Iraq's Recurring Political Crisis
In mid-December 2011, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was en route to Baghdad from his visit to Washington, D.C., government forces and tanks surrounded the residency of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Two of the vice president’s bodyguards were reportedly beaten and taken to prison. At the same time, government forces were placed nearby the residencies of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi. The unilateral moves taken by Maliki’s Shi’a-dominated government against the public faces of Iraq’s Sunni community were unprecedented, sparking a new political crisis that has put the country’s long-term unity and stability at risk. Given the number of red-lines crossed by the government, Iraq has entered a new era of post-Saddam politics.
The removal of the U.S. military has negatively altered the character and boundaries of Iraqi politics. The U.S. presence had performed a critical psychological function on the state of affairs in Iraq, providing space for politics to stabilize and bounding the behaviors of actors to a set of expectations. Iraq’s current crisis is only a symptom of the larger unresolved political problems in Iraq today, fundamentally centered on the struggle for power and resources. Because this struggle takes place under negative structural conditions, namely a lack of genuine national reconciliation and basic trust, a sustained and stable political settlement remains unfeasible. Without these features rooted in society and government, particularly following a bloody civil and sectarian war, Iraqis are falling back on previous institutions and patterns of behavior when faced with fear and uncertainty.
The United States is currently pushing for another round of negotiations to help untangle the disputes surrounding the political crisis by convening a “national conference.” While the U.S. recognizes the severity of the political crisis in Baghdad, reduced U.S. leverage will limit practical options and the ability to achieve sustained resolution, likely perpetuating unstable and recurring political stages of escalation and reposition.
This paper examines the evolving political crisis in Iraq and efforts to resolve it. The paper begins with a review of the unresolved political disputes stemming from the 2010 parliamentary election. The second part explores the efforts by Maliki in late 2011 to target senior Sunni political leaders on the Iraqiyya bloc. The third part analyzes the ineffective response by Iraqiyya. The paper concludes with a review of the efforts to resolve the crisis through a national conference and an analysis of whether they will be effective and sustainable.
A Buildup of Unresolved Politics
The speed at which the developments unfolded last December and the seemingly impulsive reactions and counter-reactions by political actors is a testament to Iraq’s political insecurity and unpredictable environment. However, it is important to understand that Iraq’s current political crisis stems from a buildup of unresolved political issues since the March 2010 election. Maliki’s efforts to consolidate his power and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq have only exacerbated the situation. By the time Maliki met President Barack Obama on December 12, 2011, Iraqi politics had devolved to a level of mistrust not seen since the height of Iraq’s sectarian conflict from 2005 to 2007.
The results of the March 2010 parliamentary election created a set of new conflicts when the bloc that won the most seats in parliament was not given the first opportunity to form the government. Iraqiyya, a cross-sectarian and largely secular bloc, defeated Maliki’s State of Law coalition. But Iraq’s judiciary, under political pressure from the prime minister, re-interpreted the constitutional rules after a request by Maliki’s office in mid-March. This allowed Maliki to merge with another Shi’a bloc post elections, giving him the first opportunity to form the government.
Disagreements about which bloc had the right to form the government and who should be prime minister led to nine-months of political gridlock. Iraq’s differing parties finally forged a power-sharing agreement in November 2010 that was known as the Arbil Agreement. The multi-party settlement called for a “national partnership government,” where all blocs would participate in a comprehensive governing coalition. Unfortunately, the Arbil Agreement put forth a number of promises that were never delivered by Maliki. Among the most significant were Iraqiyya’s appointment of the Minister of Defense (MoD) and the creation of a National Council for Higher Policies (NCHP), which was to be headed by Ayad Allawi. The NCHP, however, has yet to be created, and Maliki has refused to cede to the institution any meaningful authority. He has also continued to maintain control over all of the security and intelligence ministries either directly or by appointing friendly figureheads.
