| Can Anti-Maliki Political Front Overthrow The Government In Iraq?
|Assist. Prof. Dr. Serhat Erkmen, ORSAM Middle East Advisor, Ahi Evran University, Department
| It can be observed that a new political period has been entered in Iraq. In the recent period, it is possible to see the most concrete indicators of the new kind of political relations in arguments taking place between Massoud Barzani and Nouri al-Maliki, and also in efforts of anti-Maliki front to come together. It is seen that Barzani, who played a significant role in the formation process of the government, has explicitly taken a stand against Maliki for the last few months. The argument between Barzani and Maliki is originally related to problems between KRG and central government, rather than the fact that the promises given in formation of the government were not kept. However, Barzani has been striving to form a larger front by taking the political equations within Iraq into consideration, contrary to the frictions he experienced with Baghdad in the past. As a matter of fact, his biggest gain in the recent period is the fact that he started to share a lot of common grounds with Muqtada al-Sadr, who is Maliki's most important rival among Shia Arabs in addition to some of Sunni Arabs.
Within this framework, it is seen that Muqtada al-Sadr also joined those such as Massoud Barzani and Iraqiya leaders who has been criticizing Maliki since December 2011. The last round of Massoud Barzani's effort to overthrow Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by acting in unison with Iraqiya in the recent period has been Muqtada al-Sadr's visit to Arbil. Following the meeting held in Arbil, both in local and international press, it was highlighted that major steps were taken in this meeting to overthrow the Maliki government during the meeting, that the parties primarily agreed to put pressure on Maliki, and that this agreement could be the ground of a more explicit political conflict. The recent statements and talks, on the other hand, have led to arguments on the scenario that this agreements might turn into changing the government through vote of confidence.
Today, the Iraqi parliament stands on different political balances and differentiations, compared to two years ago. This process can be summarized as follows: Political alliances which started to take shape as of late 2009 became evident upon the general elections held in 2010. Accordingly, while Shia Arabs were divided into two parts such as the National Iraqi Alliance and the State of Law Coalition; Sunni Arab tribes, Iraqi nationalists, former Ba'athists and the Turkmen gathered under the roof of al-Iraqiya. Despite the fact that Kurds were split into several groups, they kept their major axis upon that KDP and PUK came together within the frame of Kurdistan Alliance.
A national unity government was formed upon the election results and the imposition of the countries in the region (including the US). Within this process, while Shia parties which separately took part in the elections joined together under the name of National Alliance; splits started to take place within al-Iraqiya because of bargains related to distribution of ministerial and other posts. Major changes have taken place in balances of Iraqi politics since December 2010, when the government was formed. The most important actor of this change has been al-Iraqiya. Creating the largest coalition before the elections and coming in first in the elections, this list started to slowly split. This split, which firstly started upon the disagreements emerging because of ministries given or not given, created the group called White Iraqiya. This group, composed of less than 10 deputies, started to play a critical role due to parliamentary arithmetic. However, the real split took place in the last few months. The underlying reasons behind this split can be listed as follows: difference of opinion among the al-Iraqiya leadership, increasing number of people who are not content with the distribution of office, and increasing number of deputies or groups cooperating with the central government in order to meet their expectations in local politics.
The prominent figures of al-Iraqiya, created upon the fact that masses, which aim at balancing an authoritarian regime in Iraq as of its establishment, came together could not somehow display a real unison. The establishment of position, planned to be created for Ayad Allawi who was the first in the list during the formation process of the government, was constantly postponed. On the other hand, the other al-Iraqiya leaders who took office as Speaker, Minister of Finance, Deputy Prime Minister, and Vice President did not give a realistic support for the prolongation about the position of Allawi. Another example about incoordination of leadership within Iraqiya is seen in accusations against Tariq Hashimi and Saleh Mutlaq. Even though al-Iraqiya leaders firstly objected to accusations against Tariq Hashimi claiming that he supported terrorism, the government could not effectively apply all its weapons, including boycott. In fact, while al-Iraqiya boycotted the government and parliament; certain ministers and deputies broke this boycott. As the accusations against Hashimi continued, a crisis took place between Mutlaq and Maliki; and the crisis was immediately ceased as Mutlaq adopted a quiet attitude afterwards. To sum up, Iraqiya leadership did not stand behind one another in crisis times and they started to lose the confidence of their members and also lost their control over the members.
