Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Iraq: Prospects for the New Government
January 6th, 2011 by Alec
In an article for The National Review
, Jafar al-Rikabi writes that despite the months-long delay in forming a government, the prospect for an “independent, prosperous, democratic Iraq” remains high and that current skeptics too easily rush to judgment on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s ability to stabilize the country. He notes the biggest obstacle to stability is pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to form a Sunni-dominated government rather than forming a cross-sectarian list. Ranj Alaaldindisagrees
in a piece at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, stating that the new government, “is composed of unlikely political and ideological bedfellows and is the product of desperate power-seeking efforts among easily compromised domestic elements.”
POMED Notes: Iraq’s New Government:Now Comes the Hard Part
January 5th, 2011 by Naureen
On Wednesday, the United States Institute of Peace hosted a panel discussion on the future of Iraq following December elections titled “Iraq’s New Government: Now Comes the Hard Part.” Tara Sonenshine, Executive Vice President of U.S. Institute of Peace introduced the panelists: Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, Minister of State and Spokesperson of the Iraqi Government, Dr. Wisam Al-Ubaidi, the Al-Wifaq Al-Watani Party’s representative to the United States, Qubad Talabani, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United States, and Sean Kane, Program Officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The panel was moderated by Manal Omar, Director of Iraq Programs at the U.S Institute of Peace.
To read full notes, continue below or click here
for a pdf copy.
Iraq: New Government “Good Basis for Setting Out”
December 28th, 2010 by Jason
In a recent interview
with the Council on Foreign Relations, Joost Hiltermann calls the new Iraqi government “a good basis for setting out,” while also expressing concern about the power-sharing agreement. Hiltermann says the newly established National Council for Strategic Policy has yet to be fully defined, and that it remains to be seen whether “Allawi
feels that it satisfies his earlier demands for having a real check against Maliki’s power as prime minister.” Hiltermann goes on to address how Iraq’s various factions, including the Kurds and the Sadrists, are affected by the power-sharing deal, and says that the withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of 2011 is “definitely on track.”
Iraq: Government Finally Seated…Now What?
December 22nd, 2010 by Jason
With the Iraqi government finally in place, commentators and average Iraqis are beginning to take stock of the nine-month process and look toward the future. Liz Sly
, writing in The Washington Post
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the claims that he may be “another Iraqi strongman in the making,” noting that his critics say he has an “authoritarian streak.” Sean Kane
of the United States Institute of Peace argues at The Middle East Channel that “Iraq’s Parliament now offers the best hope for political change and progress towards the consolidation of Iraq’s fledgling democracy.” Kane goes on to say that the new found power of Speaker Osama Najafi
of Iraqiyya and his First Deputy Qusayal-Suhail, a leading member of the Sadrist coalition, is “noteworthy and represents an opportunity,” for the parliament to exert itself more prominently into Iraqi politics.
Meanwhile, the BBC
and The New York Times
blog At War both provide perspectives from average Iraqis. One young man from Baghdad told the BBC that the new government “‘is like running a car with cooking oil.’” And a man in Najaf told At War “‘The same people who were against the government and attempting to weaken it by all means portrayed themselves as trouble solvers. […] Now they are part of it. Let’s see what they will bring to the people. I hope they are honest.’”
Iraq: Maliki Cabinet Confirmed
December 21st, 2010 by Jason
The Iraqi parliament confirmed
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
’s cabinet today, ending the country’s political deadlock. Reuters Africa has a list of the “top officials” in the government and the AFP has compiled a timeline documenting the nine month impasse. Juan Cole
provides details of the circumstances that caused parliamentarians to delay the vote yesterday. According to Cole, the Sadrist Movement is concerned that the temporary candidates Maliki put forward as place holders yesterday would mean that “the ministers of the security ministries would in the end be the opposite of those already agreed upon,” while members of Iraqiyya were unable to agree on a candidate to put forward for Minister of Defense.
: Reidar Visser
remains skeptical of the new government, calling it “XXL-sized and unwieldy.” However, he does credit P.M. Maliki for handling the situation “quite masterfully,” by “creat(ing) an end game where many from the other parties were forced to abandon their principles.”
