Sunni Arab Withdrawal From Al Maliki

Sunni Arab Withdrawal from Al-Maliki Government

The USG Open Source Center analyzes the recent withdrawal of the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accord Front from the al-Maliki government. Reactions of major Iraqi political blocs, especially the Shiites, are translated and quoted.

“Iraq: Government Plays Down Withdrawal; Tawafuq to Be Parliamentary Opposition
Iraq — OSC Report
Thursday, August 2, 2007

Iraq: Government Plays Down Tawafuq Withdrawal; Tawafuq Focuses on Parliamentary Opposition Role The 1 August decision of the Tawafuq Front — the Iraqi parliament’s largest Sunni Arab bloc — to carry out its threat to withdraw from Prime Minister Al-Maliki’s government prompted officials close to the government to offer assurances that the Sunnis would not be left without adequate representation. At the same time, Tawafuq officials cast the withdrawal as a chance for the Sunni bloc to start a new life as a parliamentary opposition ready to coordinate with other parliamentary groups in order to correct shortcomings in the status quo.

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih described Tawafuq’s withdrawal as “the most dangerous political crisis faced by the government since the issuing of the Constitution” (Al-Sharqiyah TV, 1 August), but other officials representing the government and the leading Shiite coalition played down the significance of the Sunni bloc’s decision.

“The (Tawafuq) Front is not the only representative of the Sunni Arabs,” said Sami al-Askari, an advisor to the Prime Minister, adding that “there are other entities” — including some “outside the parliament” — that could represent the Sunnis better than “some of the entities of Tawafuq” (Sawt al-Iraq, 1 August).

Badr Organization head Hadi al-Amiri explained that “the absence of the brothers from Tawafuq is not the absence of the entire Sunni entity” since “Tawafuq does not represent all the Sunni Arab brothers, just as the Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) does not represent all the Shiite Arabs” (Buratha News, 1 August).

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Tawafuq’s leaders, remarked caustically that the withdrawal gave Al-Maliki “a chance to run the government without Tawafuq, which he has previously called a cause of the current problems” (Aswat al-Iraq, 1 August). Other Tawafuq figures cast the withdrawal as an opportunity for a long overdue reform of the political process, to be carried out by the political groups in parliament rather than by the government.

Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zawba’i — who is slated to resign as part of Tawafuq’s decision — rejected an interviewer’s suggestion that his bloc also leave parliament. “Our withdrawal from the government does not mean that we will give up our responsibility,” he declared, calling for cooperation across the various political groups, including the “many prominent leaders in the UIC who truly have a national project” (Al-Jazirah TV, 1 August).

Senior Tawafuq official Rafi’ al-Isawi declared that the demands rejected by the government “will stay in force” as “an agenda for reform and building” and promised that Tawafuq “will remain active in the political process in the hope of reforming it and correcting its path” (Al-Melaf, 1 August). Iyad al-Samarra’i, who heads Tawafuq MPs, reported that the bloc was taking advantage of the “good atmosphere” in parliament to conduct “open dialogues” with the remaining blocs (Aswat al-Iraq, 1 August).”

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