Maliki Said Near To Forming Government

Maliki said Near to Forming Government
Turks shell Kurdish village

It is being alleged that Prime Minister designate Nuri al-Maliki will present his cabinet to parliament on Saturday. If he fails, according to the constitution, the president will have to ask someone else to form the government. (Though Iraqi politicians are dismissing any need to comply with that clause. Once you are in the Old Boys Club, who needs a mere constitution?)

Al-Zaman/ AFP report that the (Shiite fundamentalist) United Iraqi Alliance has increased its share of cabinet portfolios from 15 to 17, five of them powerful posts. The Kurdistan Alliance has 5 cabinet posts, including one powerful ministry (Foreign Affairs). The (fundamentalist Sunni Arab) Iraqi Accord Front has 4 cabinet posts and no powerful ones. The Iraqi National List of Iyad Allawi received 4 cabinet posts, and the (ex-Baathist Sunni) National Dialogue Front of Salih Mutlak received 3, though Mutlak has rejected them because they are relatively insignificant positions, politically.

Prime Minister designate Nuri al-Maliki is still negotiating with Allawi’s list in an effort to satisfy them. [Al-Maliki is actually being quite generous to them. They have 25 seats in parliament, whereas the Iraqi Accord Front has 44, yet they are each being offered 4 cabinet posts. Mutlak’s National Dialogue Front only has 11 seats, so doesn’t at all deserve 3 ministries, even unimportant ones.]

Maliki is obviously more interested in making the Iraqi National List happy than in making the Sunni fundamentalists happy, and I speculate that this is because he can imagine some of the Iraqi National List voting with his UIA on some key issues (some UIA members are ethnic Shiites, though they are secularists).

Al-Zaman’s sources say that a majority of the parties that make up the United Iraqi Alliance rejected corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi as candidate for minister of the interior on the grounds that he is not actually an independent and also maintains his own militia. Interior had been penetrated by the Badr Corps militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq under Bayan Jabr, and the Iraqi political elite and the Americans are agreed that the next minister of the interior should not have militia ties.

The UIA Shiites will get the ministries of finance, petroleum, interior, electricity, labor, municipalities, youth, education, commerce, national security, health, civil society, agriculture, transportation, immigration, tourism, antiquities, and the state ministry for parliamentary affairs.

They have a Ministry of Civil Society? Quick, someone alert Jurgen Habermas! Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami wrote a work on civil society in the Habermasian school, which has been influential for some Iraqi Shiites. Khatami had lived many years in Germany and studied the great Frankfurt School sociologist. Habermas wrote of the “public sphere,” but that overlaps with the idea of civil society. Someone should add Habermas and Craig Calhoun to the wikipedia article on the subject. (At least one other government has a ministry responsible for “civil society”– Belize.)

Qasim Da’ud is now among the leading candidates to be minister of the interior. Da’ud had held security positions under the Interim Governing Council and in the interim government of Iyad Allawi, and had advocated the suppression of the Sadr movement, so that he has been opposed by the Sadrist bloc in parliament so far. But Da’ud is backed by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

The Kurdistan Alliance has the foreign ministry and the ministries of water resources, industry, housing and reconstruction, and culture.

The Iraqi Accord Front of religious Sunnis has already named its ministers– Ali Ghalib Baban for the ministry of planning, Rafi` al-`Isawi for the ministry of state for foreign affairs, Faruq `Abdul Qadir for the ministry of state for civil society, and Dr. Muhammad Mubarak for ministry of higher education.

The secular Iraqi National List will get the ministries of communication, justice, sciences, and human rights. It may also be given a fifth to make it happy (i.e. so it will pledge to support Maliki as prime minister). Likely ministers include Usamah al-Najafi, Wa’il `Abdul Latif, and Mahdi al-Hafidh.

The secular ex-Baathists of the National Dialogue Front are being offered the ministries of the environment, women, and national dialogue, and if it accepts them, one will go to a woman. So far NDC leader Salih Mutlak is rejecting the offered ministries and saying that his party has decided to be in the opposition.

Earlier on, spokesmen Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers have 32 seats in parliament, had said that it was a “red line” with them that the National Iraqi List of Allawi and the ex-Baath Sunnis of the National Dialogue Front be excluded from the government. Later on the Sadrists backed off that and said that they only objected to Allawi himself having a post. (Allawi will chair the National Security Council, which is not a cabinet position, but you could say he will be in the government.) Sadr’s red lines seem to have collapsed, perhaps in part because Nuri al-Maliki feels less beholden to the Sadrists than did Ibrahim Jaafari. But given that the United Iraqi Alliance only had 132 fairly sure votes going in to these negotiations, and needs 138 to survive a vote of no confidence, Maliki is not in a position to turn down support if he wants a government that will not immediately fall. Now he seems to have lost the 15 votes of the Virtue Party, which makes him even more in need of allies from outside his party. The Sadrists have a choice of supporting Maliki’s government of national unity and having control of some ministries or of being powerless and penniless in the opposition. Parliamentary logic tells against red lines.

There is speculation that the fifth post given to Allawi’s list will be Defense. But Usamah Najafi and Hajim al-Hasani, Sunni Arabs from the Iraqi Accord Front, are still in the running. The religious Sunni Arabs are complaining bitterly that they have been cheated in the allocation of cabinet posts, which is arguably true. On the other hand, it is Maliki’s government, and he has to support politicians who are likely to vote with him, and on most issues the Iraqi Accord Front will not.

Meanwhile, the civil war dragged on, with bombings, shootings and kidnappings all around the country, especially Baghdad, Baqubah, Kirkuk, Karbala and Fallujah.

Al-Hayat says that there has been a fresh wave of assassinations in Fallujah, and that five bodies were found there Wednesday morning. They had been volunteering to join the army.

The Iraqi Kurds accused Turkey of shelling a village on the Iraqi side of the border. Turkey denied it. Turkey is worried about leftist PKK fighters holing up in Iraq and then striking into neighboring Turkey.

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