On the other hand, there is a dynamic that has grown stronger for the last few months. This dynamic is the fact that the political conflict between the central government in northern regions of Iraq and KRG triggers a split within al-Iraqiya. One of the elements that bring the al-Iraqiya list together is to try to balance the Shia Arab administration in Baghdad; while another one is to join forces against KRG in the regions close to themselves.
As a matter of fact, this process, which took its most distinct form upon the formation of the Hadba Coalition in Mosul in 2009, turned into an alliance under the roof of Iraqiya in parliamentary elections. So that, Sunni Arabs in provinces of Mosul, Salahaddin, Kirkuk and Diyala joined their forces against the efforts of KRG to have political superiority in their provinces. Sunni Arabs in these provinces opposed against the authority of Maliki in Baghdad and the local authority of KRG. Nevertheless, while a group within Iraqiya started to cooperate with Kurds against the strengthening authority of Maliki; the groups, whose local interests outweigh, started to approach towards Maliki against Kurds. The examples of this recent and important change started to be seen in all the provinces mentioned above. The Hadba List, which is centered in Mosul and which is one of the most important components of Iraqiya, was split upon the fact that Mosul Governor Esil Nujeyfi (also the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Usama Nujeyfi) reached an agreement with KRG and headed towards solving the problems. Many important figures have left the Hadba List for the last few months, and this group has lost power almost half and half. Most of the politicians splitting from Hadba started to be in quest of sealing an alliance with the central government as an equilibrant against KRG. Thus, an extremely important transition period started originating from the balance of power in Mosul. In Salahaddin, on the other hand, the alliance in Provincial Council, where people who are close to Ayad Allawi (Wifaq Group) are in majority, was split after this province declared itself as federal district. While 20 out of 24 members of the Provincial Council support the federal district project; today, almost half of those members are against this idea. While the persons close to Saleh Mutlaq fell into silence; the majority of politicians close to Allawi support either White Iraqiya or Maliki. It is seen that the influence of Maliki, which was limited only with two provinces, where Shia Arabs were in majority, in the south of Salahaddin Province beforehand is gradually increasing. In Diyala, on the other hand, the conflict that started between Maliki and KRG in Hanekin and its neighborhood creates new balances of power. The last province that should be indicated is Kirkuk. Sunni Arabs that constitute the backbone of the Iraqiya List in 2010 explicitly started to incline towards Maliki as a result of Iraqiya's approaching towards KRG. Some figures such as Mohammad Tamim, who was appointed as the Minister of Education while he was Kirkuk deputy, and Omar Juburi, who is still Kirkuk deputy, (both of them are from Juburis who are the biggest and the strongest Arab tribe in Kirkuk) explicitly developed very close relations with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. As it is understood from political attitudes and discourses, the other most important Arab tribes in Kirkuk (such as Ubeydi and Hamdani tribes) seem to pursue the same route. To sum up, it is seen that the coalition composing Iraqiya started to crackle, and that Maliki used those splitting from this group as a shield for himself both in parliament and in political discourse.
As stated beforehand, the political transition that Iraq went through in the recent period, which was extensively summarized in the beginning of the study, is not a completed process. As the first signs have started to be seen, it can also be observed that major changes have taken place in political alliances. These changes that would affect large and small all the alliances might come to mean that political groups in Sunni Shia or Arab-Kurds forms have considerably weakened. In Iraq, the politics will soon try to become normal and to put conflicts aside. Nevertheless, all the meetings will remain inconclusive, unless realistic solutions are not produced for the current structural problems of the country. As it coould also be understood from the details mentioned above, there is an effort to overthrow the Maliki government and to form a new government in Iraq. However, the party to launch this prıcess should get along with all the parties in Iraq. Currently, the parliamentary arithmetic protects Maliki. However, the efforts that could put an end to Maliki government should take place at decentralization level, not solely as an indoor game.