In addition to the dysfunctional politics institutionalized by the Arbil Agreement, Maliki has made precarious decisions on security matters that have contributed to the heightened tensions. In the days surrounding President Barack Obama’s announcement on October 21, 2011 to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the year’s end, Maliki commenced in a wide-scale campaign that purged hundreds of former Shi’a and Sunni members of the Ba’ath party from Iraq’s security apparatus. The campaign intensified sectarian tensions and political mistrust in Iraq, and more importantly, prompted Sunni Arabs to call for the establishment of semi-autonomous federal regions, similar to the administrative functions of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. On October 27, by a vote of 20-0 (eight absent) the Salah ad-Din provincial council exercised Article 119 of the Iraq Constitution, which lays out the process of forming federal regions. A provincial referendum on the final status of the governorate is required, allowing a degree of autonomy from Baghdad. Following in Salah ad-Din’s footsteps, Diyala became the second province to implement Article 119 on December 12. This led to hostile protests among Shi’a locals and prompted security forces loyal to Maliki to harass, arrest, and intimidate the provincial council’s leadership.
Maliki Targets Iraqiyya Leadership
It remains unclear the exact motives and rationales that drove the prime minister to confront his political rivals immediately after visiting the White House. Maliki’s paranoia over the Ba’athist threat cannot be ruled out and likely plays a role in his decision-making regarding security matters. Yet, equally important is his calculated opportunism for consolidating his power base by marginalizing his political opponents, which was the most likely rationale driving his concerted anti-Ba’athist campaign in the fall of 2011. By targeting senior leaders of the Iraqiyya bloc, Maliki hopes to remove them as a political threat. Because federalism presents a strategic threat to Maliki’s authority and control over resources and is antithetical to his project of a centralized state, the issue is also a motivating factor.
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi
Just days before tanks surrounded his home in the Green Zone, Hashemi responded to a question in an interview regarding the establishment of federal regions by stating that the “people in the central and southern areas” are demanding to exercise federalism “because they are unwilling to accept further injustice, corruption and bad management from the central government.” Following the interview, Hashemi was accused by State of Law members of instigating federalism movements in the southern Shi’a provinces. His comments came just days after Diyala became the second Sunni-dominated province to exercise Article 119 in support of establishing a federal region, coincidently on the same day Maliki had met with President Barack Obama. While rejecting the accusations, Hashemi maintained that the decision to form federal regions was entirely dependent on the inhabitants of the provinces alone. Soon after, the vice president found himself being accused by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in the involvement of the November 28 attack on the Iraqi parliament, which Baghdad authorities alleged was an attempt to assassinate Maliki.
On December 18, a day before the MoI issued a warrant for Hashemi’s arrest, Hashemi boarded a plane at Baghdad airport to meet with President Jalal Talabani in the Kurdish city of Sulamaniyah. Government forces removed him from the plane but later allowed Hashemi to re-board and travel to the Kurdish region, where he remains today, effectively in exile. The next day, MoI televised confessions from Hashemi’s bodyguards alleging that the vice president was involved in terrorist activities. On January 8, MoI demanded that the Kurdish region’s Interior Ministry extradite Hashemi to Baghdad, but Kurdish authorities refused. According to Hashemi’s office, Baghdad is currently detaining fifty-three of his bodyguards and employees. Though he first wanted to be tried in the Kurdish region, Hashemi officially requested the central government transfer his trial from Baghdad to Kirkuk. Hashemi is concerned about his physical safety in Baghdad and argues that, unlike in Baghdad, judges in Kirkuk are removed from Maliki’s influence and potential intimidation, which would allow for a fair trial. But on January 15, a federal court rejected Hashemi’s request for his trial to be moved to Kirkuk.
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq
Relations between Maliki and Mutlaq have always been tense, as both men view one another with suspicion and mistrust. The government’s fall 2011 arrest campaign and firings of former members of the Ba’ath party in Salah ad-Din led to a confrontation between the two leaders during an October 25 cabinet meeting in Baghdad. Mutlaq, a popular Sunni Arab figure, threatened to stir the street against Maliki if his forces did not stop the purges, provoking Maliki to storm out of the room in anger. According to Mutlaq, Maliki had warned him that “We’re coming for you, you and all of your people.” At the same time he moved against Hashemi, Maliki also moved to sack Mutlaq. The deputy prime minister had characterized his prime minister as a “dictator” during an interview with CNN while Maliki was still in Washington, D.C. Maliki cited Article 78 of the Iraq Constitution as a basis for removing Mutlaq, giving the prime minister the right to dismiss ministers in his cabinet with the “consent” of parliament, which can be achieved by a plurality of the lawmakers in attendance. However, parliament did not reach a quorum because the Kurdish bloc decided not to participate in the session.
