Friday, September 10, 2010

US Pushing New Plan for an Iraqi government

The NYT's Michael Gordon and Anthony Shadid have the story on yet another plan that the US is pushing that would keep its "man" Nuri al-Maliki in the prime minister's office, but still bring Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi into some semblance of power, along with the Kurdish bloc.
"The new plan would alter the structure of Iraq’s government by bringing additional restraints to the authority of Iraq’s prime minister and establishing a new committee with authority to approve military appointments, review the budget and shape security policy. "
Notably left out of the deal, though, are the parties of the INA, the alliance of Shii religious parties, which include ISCI and the Sadrists, parties associated with the two most esteemed clerical lineages in Iraq - the al-Hakim and al-Sadr families.  The Sadrists won a significant number of parliamentary seats in the last election; Muqtada al-Sadr is the leader with the largest popular appeal in the country, especially among the mass of urban poor in Baghdad and Basra.  He despises al-Maliki for his decision in 2008 to send in Iraqi troops to hammer his militia in Basra and Sadr City, so would not be well disposed to participating in a government ostensibly led by him.   But how the US expects any Iraqi government without the Sadrists' support to be effective escapes me.

On the other hand, the US has its own dog in this fight - in its determination to keep Iran's influence out of Iraq's government.  ISCI has had especially close ties with Iran - indeed, its leadership lived there in exile during Saddam's regime, and returned only after his ouster by the US invasion - so keeping them out of the government is a plus for the US.  But again, leaving Muqtada al-Sadr out is going to be problematic - and ironically, of all the current aspirants to political power, he is the only one who stayed in Iraq during the Saddam era; the others were living in exile.  And, Muqtada, despite his residence as a student in the Shii seminary city of Qom in Iran  in recent years - and his frequent contacts with the Iranian leadership - has long championed Iraqi nationalism, with a unified, not-partitioned, Iraq.

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