Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis Update 13


Maliki Visits Kuwait, Emir to Attend Arab Summit

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Kuwait on Wednesday for a two-day official visit to discuss outstanding disputes between the two countries that date back to former Prime Minister Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The two countries agreed to pay a total of $500 million to settle disputes that negatively affected Iraqi Airways after the 1990 invasion. Iraq will reportedly pay $300 million to Kuwait, while investing an additional $200 million in a joint Iraqi-Kuwaiti airline venture. In return, Kuwait will lift $1.2 billion in legal sanctions against Iraqi Airways. After meeting with Maliki, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah confirmed he would attend the upcoming Arab League Summit in Baghdad on March 29.

McGurk Likely Choice for Next U.S. Ambassador

Media reports this week suggest that the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq is likely to be Brett McGurk, a former National Security Council staffer on Iraq under President George W. Bush and an advisor on Iraq to the Obama administration. McGurk played key roles in negotiating the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement and the negotiating efforts to extend U.S. troops in 2011. McGurk is known to have good relations with Maliki, but members of the Iraqiyya bloc argue that McGurk’s close relationship with the prime minister is problematic and would undermine the U.S. embassy’s neutrality in mediation efforts between political blocs.

Kurds Refuse to Hand Over Hashemi

In a speech to his political party, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani stated that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will not hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to Baghdad authorities because “Kurdish ethics” prohibits it. Barzani’s statement of support came after Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd, suggested last week that the Hashemi issue was becoming an embarrassment to the Kurds. The Ministry of Interior in Baghdad had reportedly requested the KRG Interior Ministry hand over Hashemi on charges of supporting terrorist activities, but Kurdish Deputy Interior Minister Jalal Kareem argued that Arbil has yet to receive any such request from Baghdad. 

Preparatory Meeting Leads to Formation of Panel

At the home of Vice President Khudhair Khuzai, the fifth preparatory meeting for holding the National Conference to resolve the political crisis between Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the rival Iraqiyya bloc reportedly reached a consensus to form a three-man panel that would serve as a mechanism in implementing the Arbil Agreement, a power-sharing arrangement reached in late 2010 that led to the formation of the current government. The members of the panel are Iraqiyya MP Adnan al-Janabi, National Alliance MP Khalid al-Atiya, and Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Nuri Shaways, who represents the Kurdish Alliance. According to senior Iraqiyya MP Salman al-Jumaily, a leading negotiator for the bloc, the participants of the meeting agreed on the necessity to settle both the Hashemi case and the unresolved status of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq’s position.

Allawi Pitches His Three Options to Turks

During his two-day visit to Turkey last week, Iraqiyya leader Ayad Allawi had pitched to senior Turkish officials three options for resolving Iraq’s current political crisis: (1) Iraqiyya continues to participate in the national partnership government given the implementation of the Arbil Agreement which can be settled through the National Conference; (2) The holding of early general elections; or (3) The National Alliance can select a candidate to replace Maliki. While meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Allawi praised Turkey’s legitimate concerns about sectarianism and Ankara’s “constructive role” as opposed to Tehran’s meddling. Allawi also met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After his visit, Allawi traveled to Arbil, where a joint statement was made with Barzani arguing for the National Conference to be held before the Arab League Summit on March 29.

For a comprehensive look at the first two months since U.S. troops left Iraq, read Ramzy Mardini's backgrounder, " Iraq's Recurring Political Crisis."  To read a transcript from the Feb. 29 event "Policing Iraq," click here, and to read a transcript from the Feb. 16 event "Iraq After the U.S. Withdrawal," click here. To read past and future weekly updates, click here.