Maliki’s State of Law coalition reportedly laid out three options on January 31 for the Iraqiyya bloc to consider regarding Mutlaq’s position in the government: (1) Mutlaq must resign his post; (2) Iraqiyya must fire Mutlaq and replace him with another politician from its ranks; or (3) Mutlaq must apologize to Maliki. The next day some State of Law leaders reportedly backed a move to replace Mutlaq with senior Iraqiyya figures Jamal al-Karbouli or Mutlaq’s brother Hamid al-Mutlaq. It was also reported in the Iraqi media, that Maliki offered Mutlaq’s post to former Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Thus far, Mutlaq has refused to apologize for his criticisms of Maliki.
Finance Minister Rafa al-Issawi
Less than a week after the crisis began, the Iraq government also briefly suggested that terrorism investigations had commenced against Finance Minister Issawi for alleged links with insurgent groups in Fallujah city in 2008. A highly respected Sunni doctor from Fallujah, Issawi previously served as deputy prime minister during Maliki’s first term. But for unknown reasons, the government later discontinued its investigation. The decision may have been due to recognition that Issawi’s arrest would have provoked the Sunni streets in Anbar province. During that time, Maliki was negotiating with the Anbar provincial council and governor in hopes of satisfying their list of demands in exchange for the province to not seek to join Salah ad-Din and Diyala in exercising Article 119 of the Constitution. A charge against Issawi may have complicated Maliki’s attempts to placate another province from embracing federalism.
Iraqiyya’s Miscalculated Boycotts
Since Iraqiyya’s inception in 2009, the cross-sectarian and largely secular bloc has remained a loosely connected coalition of varying interests bounded together by external fear rather than a common vision for Iraq. Its leader, secular Shi’a and former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, is largely a powerless figurehead of the bloc, and unlike the more coherent State of Law coalition, Iraqiyya’s decision-making capacity relies on consensus-building among the various players, most of whom are Sunni politicians. Given its many factions, Iraqiyya’s fault lines were likely to fissure under pressure. Its decision to boycott parliament and government has placed the bloc in a precariously disadvantageous position vis-à-vis Maliki.
Iraqiyya lawmakers convened an “emergency meeting” in Hashemi’s residence in the late hours of December 16 to discuss their next move. They decided to boycott parliament over the developments in Diyala following the bid to form a federal region as well as the government’s use of security forces in intimidating Iraqiyya’s leadership. After announcing its decision the next day, the bloc expressed its dissatisfaction with of the government’s policies of marginalization, politicization of the judiciary, the lack of equality in Iraq’s institutions, neglect of the constitution and its laws, and the uses of intimidation tactics to terrify Iraqi citizens. Iraqiyya’s decision to boycott, however, backfired.
Threats of withdrawal by Iraqi political groups have been effective in the past when their support was critical to another participatory actor, often the prime minister. Yet Iraqiyya’s suspension from parliament was executed hastily, without an adequate appreciation for either the bloc’s weak position, inherit fractures, and the institutional weakness of parliament as a decision-making body of government. For instance, the executive branch has consolidated much authority at the expense of parliament and has cultivated a favorable judiciary. For years, Maliki has been able to marginalize opponents and govern through the ministries without the participation of parliament.
