Wednesday, July 23, 2008


(See also the comments)

There hasn't been much by way of explanation what specifically happened to cause the current crisis. For instance:

(1) Why was the vote on the Kirkuk part of the legislation held in secret in the first place?

According to Salman al-Jamili (quoted this morning in AlHayat), described as a leader of the Iraqi Accord Front (which supports the law and says the voting was legal):
"The secret vote was not against the internal rules of Parliament", and he described the voting on the law as having been done in a "sound, clean and transparent way and consequently any re-doing of the vote would be illegal".

He added: "After it proved unfeasible to arrive at a consensus agreement between the blocs on the issue of elections in Kirkuk, and in order that deputies not be exposed to pressure or influence from bloc-leaders, the president of the Chamber of Deputies held the vote [on the Kirkuk part of the legislation] in secret". And Al-Jamili added: "The only members who withdrew from the voting session were the from the Kurdistan Alliance and the Supreme Islamic Council, while the majority voted in favor of the law."
In other words, there were prior attempts to arrive at an agreement between the blocs; this proved futile, apparently meaning that neither side was able to line up a majority via bloc-level horse-trading. And so there was a free vote. The secrecy was in order to prevent party-leaders from trying to enforce party discipline.

(2) How far did the Kurdish parties get in trying to line up support for their position on Kirkuk, and where did the problem arise?

The only specific clue I know of is from a remark by a Kurdish deputy to a reporter for Azzaman. This was included in its post-election story yesterday:
A member of the Kurdish Alliance said: "We had agreements signed with the [United Iraqi] Alliance (UIA, the Shiite coalition that still includes the Supreme Council and a branch of the Dawa party) a day before the session. Ali al-Adeeb of the Dawa Party, along with reresentatives of the Badr, and independents, and [representatives of] the Supreme Council signed with us a document of understanding not to pass the law. But we were surprised...
Whatever the details of the agreement he is talking about, what he is saying is that the Kurdish Alliance went into the session convinced that they had a (secret, but signed) agreement with enough representatives of the Shiite parties in the UIA to support their position in the voting. But the Sunni representative says what happened was that the attempts at agreement on a bloc-wide basis proved impossible, hence the free vote (also secret). So if we accept those points as plausible, then in short this seems to have been a case of a secret agreement overruled by a secret vote. And in terms of substance, the problem seems to have been lack of unity in the UIA behind the Kurdish position.

To put it another way, the vote was made secret apparently because some of the Shiite deputies that the Kurds thought were on their side, weren't.

The lack of unity in the UIA isn't news. Reidar Visser for instance has referred earlier to differences between Maliki and the Supreme Council on issues relating to "centralism", and yesterday in his summary of the contents of the Provincial Voting law he again referred to "a group of centralist Shiite politicians around Nuri al-Maliki". What is news is the highlighting and exposure of intra-UIA disunity on this important issue, in spite of all of the secrecy surrounding these events.


Anonymous Alex said...

Visser sent an additional text yesterday to his subscribers, that I find defines better the oppositions:

Kirkuk Clauses Were Supported by Bloc of Opposition Parties

By Reidar Visser (

23 July 2008

Information about exact voting patterns and the debate surrounding the elections law is now beginning to filter through. It has emerged that the arrangements for Kirkuk to a large extent were supported by the bloc of opposition parties which had demanded the 1 October deadline for the elections in the first place – a cross-sectarian alliance of Shiite Islamists (Sadrists, Fadila, some Daawa branches, independents), Sunni Islamists, secularists and minority representatives. Those who supported the Kurds over Kirkuk were reportedly ISCI but also some United Iraqi Alliance independents. Thus, even if many aspects of the adopted law clearly carry the hallmarks of the more self-confident Nuri al-Maliki, and recent additions to his government of certain ministers who claim to represent “Sunni interests” notwithstanding, it seems that on the Kirkuk issue the government was actually overwhelmed by a cross-sectarian opposition less inclined to make compromises with the Kurds. With the numerous reports from Iraq about Nuri al-Maliki being in the ascendancy as some kind of strongman with good ties to the security forces, this clear indication of parliamentary weakness as well as the obvious contradiction between his declared objectives as an Iraqi centralist and his choice of alliance partners (the Kurds and ISCI) certainly need to be taken into account as well. In fact, this is the second time in 2008 that the Kurdish-ISCI axis appears to have lost a parliamentary battle, once more forcing them to consider the presidential veto as a last resort.

