as bad as 2006, so I cant congratulate the Iraqi or the american forces or agree with what you and the generals say. The only people that think the Iraqi forces are just fine are the ones that are not suffering at this time like the Kurds. The pictures of the blood of hundreds of Iraqis spilled every day are worth thousands of WORDS.

        • “There is no other country in the middle east that can’t provide security to it’s citizens like it is in Iraq.” Why are you saying this? Sectarianism? Racism? Per capita violence in Iraq is below the level of Venezuela, Colombia, South Africa and some Mexican provinces. Per capita violence in Iraq today is lower than per capita violence in Brazil was from the 1990s to the mid 2000s.

          You conveniently ignore how Iraq’s neighbors sent tens of thousands of foreign fighters and billions of dollars to kill Iraqis. The large majority of the thousands of suicide bombers are not Iraqi. But you know that.

          Iraq could similarly cause chaos in many other countries. The fact that Iraqis do not do this reflects their character. Maybe it also reflects on the character of Iraq’s “friendly” “brotherly” neighbors.

          “The american forces withdrew this year saying that the Iraqi forces are capable of providing security.” They are.

          ” Well, ACTIONS speak louder than words no matter what a general or anyone else for that matter says.” Yes, they do. How many other Arab countries have won a war recently?

          “Hundreds killed and injured every day.” An intentional lie. Violence in September and October 2010 was about 95% below violence in September and October 2006. Hundreds are not dying daily. However the Takfiri seem to be organizing a major terrorist attack once a month.

          “The war is getting as bad as 2006, so I cant congratulate the Iraqi or the american forces or agree with what you and the generals say.”
          Are you jealous of the Iraqi Security Forces?

          “The only people that think the Iraqi forces are just fine are the ones that are not suffering at this time like the Kurds. The pictures of the blood of hundreds of Iraqis spilled every day are worth thousands of WORDS.” Is “Leila” your real name? Somehow, I think you would speak with less bravado if you were face to face with actual ISF.

          Don’t know who you are or what your real motivation is. There is a vibe about how you write. Many sectarian non Iraqi Sunni Arabs write the way you do. As do many former Saddamists who have had to flee Iraq.

          Iraq doesn’t belong to them anymore. Iraq now belongs to Iraqis.

  4. “I think it is now the case that no one else [other than Maliki] could hope to form a government.”

    That wasn’t true last time you called it and still isn’t true. Maliki is clearly closest to the government and is highly likely to remain PM. However, there remains the other possible combination:

    Iraqqiyya – 91
    Coalition of the Kurdish Lists – 57 (or possibly 49 if you exclude Gorran who are reported to have withdrawn from the Coalition)
    ISCI – 9
    Total – 157

    Although tecnically short of the 163 majority figure, there are enough independents to make a majority. As soon as Mahdi won the vote for PM, the Sadrists and main State of Law politicians would abandon Maliki and join the government.

    More intriguing, the alternative route post the Supreme Court ruling is that you have a forced vote before any government “deal” is done. What would happen if you had someone like Osama al-Tikriti elected speaker, Talabani President and then Mahdi and Maliki head to head in an election for PM? Could be too close to call. Mahdi would have a better chance of forming a unity government, so the Kurds may pip for him.

    • The Kurds have already said several times and at several levels that they are leaning toward al-Maliki, and I cannot imagine them in a coalition with Nujayfi’s Hadba, an Iraqiya component. And, SCIRI-Allawi strikes me as ultimately also highly unlikely– there would be defections from Ammar among the backbenchers. Can’t be done.

      • An Iraqiyya-Kurdish-SCIRI alliance is certainly unlikely, but it is not impossible. This quote from the Kurdish Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, best sums up the current situation:

        “Now, if we side with Maliki, we can form a government in two days’ time. Or if we side with Iraqiya, we will form a government tomorrow with the support of the [Islamic] Supreme Council.”

        • Zebari says these things to improve his bargaining position with al-Maliki. Peshmerga and Nujayfi are more likely to fight a war with each other than to sit on the same side of the aisle in Parliament!

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