Recognizing an opening to put Iraqiyya on the defensive following its boycott, Maliki sought to make unilateral moves to exert pressure. He immediately requested the parliament carry out a vote of no-confidence to unseat Mutlaq. On December 27, Maliki set out to replace Iraqiyya ministers with “acting ministers” loyal to him. For example, Maliki offered to replace Minister of Finance Rafa al-Issawi with Sadrist politician and Minister of Planning Ali Yousif al-Shakri, as well as replacing Minister of Education Mohammed Tamim with senior Da’awa figure and Minister of Higher Education Ali al-Adeeb. However, fortunately for Iraqiyya, Maliki’s efforts did not receive support from the attendees at the Council of Ministers. For instance, after he refused Maliki’s offer, Shakri even made an apologetic phone call to Issawi and explained that he was not trying to take his job.
In mid-January, Maliki again unilaterally moved against Iraqiyya by suspending its ministerial capacities, where the boycotting ministers were “no longer allowed to manage ministries, and all decisions that will be signed by them are invalid” until the party ended its protest of the government. Describing the suspension as “an escalation,” Iraqiyya’s options narrowed. Its leadership held an internal meeting on January 22, where the issue of permanently withdrawing from the government and becoming a parliamentary opposition received much attention. However, the bloc decided against this course and ended its boycott of parliament on January 28. It returned its ministers to the government in February.
With ending their protest, Iraqiyya appears to have gained no concessions from Maliki, thus promoting a public impression that the bloc yielded to internal and external pressure. It is likely that multiple reasons played a role in Iraqiyya’s decision to end their boycott, most notably:
Goodwill Gesture: According to an Iraqiyya spokeswoman, the decision represented a “goodwill gesture” in order to “create a healthy atmosphere to help the national conference” and to “defuse the political crisis.” While receiving both international and domestic assurances, Iraqiyya likely viewed the Kurdish-mediated initiative in convening the national conference as the best venue for attaining some concessions related to the Arbil Agreement. Vice President Biden called Allawi on January 27 and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi the next day to emphasize the importance of resolving the disputes peacefully and promoted Talabani’s initiative to convene the national conference in bringing all respective parties to the negotiating table.
Unfinished Business: Some members said their return was temporary for fear of not being left out in shaping the 2012 national budget. Discussions on the budget were moving forward and Iraqiyya’s boycott was failing to prevent quorum from being reached, consequently leaving the bloc in a stagnant position without input in the process.
Internal Disagreement: Iraqiyya’s unity was likely an issue as members defected due to the ongoing boycott, including six members of parliament who went on to form their own party called Al-Wataniyun (The Nationalists). In addition, the ministers of Electricity, Industry, and Provincial Affairs continued to attend Maliki’s cabinet meetings despite the boycott on the Council of Ministers. As the boycott continued to show no results, internal disagreements between Iraqiyya’s leadership grew on how to proceed. “The boycott has achieved nothing on the ground and its continuation would have led to the breakup of Iraqiyya,” said an Iraqiyya politician. “Preserving its existence and preparing for a new coming [political] fight was more important.”
There appeared to be confusion about Iraqiyya’s end to boycotts when some members stated that their return was temporary, signaling to Maliki that should demands go unanswered, Iraqiyya may reenter a second round of boycotts. Yet, given that the boycotts have proven to be a flawed approach that resulted in a weaker bloc, Iraqiyya is unlikely to reconsider boycotts in the near future. If some members raise the possibility again, internal dissent and demands for prudence may deter Iraqiyya from boycotting. In review, it appears the approach only played a non-tangible and circumstantial role in momentum and confidence-building for the national conference but no guarantees. Unless the boycotts are strategically used in a definite period for the lone purpose of pressuring the U.S. and Iraq’s domestic actors to engage and mediate, Iraqiyya will unlikely want to put further stress on its unity.
The National Conference Initiative
On December 19, after holding consultations with Talabani, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani called for convening “an urgent national conference to save the political process from collapsing.” Within a week, U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu publicly endorsed Barzani’s initiative for convening a conference to peacefully settle the disputes. But as it became clear that the conference was unlikely to be held in Kurdish region, Talabani took the lead in preparing the groundwork. In a meeting in Sulamaniyah on December 27, Talabani and Nujaifi agreed to form a steering committee to prepare the groundwork for the national conference. Nujaifi reportedly promised Talabani he would not take actions that would aggravate tensions and would work to reconcile differences between State of Law and Iraqiyya, making the speaker the chief negotiator on behalf of his bloc.