6:09 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Thanks. (For some reason I didn't get my copy of that).

That is certainly a better way of setting out the lineup, namely as "a cross-sectarian opposition less likely to make compromises with the Kurds".

Still, it does seem that the Kurds thought they had the votes, and it was the ambiguous position of some in the Dawa/SupremeCouncil grouping that motivated the secret vote that went against the Kurds. Which highlights the question: Where is Maliki, given the fact that parts of his parliamentary support-group are actually parts of a cross-sectarian opposition.

6:50 AM  
Anonymous Reidar said...

Badger, apologies for the delay in sending the second e-mail alert, which affected those e-mail addresses that do not accept incoming mail from our standard server and need to be resent from Hotmail. I reached the limit for sending messages from Hotmail yesterday (and have reached it again today).

Anyway, Kirkuk is very interesting because this is an issue where cross-sectarian Arab feeling is very strong, and many Shiite MPs even in the UIA would be reluctant to give too much to the Kurds on this. My hunch is that if Maliki is to be succesful with his strongman ambitions, he, too, would need to reconsider his position on this, but then again he would need to make some drastic changes to his coalition set-up.

8:31 AM  
Blogger motown67 said...

What's been gone over so far is what I've read. The Kurds, SIIC, and Dawa supposedly had a deal to block the power sharing clause in the election law, but most of the Dawa party ended up voting for it. 16 Shiites walked out with the Kurds during the vote, and some of those were independents. The SIIC leadership seems to be standing behind their deal because not only did Jalal Talabani veto the bill, but so did SIIC VP Mahdi. There are all kinds of conspiracy theories about what happened. Some say that the law actually got pushed through just so that it could be vetoed and the voting delayed. It might just be that the opposition was able to stymie the Kurdish-SIIC alliance. I have a piece about this on my blog as well. Click on my name for a link if interested

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Lysander said...

Badger, my apologies for this off topic comment. It belongs with the Maliki/Time Horizon post. But did you hear anything about Former PM Alawi asking for a timetable during congressional testimony? I found it on and I'm waiting to see it picked up anywhere else. Don't know how to hyperlink but here is some of it;

" Dr. Ayad Allawi, the former interim Iraqi prime minister previously referred to even by US Congress members as a "Bush puppet," voiced his strong support for a US withdrawal timeline during a Wednesday Congressional hearing.

During his term in office, from June 2004 to April 2005, Allawi endorsed the US's controversial bombings of Fallujah and echoed Bush's speeches almost word for word in many of his own statements; The Washington Post reported that Bush administration officials coached Allawi on the content of his public comments. Prior to his involvement in the US-backed, post-invasion Iraqi government, Allawi worked with the CIA.

Yet, on Wednesday, Allawi blatantly called for "a time frame for reduction of US forces," a statement that stands in stark contrast to the hazy, deadline-less "time horizon" recently advocated by President Bush. Allawi stressed that the Iraqi people's wishes should take precedence in any agreement on the future of the American presence in Iraq...."

Granted, the man is a CIA asset. I guess it could be called part of an elaborate plot to make pro occupation Iraqis seem like patriots. But this still seems significant. And Alawi has no need to appear a patriot to Congress. But maybe the Iraqi press is playing it up.

Thanx and again sorry for the O.T. comment but this seemed important.

9:10 AM  
Blogger badger said...

This will be a little sketchy, but the short answer is no, as far as I know Allawi's withdrawal position isn't big news in Iraq or in the Arab world. He has been talking the "nationaist, non-sectarian" position ever since the memory of his administration and what he did in Falluja and elsewhere started to fade. For instance his Iraqi List is always referred to as part of any attempts to form cross-sect nationalist alliances. And he seems to have a hyper-active PR operation. So this isn't a sudden or dramatic shift for him, and secondly I don't think he has a real political center of gravity that would make people pay close attention to what he says. More of a weather-vane, possibly.

OT not a problem.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Lysander said...

Thanx badger. Perhaps its significant that the weather vane isn't pointing to the "I told you so, the surge is working" camp.

And I guess his ideas would be awkward for the McCain-Lieberman Iraq forever bunch. Assuming anyone ever heard them.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Shirin said...

Allawi is an opportunist who will hold whatever position he believes will give him the best advantage.

My impression is that he is a dead issue for most Iraqis and is already guaranteed a place in the rubbish heap of history where he belongs along with Chalabi and quite a few others.

2:50 PM  

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