Friday, December 15, 2006

Jaafari visits Damascus; Dawa says no to new coalition idea

Here is the latest news for those following the attempt to create an "alternative political base" for Maliki, in order to exclude the Sadrists and get tough with them. (The basic idea came from the Hadley memo, and it has been confirmed in various ways by those who have since met with Bush. So far there are four parties on board: SCIRI, the two big Kurdish parties, and the Islamic Party (Sunni) of Tareq al-Hashemi). To make the Shiite-split part of this palatable, the idea was or is to call the new alliance "extra-parliamentary".

The latest news is that the Dawa party, which would have had to be an important part of any such restructuring, has said no. Party chief and former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has been in Damascus since Tuesday, where he has met with the foreign minister Moallem and also with Vice President Sharaa, who made remarks about Syria offering all possible support for the unity and stability of Iraq. The Al-Quds al-Arabi account of the visit doesn't offer any particular reason for the head of the Iraqi Dawa party to be spending a few days in Damascus right now, but on the same page the newspaper reports the party's decision not to go along with the [Washington sponsored] "alternative political base" idea. The paper quotes Haider al-Abadi, a Dawa Party leader who said the party decided an extra-parliamentary group like this isn't necessary, because all of the relevant parties are in Parliament in the first place.


Blogger Reidar Visser said...


Thanks for keeping an eye on these important developments. More and more I’m reminded about the Jaafari versus Abd al-Mahdi struggle last spring. Perhaps the most curious aspect of all of this is the positioning of the Iraqi Islamic Party – which accounts for some of the most moderate and compromise-oriented voices in the Sunni camp (although some complain that their parliamentary strength does not reflect the situation on the ground). Just like during the premiership contest of within the UIA, they seem to consistently eschew the partners that, on paper, and ideologically speaking, seem closest to them – the Sadrists, Fadila, the Daawa (and the other Sunnis). There have been many conspiracy theories about efforts to quell any such inter-sectarian Iraqi nationalist resurgence, and I suppose also the possibility of bribery should be reckoned with. But this is nevertheless a remarkable stand by a sizeable parliamentary bloc.

8:35 AM  
Blogger badger said...

thanks. As a matter of fact, on the very same day that Islamic Party leader Hashemi was giving a speech to the US Institute of Peace in Washington asking for the US forces to stay for a while, (Thursday Dec 14) his party was being represented at the Istanbul conference that was demanding they leave and calling the government illegitimate. The Islamic Party participation in Istanbul is referred to in this Elaph piece.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not sure al-Hashemi really can speak for many people. The very fact he is VP suggests he might either be bought off or have views at odds with most people in his bloc (and probably his party too). I do believe he endorsed the constitution as well, which was none too popular a document in the Sunni community - 90% or so oppostion. From what I can tell, he is sort of an Iraqi Joe Lieberman - the convenient cover for pro-occupation "cross-sectarianism."

From what Badger says - as well as from what I've read - many people in his bloc are doing things like attending resistance conferences. Also, there was a NYT piece from last week that said a number of members of his own bloc were really steamed at him being involved with talks with the Kurds and SCIRI.

At the end of the day, there is a lot we don't know about the internal workings of Green Zone politics or what kind of coalitions really exist. All we know are the anouncements of individual figures - and often, these figures aren't necessarily representative - but people who have strong ties to Americans/Westerners (Kurds, Allawi) or are in fact weak, unthreatening figures who are in positions of power precisely because they are so weak (and thus uncontrovertial) (hence, Maliki perhaps al-Dashemi too).

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Further, the fact al-Dashemi is VP is - to me - suggestive of the fact that he is a weak, inoffensive figure and thus acceptable (more or less) to all parties, but also not really capable of accomplishing much (which, for his political opponents, is a plus)

6:21 PM  
Blogger Reidar Visser said...

Thanks for the follow-up comments. I certainly agree that there seems to be a lot of tension inside the Iraqi Islamic Party (about which, I should add, I have only the most superficial knowledge; I’m not really conversant with developments to the north of Baghdad). I still find it remarkable that what I believe is a relatively large parliamentary faction within the Sunni Islamist parliamentary coalition (exact numbers anyone?) has not seen more defections to the inter-sectarian coalition efforts that periodically resurge with various Sunni and Sadrist elements as potential participants. At the USIP meeting, Hashimi reportedly restated his opposition to federalism, but explained his decision to join SCIRI and the Kurds as a pragmatic move to try to bring an end to the violence (presumably on the basis of a perception that the Sadrists are the main problem in that regard.)

The involvement of Sunni radicals from Saudi Arabia in the meetings in Turkey is bad news indeed; some of these guys are fanatically anti-Shiite.

5:55 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I'm guessing that since Al-Hayat says this morning that Mutlak's "Dialogue" group and Dulaimi's "People's congress" both boycotted the reconciliation meeting, that probably means they have defected to the anti-government or "nationalist" or inter-sectarian side. Of the major Iraqi Iraqi Accord groups, that would leave only Hashemi as the outlier. I guess time will tell whether this could this ever be close enough so that numbers matter...

On the Istanbul issue: True Al-Dhari is keeping some bad company there, but I think the point is he tried to elicit more "mainstream" support (talking to Arab governments and so on), and US opposition kept a lot of people away from him. And more important, his own position (in rebuttal to the anti-Shiite screed as Azzaman summarized it) seems to be quite enlightened.

11:11 AM  

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