An array of meetings that sought to settle the parameters for the conference were held in January. Yet initial disagreements over the location, date, attendees, and agenda continued to stall negotiations. Moreover, pre-conditions were being announced in determining participation. For example, Allawi stated that his attendance was conditioned on the presence of Barzani and Shi’a clerics Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim. Allawi also called for a political committee to be established to provide oversight regarding the integrity and professionalism of the investigation against Hashemi. Barzani’s office announced that he would not attend if the conference was held outside the Kurdish region, but it later reiterated and clarified that Barzani continued to support Talabani’s efforts.
By the third week of January, efforts for holding the conference lost momentum as politicians waited for Talabani to return to Baghdad from Germany, where he was receiving medical treatment. During this time, State of Law announced that Hashemi’s case would not be part of the conference’s agenda. In addition, some State of Law representatives believed that a national conference was not necessary, arguing that the crisis was not political but personal and therefore required meetings between the relevant actors to resolve their differences. Finally, Sadr announced that he would not attend the conference, citing in a statement that he is a religious figure, not a politician.
However, momentum for the national conference initiative picked up as Talabani returned to Baghdad on January 28 and Iraqiyya moved to end its nearly two-month boycott of parliament. Talabani and Jeffrey continued to meet with various Iraqi leaders to build consensus, eventually leading to a preparatory committee meeting on February 6 that consisted of the leaders of the National Alliance, Iraqiyya, and the Kurdish Alliance. The attendees decided to attempt to hold the conference in February and agreed on four basic principles: (1) All blocs will adhere to the political process and stand together against terrorism; (2) The Constitution is the basis for settling all disputes; (3) It is necessary that all communities of Iraqi society be represented in the political process; and (4) The Iraqi judiciary is an independent body and should not be subject to political interference.
Talabani also requested that the preparatory committee create a “road map” that incorporates principles of the Constitution and the Arbil Agreement. After the “positive” meeting on February 6, Iraqiyya ended its boycott of the government the next day. Blocs began to submit their papers on proposed agendas and reports surfaced that areas disputed in the Arbil Agreement between State of Law and Iraqiyya – such as the division of the security ministries and the creation of the National Council for Higher Policies – would be part of the conference’s agenda. Although by mid-February it was still unclear whether the conference would take place in February, the various meetings and submission of papers indicate that the blocs are already taking part in an informal negotiation process where principles and agreements are being made and understood before formal meetings are held.
Throughout post-Saddam Iraq, negotiation efforts and agreements remain positioned to invent and create more knots into the country’s politics rather than resolving the roots of the political conflict. With each passing agreement, Iraq’s political system has only become more confused, making it more difficult to isolate disputes without having to reconsider an array of pre-conditions and other points of contention. Despite some momentum for the national conference initiative, it remains unclear if the conference will convene given the current political environment. But even if an agreement is somehow reached between the blocs, the accord emerging from the conference has the potential of suffering the same fate as the Arbil Agreement where it ultimately fails to resolve the basic structural conditions that would stabilize politics rather than laying the foundation and basis for another round of gridlock, dysfunction, and political uncertainty.
Should the conference fail to result in some concessions from Maliki, the options that Iraqiyya laid out as possible courses of action remain unrealistic. For example, Iraqiyya’s call for the holding of early elections under an interim government is unconstitutional, let alone unworkable due to the requirement of Maliki’s consent, the appointment of new electoral board members, and the passage of a new elections law. Secondly, the option of unseating Maliki through a no-confidence vote has become even more unfeasible since the political crisis began. Despite Iraqiyya’s courting of mutually concerned actors, such as Kurds and the Sadrists, neither actor is likely to join in withdrawing their confidence in the prime minister for various reasons.
