Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Federalism is still a hot issue, but Biden didn't discuss it with anyone !

Iraqi media paid a lot of attention to this part of reported remarks in a Reuters interview by Ammar AlHakim, son and heir-apparent of the head of the SupremeCouncil:
The decision to contest the elections separately from Dawa stemmed from disagreement over regional autonomy, Hakim said.

"There are many readings and opinions on the role of the provincial councils. ISCI has an understanding ... that these councils should have greater powers and budgets for development and reconstruction."
because it was apparently the first time that leadership of either party had spelled out the relationship between that rift and the federalism/autonomy issue.

At the same time, there was a report that the campaign for signatures in support of the one-governate federal-region proposal (not sect-based; seen as partly an attempt to forestall the wider, multi-governate, sect-based SupremeCouncil proposal) are unlikely to reach the required number with less than a week to go before the deadline. And the AlHayat person who reported that added: The Fadhila party (cousin of the Sadrist trend) that had been seen as in support of the one-governate proposal, is now expressing reservations about it.
The Islamic Fadhila party was added to the parties that have expressed reservations about the concept of forming a federal district at the present time. Hasan AlShammari, head of the Fadhila parliamentary bloc, said that the time has not yet come to study the federalism issue. He said the reason his party is taking this position is "the domestic-political and regional repercussions that Iraq is witnessing at the present time."
In the north, Kurdistan region president Barzani fired up the war of words with Maliki in an interview with the LA Times, in which he threatened, according to Iraq-media reports, that the Kurdistan regional government could consider separation from Iraq if Maliki doesn't desist from his campaign to modify the Iraqi constitution in avor of central-government powers. A spokesman for the Sadr trend said this was merely a media ploy to increase pressure on Maliki in the negotiations over the various current Baghdad/Irbil disputes. And an unnamed spokesman for Maliki said the latter's position hasn't changed, and it is that you shouldn't try for stronger regional-government powers at a time when the central-government power is weak, because everything including the regional governments depends on the central government.

Meanwhile, US VP-elect Joseph Biden met with president Talabani and vice-president Adel AbdulMahdi, and also with deputy premier Barham Saleh on Monday, and then with Prime Minister Maliki today (Tuesday), before heading to Kirkuk to meet with local officials there. Needless to say, there are no meaningful reports about what was said in any of these meetings, except that naturally there was no discussion of federalism (the tripartite version of which is known as "the Biden Plan") but rather the topic was implementation of the new bilateral agreement.

So far, unless I have missed something, there are no reports of any Biden meetings with anyone from the July 22 movement, which is the coalition that opposes the semi- or crypto-separatism of the parties whose representatives he did meet with (the two big Kurdish parties and the SupremeCouncil). This at a time when as the various above-noted reports indicate, federalism is in fact still a major issue.


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