Iraq: Government Formation Delayed, Sadrists Make Gains
December 20th, 2010 by Jason
After initial reports
that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
would announce his cabinet today, speaker of the parliament Osama al-Nujaifi told reporters that the parliament would not meet to discuss cabinet appointments. There have also been
reports that the prime minister would announce half of his cabinet posts today, with the rest to be announced later. Maliki has until December 25 to unveil his government which will then be subject to parliamentary approval. An editorial in Saturday’s The Wall Street Journal warned
that “the deal could fall apart,” while an editorial
in today’s The Daily Star argues “if Iraq’s lawmakers cannot take into account the needs of their populace - irrespective of race or creed - regression will surely follow.”
Meanwhile, Jack Healy
writes in The New York Times
that the Sadrist Movement
, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, is “tracing a path mapped out by militant groups like Hezbollah or Hamas, which built popular support by augmenting their armed wings with social and political groups that ran schools and hospitals and handed out jobs.” Healy also reports that the group is vying for the governorship of Maysan province.
: P.M. Maliki appeared with Speaker Nujaifi at a press conference Monday evening in Baghdad to announce his list of cabinet officials according to the Associated Press. However, “nearly one-third of the nominees were only acting ministers, an attempt to buy time to work out disagreements with a key part of al-Maliki’s coalition — the hardline Shiite faction loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.”
Iraq: Allawi to Join Government
December 15th, 2010 by Jason
Steven Lee Myers
reports that Ayad Allawi
has agreed to join the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. “Mr. Allawi did so grudgingly and with conditions, warning that an agreement brokered by the United States to form a broad power-sharing coalition government under Mr. Maliki’s leadership could still unravel.” Meanwhile, Reidar Visser excoriated the U.S. for over-stating the political progress in Iraq at recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. “They do not even seem to notice that the Iraqi parliament has yet to address the legal framework for the supposed cornerstone of the power-sharing ‘deal’, the national council for high policies, without which the whole ‘agreement’ is basically a spin-doctor masquerade.”
Iraq: Ministerial Positions and the Effect on Representation
December 9th, 2010 by Jason
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports
that the “major parliament factions” have agreed on ministerial posts. “Khalid al-Asadi of the Shi’ite National Alliance (NA) parliamentary bloc told RFI on December 8 that the ministry of oil will go to his bloc and the ministry of finance will be given to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s Sunni-backed al Iraqiya bloc, while the Kurds will keep the foreign affairs portfolio.” Reidar Visser addresses the “law on replacement of candidates” and how the assumption of ministerial positions by members of parliament may “further dilute” the idea of “close connections” between the Iraqi people and their representatives.
POMED Notes: “The Realities of Power Sharing in the Next Iraqi Government”
December 7th, 2010 by Jason
The Middle East Institute (MEI) held an event on Tuesday titled “The Realities of Power Sharing in the Next Iraqi Government” with Reidar Visser. The event was held to mark the release of Visser’s new book, “A Responsible End?: The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010.” Visser was introduced by Kate Seelye, the Vice President of Programs and Communications at MEI.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Iran: Reports of Protests on Students Day
December 7th, 2010 by Jason
There have been numerous reports of protests in Iran today. Babylon and Beyond reports that “[a]mateur video footage taken during illegal protests on campuses throughout the country showed students chanting slogans from last year’s huge demonstrations.” Enduring America is live blogging
the events, as well as hosting videos purported to be from the protests. Also, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Iranian army commander-in-chief Ataollah Salehi has “expressed concern” about support for the Green Movement within the army.
Iraq: Inclusive Government May Lead to Gridlock
December 6th, 2010 by Jason
Kenneth M. Pollack
, writing in The National Interest
, argues that the new Iraqi government may be too inclusive: “The Iraqis went for an all-inclusive government because they could not sort out their political divisions. But forming one simply means bringing all of those differences inside the government, where they are likely to prevent it from actually governing.” Pollack goes on to say that “Iraq’s fragmented and immature political systems,” will be prone to gridlock due to the inability of the parliament to act as credible check on the power of the prime minister.
, in an article supporting the idea that there are difficult times ahead, writes that a ruling by the Iraqi federal supreme court will give the newly elected speaker of the parliament, Usama al-Nujayfi of Iraqiyya, “preeminence” as the speaker, rather than an equal role within a “three-man presidency of the parliament” that has existed since 2006. However, Visser notes that it would be “prudent of them (Iraqiyya) to be aware that their logic of an orthodox reading of the constitution will probably apply with equal force to another institution that is much debated these days: the national council for strategic policies […] which is not even mentioned in the constitution precisely like the ‘[collective] presidency of the parliament’ which Iraqiyya complained about to the supreme court.”
