Thursday, June 07, 2007

Separatists vs Nationalists - The Feud Gets Nastier

By Cernig

There's an excellent and thought-provoking article by Radio Free Europe today on Iraqi reactions to Shiite secularist Iyad Allawi and Sunni leaders' attempts to reorder the political landscape. The short version is that DAWA, SIIC and the Kurds - all the people who are most threatened by this new front - are pissed. They're also openly accusing the new front of being a construct of foreign Sunni Arab governments, with Prime Minister Maliki saying "There will never be any room for plots that are hatched in this or that Arab capital," and linking the new movement to Arab backed terrorism in Iraq.

Why the fear and venom? The votes, boss, the votes!
Allawi has long claimed to have the support of regional Arab states for his national-salvation government, and with the apparent support of the Iraqi Accordance Front, can now claim to have at least 69 seats out of the 275 in parliament. Should he gain the support of the nationalist Shi'ite party, Al-Fadilah -- which pulled out of the UIA in March -- the new front would have 84 seats.

If supporters of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr join the front, the front would have about 30 additional seats, or 114 total.

By contrast, the UIA and the Kurds would be left with 138 parliamentary seats. It's unclear which way the other 23 seats would align, but the salvation front could gain 19 additional seats through the support of the National Dialogue Front (11 seats), the National Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc (five), and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (three), bringing the front's bloc to 125.

According to the Iraqi Constitution, parliament can withdraw its confidence in the prime minister through an absolute majority vote, or 138 ballots.
As I say, very interesting. The Sadrists and Fadilah have been conspicuous by their absence in the hunt to demonize this new front by those with most to gain from the current status quo. They've also been making friendly with figures on the Sunni nationalist bench, such as al-Mutlaq.

For whatever reasons and for however long it may last, Iraq's power struggles certainly seem to have a strong new current. Ever since the last election, it's been Shiites vs Sunnis with the Kurds sharing power and looking on while both sides tear each other up. Now there will also be a pro-US separatist vs anti-occupation nationalist feud which could well become just as violent as the former feud. The Kurds won't be able to sit that one out so easily. Interesting times, indeed.

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