US Helicopter Shot Down
Sunni Arabs Cannot Block Formation of Government
Guerrillas north of Mosul engaged Iraqi police in a firefight. When a US helicopter came up to support the police, the guerrillas appear to have shot it down, killing two GIs.
I disagree with the conclusions The Scotsman draws in reporting on on the numbers of seats gained by various parties in the recent election in Iraq. An official tally will probably come next week. I’m grateful that they managed to get some advance word on numbers (they are not alone). But I think their analysis put the emphasis on the wrong thing.
They estimate that the Allawi Iraqiyah list will shrink to only 25.
The Sunni fundamentalist National Accord Front will have 42.
The secular Arab nationalist National Dialogue Council will have 11.
These three formed a Rejection Front demanding an investigation into voting fraud. They hoped to block the election of a president by parliament who did not accept some of their key demands. To do so, they would need 93 seats. It appears that they have 78, and so cannot by themselves block the formation of a government.
Assuming these numbers are firm, this is the key point that any article about these numbers should have made: “Rejection Front fails to Secure 1/3 + 1, Cannot Block Selection of President.”
Even if some small parties (religious Kurds?) vote with the Rejection Front, they almost certainly cannot pick up another 15 seats.
The Scotsman alleges that the Shiite fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance (129 seats) and the Kurdistan Alliance (52 seats) won’t have the the 183 seats (2/3s of 275) needed to select a president all by themselves. But they do in fact seem to have 181. The news here is that they have done just as well as they predicted, and are in striking distance of being able to form a government.
It is not clear whether the paper is counting the one seat won by the Sadrist Risaliyun or Mission Party, which has announced that it will vote with the Shiite UIA. If not, that would take the Kurds and Shiites to 182, only one vote short of two-thirds. Six seats have still not been apportioned, and only one would have to go to a UIA ally to give them 2/3s. This outcome strikes me as highly likely.
In fact, two or three members of parliament may just have been given a Wish Machine, since if they are the pivotal votes that allow the Kurds and Shiites to avoid being blackmailed by the Rejection front, then they can pretty much make any demand they want and it will be granted. Small religious parties in Israel have benefitted from similar situations in the past.
If the Rejection Front had managed to secure 93 seats, they could have, e.g., demanded that the Ministry of Interior go to Iyad Allawi. Shiite nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, however, has already said that the participation of the Allawi list in the government is a red line that must not be crossed. Sadr’s bloc is central to the United Iraqi Alliance. The resulting standoff could have produced governmental gridlock and given the guerrillas an opening to spread chaos again.
The most likely scenario now is that the Shiite fundamentalists and the Kurds will form a national unity government by wooing the Sunni religious coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front, to join them and to desert Allawi and the National Dialogue Council. If the Shiites and Kurds actually can put together a 2/3s majority, they can present the Sunni fundamentalists with a choice of joining the government and getting cabinet posts, or of being left in the cold as part of an opposition.
Since the ordinary business of parliament will be conducted by a simple majority, the Kurds and the Shiites could simply outvote the Sunni Arabs every time. Indeed, the Shiite fundamentalists only need to pick up 8 or so allies to be able to win every vote all on their own.
A canny German observer sees the recent leak that German intelligence officers in Baghdad supplied intelligence to the Americans before the war as payback by US intelligence agencies. They are said to be settling scores with the Social Democratic Party’s holier than thou attitude when it was in power and also to be firing a shot across the bow of conservative PM Angela Merkel in reaction to her call for the Guantanamo detention facility to be closed.
US investigators have confirmed that the Saddam Hussein regime used chemical weapons against the Shiites who rose up against his regime in 1991. Some 60,000 Shiites were killed in April of 1991 when Saddam used helicopter gunships and armor to crush the rebellion. The US could have interdicted the helicopters from firing, but chose not to. Then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney maintained that the Saudis had expressed unhappiness about the prospect of a Shiite take-over of Iraq. .