Due to his aggressiveness and resilience in confronting Sunni figures like Hashemi and Mutlaq, Maliki’s popularity on the Shi’a streets of southern Iraq is reportedly increasing. The Sadrists and other Shi’a parties are taking very close notice of this dynamic and are gauging their responses to the political crisis carefully. Maliki’s noticeable favorability is boxing in the flexibility of Shi’a players alarmed by Maliki’s actions and consolidation of power. At this moment, for Shi’a parties to work and cooperate with Sunnis in removing a Shi’a leader from power, they would have to accept sacrificing their credibility and jeopardize political support.
In addition, despite Barzani’s desire for change in leadership in Baghdad, it remains very difficult for the Kurds to participate in a no-confidence vote against Maliki. The essential requisite of maintaining Kurdish unity between Barzani and Talabani, who maintains a close partnership with the prime minister, prevents Barzani from unilaterally moving against Maliki without Talabani’s blessing and support. But moreover, the Kurds are unlikely to jeopardize their relationship with Maliki over Allawi and Iraqiyya, especially when maintenance of Arbil-Baghdad relations is necessary in advancing issues central for the Kurdish region, such as the passage of a hydrocarbons law. In its eight-point guidance ordered to its MPs in Baghdad on January 18, the Kurdish region backed the national conference and upholding the Arbil Agreement, but also stressed progress on Kurdish interests, including Article 140, the constitutional provision intended to resolve the conflict of “disputed territories,” particularly Kirkuk.
Notwithstanding the possibility of the national conference, it is clear that Maliki has come out as the winner in the political crisis he provoked. He has made it more difficult for his Shi’a rivals to dissent while simultaneously confining his Sunni opponents in a position suitable for exerting pressure and exploiting divisions within their ranks. Moreover, irrespective of the negotiations in place, Maliki is not in a position to be coerced to make any concessions due to a favorable and gross imbalance of leverage vis-à-vis Iraqiyya. Finally, should a no-confidence vote somehow materialize in parliament, Maliki would not tolerate such a decision. Maliki’s consolidation of power has diluted the no-confidence instrument as a realistic institutional mechanism in Iraq’s governmental polity. This crisis was only a symptom of underlying dysfunction of the Iraqi political system. Yet, it has had profound effects and suggests a new era of post-Saddam politics, in which Maliki has a freer hand in marginalizing his opponents and consolidating power.
 Sammy Ketz, “Iraq rivals ‘agree to share power’ eight months after poll,” Agence France Presse, November 7, 2011.
 Kelly McEvers, “Roundup of Saddam loyalists stokes sectarian fears,” NPR, October 31, 2011.
 “The political scene: De-Baathification drive increases calls for federalism,” Country Report Select, November 10, 2011.
 Dan Zak, “Iraqi province declares autonomy in symbolic move,” Washington Post, October 27, 2011.
 Suadad al-Salhy, “Iraqi Shi’ite rally against autonomy push in Diyala,” Reuters, December 15, 2011.
 Ramzy Mardini, “Maliki Arrests Potential Opposition,” Institute for the Study of War, December 12, 2011.
 Mustafa Habib, “Niqash interview with Iraqi vice president: US withdrawal ‘nothing to worry about,’” Niqash, December 13, 2011.
 Gregg Carlstrom, “The breakup: More Iraqis bid for autonomy,” Al-Jazeera, December 14, 2011.
 Mohammed al-Tayyib, “Maliki gives VP two days to prove he is not involved in parliament attack or face trial,” AK News, December 18, 2011.
 Jomana Karadsheh, “Arrest warrant issued for Iraqi vice president,” CNN, December 19, 2011.
 ”Iraq’s chief Sunni leader faces terror charges as tensions rise,” The Guardian, December 19, 2011.
”Interior Ministry demands Kurdistan’s Interior Ministry to hand over VP Hashemi,” Aswat al-Iraq, January 8, 2012.
 Interview with author, Iraqi official with Vice President’s Office, February 1, 2012.
 Dana Asaad, “Al-Hashemi interview: Kurdish ‘might become al-Maliki’s targets,’” Niqash, January 12, 2012.
 “Iraqi court rejects Hashemi case to be moved to Kirkuk,” World Bulletin, January 15, 2011.
