The London pan-Arab daily al-Hayat [Life] reports in Arabic that that the Shiite State of Law coalition and the Shiite Iraqi National Alliance say they are prepared to make an alliance before they enter the new parliament. This move reduces the chance that current prime minister Nuri al-Maliki will get a second term.
The State of Law said it had negotiated without preconditions, considering that who fills the post of prime minister is less important that for the two parties to arrive at a common plan. The fundamentalist Iraqi National Alliance groups Muqtada al-Sadr’s Free Independents with Ammar al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and other religious Shiite parties. The paper’s contacts in that movement likewise affirmed that the National Iraqi Alliance is eager to form some sort of united front with the State of Law coalition, in accordance with ‘countless political calculations.’
Sadiq al-Rikabi of the Islamic Mission Party, the core component of the State of Law List, told al-Hayat that it was important for his party to reach a common vision with the National Iraqi Alliance. He said that the two had a common notion of confronting challenges. He said it is not important at this point to name a prime minister, and that other details can be worked out first.
The Sadrists, the leading bloc within the National Iraqi Alliance, deeply dislike al-Maliki because he sent the army in after their paramilitary, the Mahdi Army, in both Basra and Sadr City in spring-summer of 2008. The State of Law may well have to sacrifice him to get an alliance with the more religious Shiite parties.
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani of the State of Law also announced talks toward merging the two blocs. He said that the two ‘agree on most issues,’ aside from the question of who should be prime minister and how to distribute cabinet posts by party, as well as how to run the executive branch. He said he expected the two to merge, given that they were most compatible in their platforms. He downplayed Sadrist dislike of al-Maliki and said what was important is that the two have a similar governing structure and could settle issues by a vote. He envisaged a further partnership, with the Kurdistan Alliance and with the Accord Front (Sunni fundamentalists).
It sounds as though the State of Law leadership is entirely prepared to throw al-Maliki under the bus to get the votes required to form a government.
The State of Law could end up with over 90 seats, and the National Iraqi Alliance may well get over 70. An alliance would take them very close to the 163 seats needed to govern Iraq. State of Law says it is also working on an partnership with the Kurdistan Alliance, which would be needed to elect a president on the first ballot.
A Shiite alliance plus the Kurds recalls the governing coalition of 2005 and after, which cannot be good news for the US. Al-Sadr may well make his joining the coalition conditional on al-Maliki stepping down and an acceleration of the timetable for US troop withdrawal.
Al-Sadr, whose movement may get as many as 40 seats, will be pivotal to forming a government. He is a supporter of Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, and once called himself the right hand of Hamas. If he becomes a kingmaker, the Middle East will lurch to the Right.
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