Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The political machinations in Iraq

The Washington Post headlines: "Iraqi President Says Sunni Insurgents See Iran as Threat". Talabani sees this as leading to a change in war aims, perhaps some of the insurgents will enter the political process.

The process into which they may enter could be complex and problematic. Borzou Daragahi in the Los Angeles Times:
But already ministries are being divided up during bruising backroom negotiations according to a sectarian and ethnic formula that parallels election results: 14 posts for Shiites, eight for Kurds, seven for Sunnis and three for a secular coalition. Some warn that it could be a recipe for disaster.

Izzat Shahbandar, an Iraqi lawmaker loyal to former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, said that the proposed Cabinet divisions had "established the basis for an ethnic and sectarian system that will lead Iraq to hell."


The formula is similar to the tack taken by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

U.S. officials would like to see technocrats without strong sectarian affiliations in charge of the government, but face strong challenges. For example, several Shiite political parties are laying claim to the Oil Ministry, but Iraqi professionals and Western officials want the Cabinet position to revert to former interim Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban.

In some cases, politicians offer to resolve disputes over ministries by creating new titles that risk increasing an already bloated public sector and diluting executive power. Faced with competing Kurdish and Sunni Arab claims on the Foreign Ministry, for example, negotiators are toying with the idea of creating a separate ministry that deals specifically with Arab countries.

Security posts remain the biggest stumbling block in forming the government. Sunnis and Shiites have an agreement to divvy up the defense and interior ministries between themselves. But insiders say Allawi, a perennial U.S. favorite for sensitive security posts, might chair a newly created Cabinet-level committee that could override the prime minister on major decisions.

Amid the frenzied haggling over Cabinet posts, rank-and-file legislators were scheduled to meet today to discuss the potentially combustible issue of revising the constitution and to take up some procedural matters.
Hezbollah is also raised in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
BAGHDAD - The firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is working behind the scenes to maintain his armed wing and portray it as a social movement, a step that would make him one of Iraq's most powerful figures if it succeeds, U.S. officials and Iraqi politicians say.

American officials say Sadr, who already controls the largest bloc of votes in the National Assembly, is modeling himself after Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim movement born during that country's civil war in the 1980s. Although it began largely as an armed group, it eventually became a powerful political force with a large social-service component.

Sheikh Yousif al-Nasseri, a Sadr supporter and the head of al Shaheedin, a Sadr-oriented research center, embraced the comparison with Hezbollah, particularly if it means that the populace sees Sadr as representing the people.


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