Al-Hayat [Life] is reporting in Arabic that Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby now says that the US military withdrawal from Iraq is on schedule and that only 50,000 US troops will be in the country by the end of August. He also affirmed that the Iraqi military and police are now capable of keeping order in Iraq, saying that the role they played in providing security during the March 7 elections shows that they have made a big advance in their capabilities.
The Obama administration is eager to get out of Iraq militarily, and so far is experiencing good luck insofar as security has improved, and the civil war has subsided.
The parliamentary election has also not developed into an obstacle to withdrawal. Indeed, it is likely to produce a government that looks somewhat like that of summer, 2006, with Nuri al-Maliki again prime minister and a national unity cabinet with representation for the Shiite fundamentalist parties and for the secular Sunni-Shiite coalition of Iyad Allawi. It will take weeks or months to cobble this ‘alliance of rivals’ together, since government ministries are given out as inducements, and there is wrangling over who gets what. (Iraq operates by the ‘spoils system’ common in the 19th century US, whereby victorious parties get to hire their party workers to staff government jobs in the ministries they control).
That al-Maliki is likely to get a second term has pros and cons for Washington. The pros are that there will be continuity in Iraqi politics, that al-Maliki has gotten control of the armed forces and will remain in control, and that while he has good relations with Iran, he is not as close to Tehran as some of the fundamentalist Shiite parties in the Iraqi National Alliance. The cons are that al-Maliki has shown little interest in reconciliation with secular, Arab nationalist Sunnis, that he has cultivated tribal militias loyal to himself, and that he has not shown very much interest in or capacity for starting and speeding along projects key to Iraq’s economic infrastructure. Washington would no doubt prefer to have an anti-Iran prime minister like Allawi, and one less hostile to Israel.
Al-Hayat also says that the Independent High Electoral Commission in Iraq has released further partial results from the March 7 parliamentary election, showing that the State of Law coalition of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is substantially ahead in Basra, with the fundamentalist religious parties of the Iraqi National Alliance coming in second in the southern Shiite oil port. (See also the numbers below).
Al-Maliki’s coalition is also said to be leading by a good margin in Baghdad province (where it had won 38% in last year’s provincial elections). This assertion is contested, however, by political commentator Hazim al-Na’imi, who expects Baghdad in the end to divide its vote in almost equal thirds among al-Maliki’s coalition and its two major allies. Al-Hayat says that with 60% of the vote counted, Baghdad has returned 158,763 votes for al-Maliki’s party, 108,126 for the Shiite Iraqi National Alliance, and 104,810 for Allawi’s secular Iraqiya.
Al-Hayat says its sources close to al-Maliki report that he has become convinced that he will remain prime minister, insofar as his coalition defeated the Iraqi National Alliance, Shiite parties close to Iran, among the 60% of the population that is Shiite Muslim.
The National Iraqi List of former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, which has attracted a lot of Sunni Arab votes along with those of secular-minded Shiites, is coming in third after the Shiite fundamentalists, but only by a small margin.
Although Allawi’s secular party has largely supplanted the Sunni fundamentalist party, the Iraqi National Accord (Tawafuq), the members of the cabinet will likely be somewhat similar to those of past Iraqi governments.
Reader Harmis4 helpfully writes in:
“Results as Sunday 7PM EST
The IHEC has released election PDF files of 10 provinces on it’s website. Perhaps 10% of the national vote is listed. The combined totals and the estimated seat distribution based on Iraqi Electoral Law and the partial totals are as follows.
State of Law – 345,005 57 Seats
Iraqi National Movement – 290,724 58 seats
Iraqi National Alliance – 276,403 48 seats
Kurdistan Alliance – 130,409 14 seats
Iraq Unity Coalition 31,150 4 seats
Iraq Accordance – 30,360 9 seats
Change – 22,948 2 seats
Kurdistan Islamic Group – 12,511 1 seat
Islamic Union of Kurdistan – 11,173 1 seat
Others 70,085 0 seats
Total: 1,220,768 194 of 310 regular seats.
More of the mainly Sunni Provinces are in in than the Shia or Kurd.
Based on these results the final seat totals may look something like this.
Rule of Law – Maliki – 90 to 95 Seats
National Movement – Allawi/Hashimi 80 Seats
Iraq National Alliance – Hakim/Sadr
75 to 80 seats
Kurdistan Alliance – Talabani/Barzani 40 seats
Small Parties – 75 Seats including 8 religious minority seats”
End/ (Not Continued)