Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Current events

Twenty-two Iraqi political representatives wound up meetings in Beirut on Monday with the preparation of a document that will be presented to the Arab League with the idea it should be included in the final statement of the Cairo Conference (date still not set for that). What is interesting is that the 22 represented essentially the same parties that signed the recently-reported "12-party" memorandum of understanding which has the Kurdish parties so worked up--they are the Sadrists, Fadhila, Dawa (or at least that part of the Dawa that has split from Maliki), Iraqi List (Allawi's group), and a selection of Sunni parties and independents--plus, (according to this account in Al-Quds al-Arabi) some Baath representatives. [I fixed previous sloppy grammar in that sentence]

The Al-Quds reporter refers to this as "a meeting between Iraqis who support and who oppose the government... to try and bring together the points of view of those who are participating in the political process and those who oppose it". This Beirut meeting, he says, is further to the meetings that took place at a Dead Sea resort in Jordan a couple of months ago.

As for the Cairo Conference, the reporter says although there is still no date set for it, there have been specific preparations during the last two weeks, including meetings by Faleh al-Fayad, the the head of the Iraqi Office for Reconciliation and Dialogue with leaders of other Arab countries. The only specific result of these meetings the journalist mentions is that the Arab League has made it a condition for hosting this meeting that it confirm the concept of the Iraqi nation, and that there be a renunciation of sectarianism.

Meanwhile, Al-Hayat, which doesn't mention the Beirut meeting, reports in detail on statements (1) by Kurdish representatives condemning the recent "12-party memorandum" as an attack on the legitimate rights of the Kurdish region (on the issue of whether Clause 140 on changing administrative boundaries is or isn't well and truly now a dead letter; and on the issue of oil contracts not signed by the central government); and (2) by the odd-couple of Hakim and Hashimi promising there will be important progress in the "political process" in the coming days and weeks, hinting at things like the return of Sunni ministers to the cabinet and so on.

There was one point where the Baghdad argle-bargle did possibly overlap with the gist of the Beirut meeting: Hashimi, in his discussion of the bright future for "political change", said this: "It will be better if this change comes from within the political process, than from without." Whether this was a suggestion of the possibility of an actual coup, or merely an acknowledgment that those "outside" the process (including Baathists) are making themselves heard, isn't clear.

What is clear is

(1) That there are two currents: The separatists (Kurdish in the north and Supreme Council in the south); and the (at least broadly speaking) nationalists, including the signatories of the 12-party memo and the attendees at the Beirut meeting.

(2) That the central government has been whittled down to reliance almost entirely on the separatists (along with Hashemi), and now its supporters Hashemi and Hakim are promising that it will be re-broadened in the coming days and weeks.

(3) That the US is also anxious to create a broader base in the GreenZone, in order to legitimate a new bilateral agreement once the current UN mandate runs out; and in doing so the US is interested in splitting off what they can of the armed resistance and incorporating them into the "political process". This is the Cairo process.

Without knowing about the Cairo process we would be left in ignorance of the overall meaning of the current events. Which, as I have often said, is exactly what narratives like those of Juan Cole are all about.


Blogger James said...

meetings in beirut, eh? any word who the diplomat targeted in yesterday's car bombing was? any possible relationship to this process? The NY Times is mum about who the "American Embassy vehicle" was carrying....
not to dabble in conspiracy theories or anything :-)

10:10 PM  

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