Thursday, August 14, 2014

Developments in Iraq

In an exciting development, Haider al-Abadi, who is a senior member of the Islamic Dawa Party, has been asked to form a government by the Iraqpresident, Fouad Massoum. Mr. Abadi now has 30 days in which to form a government. During that time, Mr. Nouri Al-Maliki will remain as a caretaker leader, and as commander-in-chief of Iraq’s security forces.

There have been fears expressed that Maliki may attempt a coup d'état to retain power, but in the unlikely event that should happen, that seems impossible to succeed. Maliki sped up his demise by an ill thought through show of force last night, which galvanised many against him this morning, including much of his own bloc. Maliki tonight gave a speech assuring the security forces that he'll reverse this “error” calling it unconstitutional. The army twitter account, however, tweeted earlier that it's “Iraq's army not Maliki's...” There was a pro-Maliki demo in Baghdad today, with an embarrassingly small number of people who had all been bussed in from the provinces, paid and given free food. The situation in Baghdad is tense, with army troops on high alert.

The choice of the shrewd Dr Haider Al Abadi, is about the best thing that has happened to Iraq this year. He is chairman of the parliamentary finance committee. Dr Haider has strong views though. The NCF talked to him in Baghdad recently:
1.       On Kirkuk: Al Abadi favoured giving special status to the province.
2.       Electorally he favours the ‘top-up’ system promoted by the UN back in 2010 that strongly favoured the largest parties. Rather than the present system of PR that gives a distinct advantage to the mid-weight parties.
3.       He regards corruption and bureaucracy as two of Iraq’s key problems.
His views are none the less considered and he is open to discussion. He is intelligent with a phenomenal memory for figures and statistics, affable and approachable. He is a remarkable man. He is not proud and there is indeed no element of hubris about him. It will be remarkably good news if he manages to form a government – and with a little good will on all sides there is no reason he should not. He is considered one of the “old leadership” of the Dawa Party in which he has had a leading role since the late 70s. He spent quite a lot of time in London in his exile years. He has good relationships with most of the political groups. He was Minister of Communications in Alawi’s government, the first government of post liberation Iraq. Amr al-Hakim’s ISCI party, the “conservative party” of ShiiteIraq, is supporting him strongly. One of their most senior men told NCF tonight, “We hope that the choice is right. It won’t be an easy job for him. He has made it clear that he is ready to make agreements with the other political forces.”

Meanwhile our sources indicate that Nouri Al-Maliki has agreed to step down as Prime Minister subject to certain conditions. Some of his terms are:

1.    That he is made either Vice President or Minister of Interior.
2.    Nouri Al-Maliki also asks for a personal guard of at least 2,500 soldiers under his direct command drawn from the Baghdad Brigade of the Iraq Army.

However, other members of the Shiite alliance say such demands “Can’t be taken seriously”. The new Premier has only one month in which to form a government. But members of the Shiite Alliance point out that 130 Shiite Alliance MPs agreed to the nomination of Haider Al Ibadi “without preconditions”.

President Barack Obama called to offer his support to Haider Al Abadi, and urged him to form an inclusive government, he said Monday afternoon.

"Today Iraq took a promising step forward" in the effort to create a new government "that can unite Iraq's different communities," Obama said from Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

On other developments – we have been reliably made aware of the fact that casualty claims from various parties with regard to air strikes made by US / Iraq Army forces in Northern Iraq have been grossly incorrect in most instances – we therefore advise all journalists associated with the NCF not to report casualty figures unless they have their own credible sources independent of any government. UN casualty figures for Iraq have also now been utterly discredited. They are far too low. Our own sources indicate almost 4,000 dead in the past week alone.

As regards the on the ground position – there is now fighting on so very many fronts that we can no longer list all the battlefronts – at least not at the moment. President Masoud Barzani of Kurdistan wrote an editorial in today’s Washington Post begging for more military aid to help the Kurds fight IS.

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