Kurdish, Shiite Parties may lack 2/3s
Iraq War may Cost over $1 Trillion
A Western diplomat with knowledge of the unofficial voting returns in the Dec. 15 election told the NYT that the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) that the Kurds together likely do not have 2/3s of seats in the parliament. Since selecting a new president requires this supermajority, they will have to ally with some other faction to go forward, if this information is correct. I figure 183 as the magic number. The UIA was initially said to have 130; the Kurds are thought to have about 55 or 20% (the NYT also gives the 20% figure). A small Sadrist party would add 1. So according to the initial reports, the Shiites and the Kurds should have had 186, well within the margin to form a government. If the report is correct, it implies that the UIA fell short of 130 and got more like 120. it is also possible that fraud charges brought against some UIA-dominated Baghdad polling stations could subtract a few seats from the UIA.
I’m not sure the diplomat is right about the absolute necessity to include the Sunni Arabs, though that is a likely outcome anyway. Some 40 seats will be chosen by a complicated formula that should slightly increase UIA and Kurdish representation, and may produce a few small party blocs that could be cobbled together by the Kurds and Shiites into a majority (the small party blocs would then become swing votes and would get pretty much anything they asked for).
The Shiite leaders of the UIA and the two major Kurdish leaders have already virtually committed to a national unity goverment with the Sunni Muslim religious coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front. The IAF is said to have 40 seats.
But here is the kicker. If the IAF holds firm to an alliance with the Neo-Baathist National Dialogue Council and Iyad Allawi’s National Iraqiyah list, the Sadr bloc in parliament will veto any government of national unity. They have already said that giving Allawi or Salih Mutlak of the National Dialogue Council a cabinet post is a red line they will not allow their coalition partners to cross. The United Iraqi Alliance depends very heavily this time around on Sadrist deputies, and would be in danger of splitting apart if its leadership agrees to include Allawi.
This situation is a recipe for gridlock. I wouldn’t expect to see a new government in Iraq for many months if the Kurds and the Shiites don’t have 2/3s of seats.
And there is another problem. For the next 4 years only, there are 3 members of the presidency council. Each has an independent veto. If a hardline Sunni Arab such as Adnan Dulaimi (Sunni fundamentalist) becomes a vice president, he will veto any legislation that the Kurds and Shiites decide on that involves greater federalism, e.g. You could end up with a completely paralyzed and do-nothing parliament and a weak executive held hostage to the three presidents, (one Kurd, one Shiite, one Sunni Arab), each with a veto.
Instead of a presidency council with three independent vetoes, the Iraqis should have made a two-house legislature and just configured the upper house so that it over-represented the Kurds and Sunni Arabs. That would have forced negotiation and would have prevented a tyranny of the Shiite majority without creating a tyranny of the other minorities!
The Guardian reports on a new paper by prominent US economists that estimates that the Iraq War’s real cost will be as much as $2 trillion, if you figure things like the cost of treating a vet with spine damage for the rest of his life.
Karen Kwiatkowsky points out that Gen. Rick Sanchez admitted this week that Iraq is on the verge of civil war, but was immediately contradicted by Gen. Casey.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw suggested on Saturday that British troops could be withdrawn from Iraq relatively quickly, starting with Nasiriyah, Maysan or Samawah. He seemed to think the British would stay in Basra a while. The problem with this plan is that Nasiriyah and Maysan provinces are a mess with regard to security, with Maysan a hotbed of Shiite militias and Marsh Arab violence, whereas Basra, if religiously somewhat oppressive, is relatively calm.