Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 20
Iraq’s Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 20 April 27, 2012-May 4, 2012
By Ramzy Mardini
Ultimatum Issued To Maliki
Political opponents reportedly issued a 15-day ultimatum to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deliver on demands or face a no-confidence vote in Parliament. As a result of last week’s meeting in Arbil between Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Iraqiyya leader Ayad Allawi, Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a letter was supposedly delivered from Arbil to the Shi’a Iraqi National Alliance (INA), laying out nine demands to Maliki. Sadr was in favor of holding Maliki accountable, but did not favor withdrawing confidence from the prime minister at the moment. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari called for a meeting at his home on Thursday night involving INA lawmakers and Maliki to discuss the letter and its demands. Kurdish officials have mentioned Ja’afari as a potential replacement for Maliki, should Parliament ever reach a 163-vote threshold for withdrawing confidence in the current government.
Qubad Gets New Position in Arbil
Qubad Talabani, the younger son of President Talabani, will leave his position in Washington, D.C. as the Kurdistan Region’s Representative to the U.S. to head a new strategic coordinating council in Arbil under Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. “Clearly, professionally, this is a step in the right direction for me,” Talabani said in an interview this week. “I have worked my whole professional career on international relations, and this gives me an exciting opportunity to work on [Kurdish] domestic policies and the strategic development of Kurdistan as a region.” The 34-year old envoy has served twelve years in Washington in various positions, first representing the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party and finally the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Shi’a Bloc Finalizes Version of Conference Agenda
Earlier this week the National Alliance, the unified Shi’a bloc in Parliament, delivered its desired agenda for the National Conference to President Talabani, followed by calls from Maliki for Iraqiyya to attend meeting. The Kurds told the Shi’a bloc to continue working on finalizing its agenda for the conference even though Iraqiyya refused to show up for last week’s preparatory meeting. According to senior Sadrist lawmaker Bahaa al-Araji, Talabani will discuss the agenda with both Iraqiyya and Kurdish leaders in hopes of finding consensus and set a date to hold the conference. Iraqiyya is seeking assurances from Talabani that the participants are committed to previous agreements, most likely referring to the Arbil Agreements brokered in November 2010, which ended a nine-month political stalemate and provided for a power-sharing government. Iraqiyya is waiting for Talabani to return to Baghdad from the Kurdish region in order to decide on its participation. The National Conference is a U.S.-backed initiative led by Talabani for resolving the ongoing disputes emerging from last December’s political crisis. The various blocs have been unable to agree on a unified agenda for the conference.
Hashemi Trial Postponed
The trial of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was postponed on May 3 for one week after his defense lawyers argued that a special tribunal was necessary and that the Central Criminal Court was not the appropriate venue to try a sitting vice president. “There should be a special court for those occupying key positions like prime minister, president, and parliamentary speaker,” said Muyyiad Obeid al-Ezzi, who heads Hashemi’s defense team. Hashemi’s son-in-law, Ahmed Kahtan, and 73 of his bodyguards have also been charged and awaiting trial. Last December Baghdad authorities accused Hashemi of supporting terrorist acts, but he has maintained his innocence and argues that the charges brought against him are politically motivated. Hashemi moved to Istanbul in April after having resided in the Kurdish region for months.
Kuwait-Iraq Relations Continue To Improve
Kuwaiti and Iraqi relations have continued to improve since Kuwait’s Emir came to Baghdad in late March for the Arab League Summit. On April 30, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid al-Hamad al-Sabah led a delegation to Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations and resolving outstanding disputes. Sabah and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari signed two agreements: to create a joint cooperation committee and to regulate navigation through the Khor Abdullah waterway. On May 2, the two countries made a joint request to the United Nations to begin repairing border markers in adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 833. The repairs have been delayed for six years due to Baghdad’s objections that the new border would cut through Iraqi farms in the south near Umm Qasr. Kuwait’s prime minister is expected to visit Baghdad by the year’s end to continue advancing bilateral relations and follow up on agreements. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry believes the continued progress in relations with Kuwait will provide the necessary conditions to remove Iraq from Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Iraqiyya Hires Washington Firm
The Iraqiyya bloc hired Washington-based public affairs firm Sanitas to raise U.S. awareness of Maliki’s growing authoritarianism in hopes of making Iraq a foreign policy issue in the U.S. presidential election. The hiring focuses on improving a messaging campaign but not lobbying U.S. government officials. “We’d like to raise awareness about the fact that Iraq is headed back toward a one man, one party rule,” Mark Alsalih, an Iraqi-American who serves as a senior advisor to Iraqiyya, said in an interview. “And that’s very disturbing for a country that’s supposed to be moving toward a democracy.”