Nouri Al Maliki, Iraq’s Prime Minister. Image Credit: AP

The Kurdish Goran (‘‘change”) bloc refused to be a part of the Kurdistan government that was formed recently by Nijirvan Barzani.

And despite the fact that the bloc has more than 25 lawmakers in the Kurdish parliament, and was subjected to extreme pressure to join the government, it refused and preferred to remain in the opposition.

Goran made the right decision — it is in the province’s interests and its own interests as well.

Its refusal to join the government will allow Goran political and media space and mobility. It will also make the province’s government take a non-controversial approach because it will be closely monitored by the opposition.

However, the other political forces in Baghdad were unable to match Goran.

The Al Iraqiya List, which includes leaders like Eyad Alawi and Saleh Al Mutlaq, has been for the past two years a competitor to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law coalition, which is the influential bloc in Iraq. Al Iraqiya did not become part of the opposition despite the fact that it is an opposition party with an agenda that differs from that of the State of Law.

Al Iraqiya did not become part of the opposition despite the fact that it is an opposition party with an agenda that differs from that of the State of Law.

And although the State of Law coalition, which is headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, has worked hard to weaken and marginalise other political blocs — including its own allies in the National Alliance, and its close partners in the Kurdish Alliance — its stand regarding Al Iraqiya is somewhat different. The conflict between the State of Law and Al Iraqiya goes beyond the political framework of new structures.

The Al Iraqiya has been targeted systematically since the last elections in 2010, when it came first. It was deprived of its right to form the government at a tense time, riddled with sectarian alignments. Al Iraqiya was not allowed any kind of influence or power that had been agreed upon in the Arbil agreement, which ended the government-formation stalemate at the time.

Al Iraqiya complains of being marginalised and accuses Al Maliki and his party of having a dictatorial approach.

Al Iraqiya has also threatened to leave the government from time to time, and its leaders do not stop making statements about their inability to clean up the political process in the country, which they criticise all the time.

Critical issues

And despite the fact that Al Iraqiya continuously exerts pressure on the government, and is a nuisance and a source of embarrassment, it is not powerful enough to influence the government’s policies. Al Iraqiya is also not popular among the other political blocs. Moreover, Al Maliki’s government was successful in absorbing this pressure through a mechanism devised to postpone action on critical issues.

It has become difficult to talk about overcoming differences between Al Iraqiya and the State of the Law coalition, because it is no longer realistic. The differences between the two groups run very deep, and at times there is nothing but animosity between them. Hence, their staying together in a national unity government has become futile.

So why is Al Iraqiya still part of this government and why isn’t it carrying out its repeated threats to pull out and become a part of the opposition?

Some attribute that to the harm it will do to some of Al Iraqiya’s leaders’ interests. A few of them enjoy many perks in the government. However, this is not the main reason for their staying on as part of the government.

Some reasons point to its internal structure and some are related to wishes of regional and international actors.

Al Iraqiya is not a party with a clear strategy, vision and agenda where members have to abide by rules and regulations of the party.

Like the bigger Iraqi National Alliance, which is currently leading the political process in the country, Al Iraqiya is an election group made up of many political blocs that have different agendas. Some of these blocs may be considered right-wing and some centrist. There are also Arab nationalists and liberals, but only few leftists.

With this structure, it is difficult for Al Iraqiya to maintain its unity without a balancing act that will allow it to continue to play a role in the political process.

The option of walking out of the government is not approved by all in Al Iraqiya, and neither is staying on in the government.

Earlier, Al Iraqiya decided to ban its lawmakers from parliament meetings and not allow its ministers to attend cabinet meetings. However, these decisions were soon reversed when three groups in Al Iraqiya refused to accept them.

It is difficult to look at events in Iraq without considering the American agenda, and that of other powerful countries that carry out their proxy wars in Iraq.

From the US point of view, the guarantee for the continuation of the political process in Iraq, which it supervised and constructed, is that all the parties play along, with Al Maliki as prime minister. The US perceives this as the best way for Iraq to continue in the face of the delicate political balance in the region.

America also intervenes to take care of the setbacks that happen from time to time. The Iraqi dossier has not been stashed away in US Vice-President Joseph Biden’s drawer; it is still on his desk.

Al Iraqiya also faces pressure from a number of countries in the region, who back it and do not want to see it outside the government because this will affect the interest of those powers.

Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.