Sadrists Reject Allawi Coalition
Al-Hakim Seeks position of Party Overseer
Al-Hayat[Ar.]: The fundamentalist Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi alliance, one of the leaders of which will be prime minister in the new government, continues to construct its internal alliances. It will appoint as “Political Overseer” [marja`iyyah siyasiyya) Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI]. By virtue of it, SCIRI will drop the candidacy of Adel Abdul Mahdi for prime minister, ceding that office to the Dawa Party, its coalition partner, which backs Ibrahim Jaafari to continue as PM.
In a sign that not all the challenges that the United Iraqi Alliance faces come from external enemies, the Sadr Movement, among the more important components of the coalition, announced its dissatisfaction with al-Hakim’s talks with the two main Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. The Sadrists say that they are drawing a line in the sand, and simply will not accept any coalition with the bloc of Iyad Allawi. Jalal Talabani had pressed al-Hakim to accept a government of national unity, and Allawi had been invited to the talks (he refused to come). Al-Hakim seemed to accept the desirability of a broad-based coalition.
Iyad Allawi and his National Iraqiyah party are strong secularists and many have a background in the Baath Party. The Sadr movement is composed of hardline Shiite puritans, many from urban ghettos or poor Marsh Arab villages, i.e., the sorts of people that suffered most under the Sunni-dominated Baath Party.
Al-Hayat [Ar.] reports that the Iraqi judiciary has altogether excluded 150 candidates who ran in the Dec. 15 elections from serving in parliament, because they had earlier been high in the Baath Party or had been close to its security agencies. Particularly affected are the National Iraqiyah list of Iyad Allawi, the Peace and Liberation list of Mishaan Juburi, and the National Dialogue Front of Salih Mutlak. The court said that the decision about the 150 was final and would not be revisted. Among those excluded was former defense minister Hazem Shaalan appointed by Allawi, now under investigation for massive embezzlement. Allawi’s list is thus under a cloud anyway.
Al-Hakim probably would not mind very much excluding Allawi, and the strong opposition to dealing with him among his UIA back benchers would give him an excuse to tell Talabani that including the Iraqiya was a deal breaker.
The leadership of SCIRI has concluded, according to al-Hayat’s source, that the United Iraqi Alliance will direct the Iraqi government for the next four years. This prospect requires a “Political Overseer” to ride herd on all factions, within the UIA as well as without, and to resolve the big issues. SCIRI believes that its leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, is best suited to head the bloc and to play this role, such that he would be considered the one to take on the “political” process. If al-Hakim were to be given this role, he would drop the candidacy of SCIRI figure Adel Abdul Mahdi for the post of prime minister, allowing it to go to Jaafari of the Dawa Party.
The language used here, “marja`iyyah siyasiyyah,” makes an analogy from the political role of the Overseer to the role of Sistani as the spiritual overseer of the Shiites. I’m not sure what is being envisaged. Is it a role similar to the Chief Whip of the ruling party in the British lower house of parliament? Or, more ominously, is it patterned more on the part played by Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei in the Iranian system? Significantly, many Shiites in Pakistan, e.g., say that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is their spiritual authority (marja`), but that Khamenei is their political marja`. It is an extra-constitutional office that is being proposed, but then I suppose that so is that of Chief Whip in Britain.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports, by the way, that there are six candidates for prime minister. These include Jaafari and Abdul Mahdi. But also in the running are Nadim al-Jabiri, Jawad al-Maliki, Hussein Shahristani, and Abdul Karim al-Anizi. Al-Maliki is also Dawa Party, which suggests that his candidacy is dead in the water, since the mainstream Dawa is backing Jaafari. Al-Anizi is from a smaller faction of it, the Islamic Dawa. Shahristani is a nuclear scientist close to Sistani and currently deputy speaker of parliament. These other four don’t have significant party backing and so are unlikely to get in. The Sadr Movement says that they will not put forward a candidate for prime minister, but will rather throw their support to Jaafari.
The UIA is expected to make a final decision about its candidate for prime minister within a week. Negotiations begin Sunday in Baghdad with other parties and factions in the quest to put together a coalition that could rule. Although the Sadrists want to deal mainly with the religious Sunnis, the Iraqi Accord Front said Saturday that it would not open negotiations until after the seats that had been stolen from it in the election were restored to it. (It is not actually likely that many seats were stolen from it, but Sunni Arabs think they are a larger proportion of the population than they actually are). The Rejection Front, composed of parties that contest the probity of the Dec. 15 elections, has decided to send a delegate to see Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf, and to explain to him the extent of election fraud that they maintain occurred.
Al-Hayat says that among the more urgent tasks facing the new government will be setting a timetable for completing the formation of the Iraqi security forces, so that foreign troops can be asked to leave the country. Another is restoring convidence in the security apparatuses, in the wake of the scandal over the use of secret prisons and torture. The government must also do a better job in providing services, including fuel and gasoline, especially since their prices have now been substantially raised. It must also preside over the trial of Saddam Hussein, which so far has been handled in such a way as to provoke criticism on all sides. The parliament will have to form a committee to review all the articles in the new constitution and to suggest amendments, so that these can be put to a national referendum in mid-year. It will preside over another session of the “Baghdad Dialogue,” continuing the work of the Cairo conference, in seeking a negotiated end to the guerrilla war.
Sectarian warfare heated up again on Saturday. In Iskandariyah, guerrillas invaded a home and killed five members of a Sunni Arab family. On Friday, several members of a Shiite family had been killed in a minibus in the same region. An office of the Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni) in Khalis north of Baghdad was blown up, killing five party activists and wounding two others. The IIP is part of the National Accord Front, a Sunni Arab religious coalition, and its willingness to play politics has been condemned by hardline Sunni guerrilla groups. Several IIP party activists have been killed in the past couple of months.
Security forces discovered a shoulder-held missile of the SA-7 series at Baghdad International Airport.
Three mortar shells fell on the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad, the site of government offices and of the US embassy.
The US military announced the deaths of 2 GIs, in separate incidents in Fallujah and Baghdad. Al-Hayat estimates that 841 US troops were killed in 2005, including 64 killed just in the month of December. In 2004, 846 had died, and in 2003 it had been 485 (though the war only began in March of that year).