 Kelly Mcevers, “roundup of Saddam loyalists stokes sectarian fears,” NPR, October 31, 2011.
 “Maliki sacked his deputy Mutlaq,” AK News, December 20, 2011.
 “Al-Shabandar says: the time line given by the National Coalition is a pretext to disassemble the alliance,” Sot al-Iraq, January 31, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Source within SOL: Hamid Al-Mutlaq and Jamal Al-Karbouli are candidates for Prime Minister deputy post,” Buratha News, February 1, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Maliki's coalition renews its three options offer to determine Mutlaq case,” Nakhel News, January 31, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 Mohammed al-Tayyib, “Government to investigate Issawi’s alleged support for terrorism,” AK News, December 22, 2011.
 “Anbar gives 14-day notice to central government,” Aswat al-Iraq, December 20, 2012; “Maliki meets Fahdawy on Saturday to discuss the 20 demands of Anbar,” Al-Mowatan News, December 30, 2011, translated from Arabic.
 Maysoon Damluji, “Statement by Iraqiyya list regarding boycotting parliament sessions,” December 17, 2011, translated from Arabic.
 Sam Dagher, “Iraq’s government totters as U.S. exits,” Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2011.
 “Maliki assigns Ministry of Education to Al-Adeeb instead of Mohammed Tameem due to ‘lack of attendance,’” Nakhel News, December 27, 2011, translated from Arabic.
 Jack Healy and Michael Gordon, “A moderate official at risk in fracturing Iraq,” New York Times, December 30, 2011.
 Barbara Surk, “Iraq’s Sunni-backed cabinet ministers suspended,” Associated Press, January 17, 2012.
 Tim Arango, “Sunnis end boycott of Iraqi parliament, but crisis remains,” New York Times, January 29, 2011.
 Suadad al-Salhy, “Iraq’s Sunni-backed bloc to end parliament boycott,” Reuters, January 29, 2012.
 Interview with author, Iraqiyya official, January 29, 2012.
Sam Dagher, “Iraqi crisi ebbs as Sunnis return to Cabinet,” Wall Street Journal, February 8, 2012.
 “Tension is escalating, need for national conference, Barzani,” Aswat al-Iraq, December 19, 2011.
 “Turkey supports President Barzani’s Initiative,” PUK Media, December 26, 2011.
 Interview with author, Iraqiyya official, December 27, 2011.
 Mortadha al-Yousef, “No talks without Barzani and Sadr, says Allawi,” AK News, December 28, 2011.
 “Barzani supports Talabani’s efforts to achieve success of national conference,” Aswat al-Iraq, January 12, 2012; Rebin Hasan, “Barzani will not boycott national conference, says official,” AK News, January 11, 2012.
 “Communique of the meeting of the Political entities representatives,” Al-Mada, February 26, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Al-Sadr refuses to join the conference and assures that Hawza [Shiite religious school] is a higher honor,” Al-Mada, January 26, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “State of Law replaced the upcoming conference with ‘Political Powers meeting,” Al-Sumaria News, January 24, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 Karwan Youssef, “President Talabani returns to Baghadad to kickstart national conference,” AK News, January 29, 2011.
 “Al-Dabbagh says: Discussing Hashimi's case shall kill the National Conference before its birth,” Al-Mada, January 27, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Talabani: Iraq’s return to the Council of Representatives is a positive step,” Al-Forat News, February 5, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Al-Dabbagh says: Discussing Hashimi's case shall kill the National Conference before its birth,” Al-Mada, January 27, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Al-Zamili: Important ministries will be discussed during the National Conference,” Al-Rayy, February 9, 2012, translated from Arabic.
 “Allawi: Three options to resolve the crisis; transitional government preparing for early elections, nominate a new prime minister, form a partnership government,” National Iraqi News Agency, January 18, 2012.
 Interview with author, Iraq official, January 20, 2012; Interview with author, Iraqiyya official, January 22, 2012.
 “The final communique of Masoud Barzani meeting with Kurdish MPs in Baghdad,” Kurd IU, January 18, 2012, translated from Arabic.