Iraq: The Precarious Kurdish Position
December 6th, 2010 by Jason
writes at The Middle East Channel that the Kurds of Iraq face a number of challenges going forward and that compromising on their “highly-charged nationalist agenda” may be the best way to secure “long-term political and economic prosperity.” Natali argues that the Kurds position has been fundamentally weakened due to their status as “a politically expedient swing vote” and the “ceremonial” nature of the presidency, which is held by a Kurd, Jalal Talabani. Perhaps most importantly, the central government is not recognizing oil contracts negotiated by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). “[G]iven the new role of oil in driving the Kurdistan region’s development and the absence of support from key Sunni and Shia Arab groups for Kurdish control of Kirkuk, the KRG may have little choice but to substitute emotional nationalism for political pragmatism.”
Iraq: “Violent Agreement” on U.S. Strategy Going Forward
December 3rd, 2010 by Jason
A new paper titled “Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward,” has been well received
by Marc Lynch
at Foreign Policy
. “I’m impressed with the Unfinished Business report, and find that it reflects many of the conversations I’ve had with its authors and with various U.S. and Iraqi players over the last year. […] Now that the firm commitment to withdrawal established, it’s appropriate and healthy to be actively and intensely engaged in Iraqi politics.” Lynch also points to an op-ed
that he and John Nagl
wrote in the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, before either had read the report, that comes to similar conclusions about U.S. strategy moving forward: “Today, those who backed the 2007 ’surge’ should be keen to see its gains consolidated, while those who called for withdrawal should be keen to make sure that as it happens, disaster does not follow. And while Iraq certainly needs to step up its political game, the US must also muster the bipartisan political strength and will to help build a stable Iraq that can be a partner to the US.”
Iraq: Constitution Stands in Way of Power-Sharing Deal
December 3rd, 2010 by Jason
Reidar Visser writes
in Foreign Affairs that the current power-sharing deal in Iraq is “disconcertingly lacking in substance.” Visser details the various machinations that have been put forward to tempt Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, into forming a coalition government with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law and the Kurdish parties. Visser identifies the core of the problem: “public talk of councils, and even signed agreements by the country’s biggest political blocs, cannot override the demands of Iraq’s constitution and laws.” In fact, he says, the “main responsibility for the fragile character of Iraq’s ‘power-sharing deal,’ however, rests with the Obama administration. Washington continues to spend more energy pursuing its own, idiosyncratic exegesis of Iraqi politics than it does engaging with the real world.”
POMED Notes: “Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward”
December 2nd, 2010 by Jason
The Brookings Institution held an event on Thursday to mark the release of the analysis paper “Unfinished Business: An American Strategy for Iraq Moving Forward.” The event’s participants were all co-authors of the paper and included Kenneth M. Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, J. Scott Carpenter, the Keston Family Fellow at the Washington Institute and director of Project Fikra, and Sean Kane, a program officer with the United States Institute of Peace’s Iraq Programs.
(To read full notes, continue below the fold or click here
Iraq: Nujeifi Profiled, Powers of the Presidency Constrained
December 1st, 2010 by Jason
and Danial Kaysi profile the new speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Osama Nujeifi of Iraqiya. They call the choice of Nujeifi for speaker “not surprising” due to his strong showing in the elections earlier this year. However, the choice of Nujeifi may “prove controversial among Kurds,” because “[h]e and his brother Atheel Nujeifi, the governor of Nineveh province, are considered Arab nationalists and have long rejected Kurdish claims over Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh.”
In the wake Jalal Talabani
as president, Reidar Visser declares that the “powerful presidency council is now dead.” The council, a product of the interim government of 2005, included two vice or “deputy” presidents and allowed the president to veto legislation. The new “ceremonial” presidency will have no veto power and the number of vice or “deputy” presidents, as Visser says, “might as well be twenty-four since these deputies will not have any power anyway.”
