Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 3

Recap of Last Update: The Institute for the Study of War’s last update on the emerging political crisis in Iraq described the escalation in rhetoric in the Iraqi media, as well as calls by Prime Minister Maliki for the Kurds to hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi for prosecution. In a press conference, the prime minister also indicated he could seek a majority government if Iraqiyya does not end their boycott. Finally, the update explored the U.S. response to the crisis as well as likely courses of action.

Tensions Increase between Maliki and Sadrists

Tensions between the Sadrist bloc and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party appear to be escalating this week. The Sadrists, who are wary of Maliki’s consolidation of power, are also unhappy with Maliki’s moves to bring the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), a rival Shi’a militant group, into the political process. In response to efforts to reconcile with AAH, Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr denounced the group saying that they should not be allowed to participate in the political process. On December 26, Senior Sadrist MP Baha al-Araji called for “new elections” as a way to resolve the current political crisis. He later stated his comments represented his personal opinion and did not represent the position of the bloc. The call for new elections could have been a feature of an often undisciplined Araji or could be a result of the tense relationship between Sadr and Maliki. Following Araji’s remarks, Saad Mutalibi, an advisor to Maliki, stated that there still existed a case against Sadr for the April 2003 murder of Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei. A Sadrist spokesman denied there was ever a case against Sadr himself and stated that the charges against the few suspected Sadrists were dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Maliki Tries to Replace Iraqiyya Ministers

On December 27, Maliki tried to replace Iraqiyya ministers with acting ministers due to their boycott of meetings, but the effort failed to receive support by the attendees in the Council of Ministers. Maliki offered Minister of Finance Rafa al-Issawi’s position to Ali Yousif al-Shakri, the Sadrist Minister of Planning, who refused the offer and even made an apologetic phone call to Issawi to explain to him that he did not push to undermine him. In addition, Maliki also tried offering the position of Minister of Education, currently held by Iraqiyya MP Mohammed Tamim, to senior Dawa official and Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb.

Steering Committee Formed for National Conference

As the political crisis has escalated, some Iraqi politicians have sought to mediate a solution. A meeting on December 27 in Sulamaniya between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi resulted in an agreement to form a steering committee in order to prepare the groundwork for a national conference between all blocs to resolve the crisis. This comes as Kurdish President Massoud Barzani called for early elections as the only alternative should the blocs fail to reach an accord. The next day, during a meeting in Baghdad, it was reportedly agreed that a meeting will be held on Jan. 2 in Baghdad to determine the date, location, and members attending the national conference. It is unclear whether the meeting will happen as planned or be delayed. Moreover, there are still disagreements over the location of the national conference. Thus far, Iraqiyya and the Kurds wish to have the meeting in Arbil; State of Law and other Shi’a groups argue that the national conference must be held in Baghdad.  


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.