Monday, January 07, 2008

The Cairo Conference will not take place, and other news

(1) Al-Hayat quotes Sadrist and Allawi-list deputies who say those two groups, along with the Fadhila party and some independents from the UIA and perhaps elsewhere, are getting ready to sign a "commitment document" expressing agreement on a number of points, including (1) opposition to the UN's proposal for extending the operation of Section 140 of the Constitution; (2) the need for a schedule for withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq; and (3) opposition to the Iraqi government signing any bilateral security agreement with the United States. In other words, a bare-bones nationalist position.

Needless to say, the Allawi spokesman exhibited his group's usual tendency to exaggerate the importance of this, claiming this will solve a lot of problems and change the course of the political process. No, said the Sadrist spokesman, this is merely a statement of some common principles on which we agree, to be used as a basis for confronting the current legislative program.

(2) Another Sadrist spokesman said the Sadrist current will refuse to attend any reconciliation conference where the Baath party is represented. His quoted remarks include a specific reference to the Mahdi Army as a factor in this: He said the freeze on the activities of the Mahdi army is still in effect, and while that freeze is still in effect it would be difficult for the Sadrist current to be represented at a conference where the Baath party is represented. The remark isn't explained or elaborated on.

(3) Faleh al-Fayyad (UIA, head of a parliamentary committee on national dialogue), in Cairo, told Aswat al-Iraq that a representative of the Arab League will soon visit Baghdad to help promote national reconciliation, but Fayyad added that reports about plans for a broad-based conference in Cairo this month on national reconciliation aren't true, because there is no time and place currently set for such a meeting. And someone in the Iraqi foreign ministry said the ministry doesn't know anything about any such plans.

(4) Azzaman and Aswat al-Iraq both quote parliamentary sources as being confident that the 2008 budget will be approved by Parliament this week, and also a final version of a law to replace or amend the current de-Baathification law. But in neither case is the actual substance of the legislation explained.

Tentative summary: The efforts to get political-process and resistance factions together by sometime this month in Cairo is not going as well as expected, so the official line now is that there never was any designated time or place for that. The underlying aim of that was to set up a broader-based GreenZone regime to better legitimate the US-Iraq bilateral agreement that will be needed once the UN mandate runs out the end of this year. Probably the Sadrist-Allawi-Fadhila et al agreement, including commitment to demand scheduled withdrawal of US forces and to oppose any bilateral US-Iraq agreement, soft as that agreement may be, could represent something of an intra-Parliamentary challenge to that whole project (by insisting on scheduled withdrawal as a prior requirement); while the Sadrist refusal to sit with the Baathists (citing the current Mahdi Army stand-down) represents another, different, challenge to that project. The reason it's so difficult for people to follow the thread of this is that the project itself (broader GreenZone base for a bilateral US-Iraq agreement) has never been acknowledged in any widely-circulated English-language accounts, so events in the mind of the anglosphere are again taking on that all-too-familiar ketchup-on-the-wall o-those-crazy-Iraqis character.


Anonymous Alamet said...

You will like this: Quoting Sharq Al Awsat, a new piece on Aswat today says, Govt. opposition secretly meet in Britain ahead of [Cairo] conference.

In Leeds, of all places!

2:14 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Boffo! Possibly this is something that belonged on the social page. The very short Sharq al-Awsat piece names only the one individual, describing him as the owner of five big companies in Jordan, "which recently threw him out", and he now lives in Morocco. And the journalist says although he wasn't able to speak to anyone who was there, he was told that another Iraqi personality invited them to dinner at a big Leeds hotel. Sounded as if the Sharq al-Awsat correspondent was kind of hoping to get a meal out of it.

3:42 PM  

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