Iraq: Maliki Formally Charged With Forming New Government
November 26th, 2010 by Jason
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
was formally charged with forming a new government on Thursday by President Jalal Talabani
. However, Reider Visser contends that “President Jalal Talabani today repeated exactly what he did on 11 November: He charged Nuri al-Maliki with forming the next government. […] Everyone knows that the real reason Talabani did this was to give Maliki more time to form the next government, ostensibly 30 days, but everyone knows that that deadline, in turn, will be violated too.”
In the Los Angeles Times
, Ned Parker
looks at the Sadrist Movement and its leader Muqtada al-Sadr
, and the gains they have made since the March elections. “In recent months, Maliki’s government has freed hundreds of controversial members of the Shiite Muslim cleric’s Mahdi Army and handed security positions to veteran commanders of the militia.” Members of the Sadrist Movement have also assumed high level positions in the Interior Ministry as well as winning the deputy speakership of the parliament.
Iraq: The Future of American Influence
November 22nd, 2010 by Jason
In Saturday’s New York Times
, Vice President Joe Biden
wrote an editorial commending Iraqi politicians for “painstakingly” working through the issues needed to resolve the country’s political stalemate. “By agreeing to form a national partnership government, however, Iraqi leaders have sent an unmistakable message to their fellow citizens, their region and the world: after more than seven years of war and decades of dictatorship, Iraqis seek a nation where the rights of all citizens are recognized and the talents of all are harnessed to unlock the country’s full potential.” The Vice President went on to enumerate the many difficulties facing the new government, including the upcoming census, disagreement over the hydrocarbon law, and the final status of Kirkuk, among others. He also pushes for “continued engagement, including our broader diplomatic presence, a modernization plan for the Iraqi security forces and financing for a police development program.”
In contrast to the Vice President, Mohammad A. Salih, points to the failed attempts by the U.S., including phone calls from Vice President Biden and President Obama, to coerce Kurdish leader Jalal Talibani to step down in favor of Ayad Allawi as “a stark reminder of Washington’s dwindling leverage in Iraq.” And Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi argues in an editorial in the Daily Star that “[t]he Obama administration’s Iraq policy is in chaos,” in part because, “Obama is following the example of President George W. Bush, who let the US electoral agenda, rather than American – not to mention Iraqi – national interests, dictate Iraq policy.”
Iraq: Will the Power-Sharing Agreement Hold?
November 16th, 2010 by Jason
In a new article, Marina Ottaway
and Danial Kaysi describe the current state of government formation in Iraq as, “at best extremely fragile.” The power-sharing agreement that would have Nouri al-Maliki remain prime minister “reaffirms the confessional character of the Iraqi political system.” According to the authors, the biggest obstacle to the implementation of the agreement is that it “does not really appear to be legally enforceable,” instead relying on the “good will of all major political factions.” The authors conclude that if Maliki continues to accrue power unchecked and the “two main conditions” of the agreement, the foundation of the National Council on Higher Strategic Policies (originally meant to be headed by Ayad Allawi) and the reinstatement of three banned Sunni politicians, are not met “the implementation of the agreement is likely dead.”
, writing at Foreign Policy
, warns that “Iraq is not democratic in a reliable or deep sense, where people can expect equal rights, legal protections, or access to their leaders.” He lists various offenses against journalists perpetrated by the Iraqi government under Maliki, including that the government “has started requiring that news agencies register their staff and equipment.” Rule of Law remains “an abstract concept,” with people buying their way out of trouble and bribing government officials, according to Kaplow.
Iraq: Where Does Allawi Stand?
November 15th, 2010 by Jason
After Iraqiya’s short lived walkout
on Thursday, Ayad Allawi
made comments to CNN declaring that “‘the concept of power-sharing is dead now […] It’s finished.’” He went on to accuse the current political process of moving Iraq towards a “new dictatorship.” The walkout reportedly occurred as a result of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others refusing to vote on a power-sharing agreement first, opting instead to vote on who would assume the presidency. There was also the issue of “de-Baathification”, whereby three of Iraqiya’s members had been banned from participating in elections.
According to a report
in the New York Times, the Iraqi parliament held a “tranquil session” Saturday, where they voted on a power-sharing agreement. “[M]embers of Iraqiya took part in a low-key session that consisted largely of ceremonial remarks […] In the end, they voted on a general plan for sharing power, but did not address any of the details that have divided the blocs.” Allawi did not attend the session.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization