Talking up a new PM in Iraq

I think he should be PM

A week has passed since the start of the month of Ramadhan, and none of the general goodwill people express towards each other in this holy month seems to have been passed on to the politicians. If anything, things have become more hostile, with several denunciations, rebuttals and criticisms flying around from all parties. The situation is complicated by the pressures exerted by foreign countries, but surprisingly it seems that the US and Iran agree on something here, that Maliki is their preferred candidate for PM.

The reasons are different of course, with the US not wanting the more religious parties (especially the Sadrists) becoming linchpins of the new government. Iran is averse to Allawi becoming PM and is worried about the anti-Iran rhetoric frequently abounding from the Iraqiya list. So they have been trying their best to convince everyone else that Maliki is the best man for the job, without much success so far mind you. Allawi’s people have complained bitterly about foreign interference and in a sign of desperation have appealed to Ayatullah Sistani to intervene or express his opinion on the PM issue.

Amongst all this, several compromise candidates are being proposed. Maliki and/or Allawi (if you take the American plan for a national security council seriously) is proving to be very difficult to agree on, so other names are being knocked around. The article from Newsweek yesterday unconvincingly attempts to makes the case for Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the current vice-president (along with Tariq al-Hashimi), to be the new PM. I say unconvincingly because the party he belongs to (ISCI) won less than 25 seats (that is even if it is combined with its sister parties Badr and Shaheed al-Mihrab), so it would be implausible to bypass Iraqiya, SOL, the Kurdish Alliance and the Sadrists for the position of PM (disregarding the silly notion of the PM having to be a Shi’ite).

I read a piece by the respected academic Chibli Mallat in today’s Daily Star (Leb) that promotes Jaafar al-Sadr as a ‘confluence’ candidate PM, but despite his genuine effort I can’t see it happening. A man with almost no political experience, for years ignored by the Dawa party and left to languish in Iran and Lebanon is now going to hold the top position of political power in Iraq? On what basis? Because of who his father was, and that he adheres to and understands his father’s teachings, that he is generally a decent and diplomatic (Shi’ite) man? No, not enough to go on, unless the plan is for him to be the public image and supposedly weak PM while the real power is maintained by his advisors and the party (not likely having seen the Maliki experience).

Others such as Jaafari, Chalabi, Shahristani and Abadi (he might have a chance) are still being mentioned, but I’m not sure in the serious sense. The hardening attitude towards SOL and specifically Dawa from all sides will probably mean that changing Maliki and proposing an alternative (eg Abadi) from Dawa is not even acceptable any more and that the Dawa party should lose their controlling interest in the government (sorry to make it sound like a business).

To be frank, all this jockeying makes little difference to the man in the street, if anything it leads to more hopelessness and despair in the political process and the ability of politicians in Iraq. I’m wary of giving a timeframe for the deadlock to be resolved, purely because the situation is so hazy, but I doubt this Eid will bring good news.

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