May 21, 2006
To any political observer, watching the Iraqi government formation the last five month was fun, a dark or absurd comedy. Since Nouri Al-Maliky, the Iraqi new prime minister, optimistically announced that he is going to form a government in 24 hours a month ago, he was drowned in so many pressures and problems between the political parties and the parliamentary groups who wan the elections in December 15, 2005 that a month later there was no white smoke coming out of the Parliament's chimney!! Maliky had to swallow his hasty tongue and work for 16 hours a day, negotiating the political (aspirations) of the different groups. Finally, the political process elephant gave birth to a crippled rat, by a cesarean operation.
Maliky had to present a government minus Interior and Defense ministers and the National Security Council- the main problem that delayed the government formation- and without a political program, which he promised to present in a month. This tactic of jumping forward, postponing the biggest problem to some point in the future, has become a routine procedure by the Iraqi authorities since 2003, to bypass the real problems facing the political process, as if it is an end in itself...
It would be fair, however, to say that it was not all Maliky' fault. He had to satisfy everybody's multi level special aspirations. Above all, there are the Americans, the Shiite Coalition to which he belongs, the parliamentary groups, the political parties within these groups, and individuals inside the parties. Each of them has his agenda and wants a ministry or a high post. As the ministries are limited in number, he had to create new ministries, or sub-ministries; a council, a board, a body, or a state portfolio here and there. We have 37 ministries so far, a part from the councils and boards…etc. The cake can not fill all the open mouths. He ended up with a government accused of being heavily sectarian, instead of the national unity government he promised.
Maliky did thank – in his inauguration speech - the (Shiite) religious great references, as he called them, especially Sistani. He promised to defeat terrorism and violence (as we defeated the tyranny, he said) He did not mention any thing about the hundreds of thousands of the occupation troops, the armed militias, the resistance, or the 14 American permanent military bases in Iraq. Actually, he promised to work in cooperation with the "coalition" troops until it is realistically convenient for them to "go back to their countries"(He did not say to leave Iraq).
It is important to remember, at this point, that the UN Security Council "mandate" for the occupation troops in Iraq ended by the end of 2005. Apart from ex-prime minister Jafari's "invitation", they do not have any "legal" cover to stay. This fiasco is very useful for them to say that they are staying as far as the Iraqis are not ready yet to run the country, which is well on the threshold of civil war. The Iraqi first government relishes full American guardianship.
The question remains how such a government, with its member's mutual suspicions, hidden agendas, and sectarian and ethnic entrenchments, is going to tackle the huge complications of the Iraqi situation? None of them trusts the others to allow them to control the security forces. The Shiite United Coalition accused the others of stealing their electoral entitlements, and trying to (shift chairs). Some Sunnis accused the Shiites of working on their agenda of dividing Iraq by controlling the (sovereignty) chairs, and left the session angrily. The Fadhila party (member of the Shiite Coalition) which wanted the Oil Ministry left the government negotiations because the job was given to the Iraqi nuclear "scientist" Shahristani, accused the whole process of being wrong and selfish, and joined the "opposition" inside the parliament.
The National Dialogue Front said that they were double crossed. They objected that the Foreign Minister should be an Arab, so an office was created for Iraqi-Arab relations inside the Foreign Ministry to satisfy this need, and a ministry of national dialogue was also created, but they left the government all the same. The Iraqiya Front of ex-prime minister Allawi was watching silently, unhappy that they were not given five ministries…
Ironically enough, all of these vehement defenders of the chairs, talked in a double discourse: on one hand they talked about abandoning and renouncing sectarian and ethnic approach in distributing the chairs, and about choosing ministers according to their "technical and political efficiency", not their religious, ethnic, or personal affiliations. But NONE of them, on the other hand, rejected or accepted their or the others shares on bases of differences in a political attitude, an ideological point of view or on electoral agendas or programs, all their objections were based on how much they or the others get.
Much more interesting, and telling, however, is the fact that all these "patriots" were quarreling on three main ministries: Oil, Defense, and (especially) Interior. No one fought for the ministry of health, education, transportation, or electricity….etc, those ministries which are in shambles and which are badly needed by the Iraqis, but not seen as important enough for the contesters. This does not mean that the three most wanted ministries above are in a better condition, on the contrary, they are eaten up by corruption and mismanagement according to high officials in the government them selves*, but these are the "sovereignty" posts. It is widely understood by the Iraqi politicians now, that those who "own" the interior ministry, for example, own Iraq and its future.
The Shiite United Coalition leader, Al- Hakeem, built his center-south federal region project on a fallacy that the (Shiite Iraq) extends from Samarra (north center) to Faw port on the Gulf. Large parts of Baghdad, Anbar, and Diyala are supposed to be parts of the "Shiite Iraq". This "theory" explains the brutal sectarian cleansing in the Baghdad suburbs in all geographical directions. It also sheds good light on the Samarra explosions enigma which ignited the sectarian riot. It is very important for the Shiite to keep the Interior Ministry now to "finish" the job of liberating the Shiite areas from the Sunni occupation with the help of the Americans.
All other political parties were against the United Coalition keeping the Interior Ministry, on the background of thousands of killings, arrests and torture connected to it. Significantly enough, Zarqawi announced for the first time that he is going to defend the Sunnis (who gave him this authority?!!) and that he is going to create his Islamic state within three months!! Of course, Kurdistan is already separated from the rest of Iraq, practically speaking. The south is controlled by the Shiite seven major parties, which have many disputes and feuds among them. The question is how the new government looks at the disintegration danger, an issue Maliky did not mention in his political program.
What makes all this fiasco looks even worse, whether Maliky succeeded in making this deal government work or not, is that the Iraqi government, whatever it is, actually has no authority at all, less of control on any thing: security, resources, corruption, armed militias, death squads, the occupation atrocities, the Turkish and Iranian military threats, and the promised constitution revision, not to mention any thing about the country that collapsed, in all the senses of the word. The failure the new prime minister has shown so far, the huge problems of just putting a government together, and the conflicts of interests and loyalties, do not light up any corner in the dark tunnel this nation is going through, as far as the occupation is there.
* The ex-minister of oil, Ibrahim Bahrl Olom, said that millions of barrels of Iraqi oil, worth billions of dollars, are smuggled by mafias in Baghdad and the south, to the knowledge and help of the high Iraqi officials. The Iraqi General Inspector office published the annual report lately saying the same. It is widely understood that the Ministry of Oil fire in the files departments two weeks ago was done to conceal the evidences. In his first press conference, the new Oil Minister, Shahristani, promised to deal with corruption as his priority.