Monday, December 11, 2006

Competing Coups In Iraq?

One of the big stories today, via AP, is that Bush's new best friend in Iraq appears to be planning a (probably peaceful) coup against the Maliki government.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Major partners in Iraq's governing coalition are in behind-the-scenes talks to oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki amid discontent over his failure to quell raging violence, according to lawmakers involved.

The talks are aimed at forming a new parliamentary bloc that would seek to replace the current government and that would likely exclude supporters of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence.

The new alliance would be led by senior Shiite politician Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who met with President Bush last week. Al-Hakim, however, was not expected to be the next prime minister because he prefers the role of powerbroker, staying above the grinding day-to-day running of the country.

A key figure in the proposed alliance, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, left for Washington on Sunday for a meeting with Bush at least three weeks ahead of schedule.

"The failure of the government has forced us into this in the hope that it can provide a solution," said Omar Abdul-Sattar, a lawmaker from al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party. "The new alliance will form the new government."

The groups engaged in talks have yet to agree on a leader, said lawmaker Hameed Maalah, a senior official of al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.

One likely candidate for prime minister, however, was said to be Iraq's other vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite who was al-Hakim's choice for the prime minister's job before al-Maliki emerged as a compromise candidate and won.

...Al-Maliki's government, under the Iraqi constitution, could be ousted if a simple majority of parliament's 275 members opposed it in a vote of confidence. Parties in the talks expressed confidence they had enough votes.

"The question of confidence in this government must be reconsidered," Parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, told legislators Sunday. "Why should we continue to support it? For its failure?"
Interesting, eh? A broad-based coalition with Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds together under the primary leadership of SCIRI, the group Sunnis primarily blame for death squad killings.

But it gets even more interesting.

Raed in The Middle, the Iraqi blogger, had a story from a Jordan newspaper story back on the 4th Dec. Only then, the broadly-based "national salvation front" included the Sadrists and didn't include SCIRI and Al Hakim.
A number of Iraqi political groups are planning to announce a broad national front in the next few days aiming to correct the falling political process.

Mr. Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the head of the national dialogue front, told “Al-arab Al-Yaum” that the national salvation front that will be announced soon will include the national dialogue front, the national Iraqi list led by allawi, the reconciliation and liberation front led by meshaan aljuburi, and the Sadr movement.

Mr. Almutlaq added that the new front will include a number of groups that are not participating in the current Iraqi government including Baathists, pan-arabists, the Founding Conference that includes 46 political movements, the old Iraqi army leadership, and tribal leaders from the middle and south of Iraq. In addition, the front will include representatives from Turcoman, Yazidi, and Kurdish patriotic leaders who are against the occupation and for Iraq’s unity, and other Christian movements that believe in Iraq’s unity.

Mr. Al-Mutlaq added that the national salvation government will be supported by 7 religious leaders who hold the Ayatollah title, including Al-Baghdadi, Al-Yaqoubi, Al-Muayad, Al-Maleki, Al-Sarkhi, and Al-Khalisi.
The Iraqi Muslim Scholars association will have representatives in the front as well, according to mr. almutlaq.

Concerning the goals on the new front, Mr. Al-mutlaq said that the front will work to set a timetable (or time limit) for the U.S. presence in Iraq, which is an important condition that will convince the Iraqi resistance to stop fighting and start participating in the Iraqi government.

Mr. Al-Mutlaq said that the NSF will take over the current Iraqi government either by pulling out from the current parliament and creating a new government, or through holding an international conference that may be based on points 30, 31 and 32 of the UN Security Council resolution No. 1546 that calls for a conference every three months that includes the Iraqi government, the multi-national forces, and the UN secretary general to discuss the developments in Iraq.

Finally, and concerning the time that the national salvation front will be announced, Mr. Al-Mutlaq said that the front is coordinating with other regional powers to reach the right timing for this announcement to achieve the front’s goals and minimize any sacrifices.
So now it looks like we may have two nascent new governments that both intend to usurp the Maliki government. My guess is that the SCIRI one will get the backing of the U.S. but that the other one will get the backing of most of the Iraqis with guns. That could perhaps mean that Iraq would settle down into a two-party peacefulness that crosses sectarian boundaries. However, it could also mean that, yet again, just as everyone else thinks they have a handle on which groups of Iraqis are fighting which other groups a whole new fight breaks out. The Chinese proverb: "May you live in interesting times", eh?

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