Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki Image Credit: AP

On April 21, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) held an emergency meeting in an attempt to solve the issues that are threatening to break its unity as a result of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s controversial policies.

Former prime minister Ebrahim Al Jaafari, who is also the INA’s chairman, did not attend the meeting, neither did the representative of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

These absences that may seem innocent are usually due to political reasons. The policies of the State of Law Coalition headed by Al Maliki pushed Iraq into a maze, domestically and regionally. They also created a ripe atmosphere for a mutiny against the current set-up by the blocs that make up the INA.

And although the ‘news’ that is planted from time to time about the conflicts inside the alliance is either exaggerated or played down, one cannot deny the existence of a serious crisis facing the Shiite alliance for the first time.

Iraq will be facing grave consequences as a result of the dangerous stagnation in the political process, which is threatening to erupt. The INA has announced its solidarity with Al Maliki’s government; however, the statement that was released after the meeting did not hide its disappointment with Al Maliki’s policies and that of the Al Dawa party, which he heads. The announced decisions also restricted Al Maliki’s freedom. The decisions came in four sections; three of them blamed the prime minister and showed displeasure with his policies.

The alliance stressed the need for respecting bodies such as the Independent High Electoral Commission, the Iraqi Central Bank, Office of Financial Supervision, the integrity commission, and the National Communications and Media Commission of Iraq, and to refrain from intervening in their business.

The decisions also stressed the importance of national partnership and sharing power, which is the exact opposite of what Al Maliki has been doing since he became premier. The INA also refused any form of foreign intervention in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Armed confrontation

As a pre-emptive measure, Al Maliki had sent a letter to the parliament via Khudair Al Khuzaie, Iraqi Vice-President, wherein he pointed out his commitment to the Arbil agreement.

Domestically, the idea of holding power exclusively, annulling the concept of the national partnership, and the attempts to dominate independent bodies have created tensions in the political process that threaten to derail it. As a result of this, the relationship between the central government and the Kurdish region has deteriorated, reaching the brink of direct armed confrontation.

The irresponsible statements made by the State of Law members have also poisoned Iraq’s relations on the regional front with some of its neighbours. If matters had been left to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the relationship with Arab countries and Turkey would not have deteriorated as it did after the Arab summit ended in Baghdad.

In all reality, the INA would not have called for the emergency meeting if it were not fearful of the repercussions, which could also lead to the downfall of Al Maliki’s government.

The Sadrist movement, which is the biggest in the INA bloc in parliament, expressed its keenness to re-evaluate its alliances.

The Sadrists did not hide their eagerness to break free from the structures of this process by joining hands with Al Iraqiya and the Kurdish alliance for a no-confidence motion against Al Maliki’s government, and to back another government headed by one of its bloc members.

In all truth, the Sadrists will not be the only ones to tread this road, as the State of Law Coalition has distanced itself from its closest allies because of its policy of holding power exclusively.

The decisions taken by the INA in the meeting will have a great impact on the future events in the country, as they will be a test of the ability of this alliance to control the prime minister and his party and to maintain its unity.

These decisions simply mean that the policies agreed upon while dealing with other forces in the political process are no more decided by the State of Law Coalition alone. These measures — despite the questions they raise about the extent of their compatibility with the Constitution — lessen the tensions in the Iraqi political process.

The Kurdish alliance for one has announced that it welcomes these decisions, despite its falling out with the State of Law coalition lately. It is too early to imagine that the INA has succeeded in solving all the problems.

Political blocs struck many deals in the past; however, they were never put into force and remained ink on paper, exactly as what happened with the Arbil agreements.

The execution of these deals is the responsibility of the prime minister and is not guaranteed due to his penchant for holding on to power.

The INA meeting decisions are also aimed at downsizing the role of Al Dawa party, while preventing the Sadrists from leading the political process.

Most probably, Al Maliki will continue his tenure as prime minister until March 2014. Removing him is not an easy feat and sectarian forces are still in control of big political-decision making.

The prime minister succeeded in thwarting and aborting steps that were taken against him recently, and he has redirected the crisis away from himself for the time being.

 

Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.