Foreign Policy Blogs

Iraqi Political Crisis: Day 134

On March 7, 2010, Iraqi men and women went to the polls to elect their next government, weary of corruption and exhausted of political excuses. Over four months later, they’re no closer to knowing who will lead a government that will be tasked with taking the reins from the US military as their drawdown of forces continues over the next calendar year.

Although there are some hopeful signs that coalition talks between Iraq’s two major Shi’a blocs, the question of leadership remains squarely focused on Prime Minister’s Nouri al Maliki’s incumbency.

Of course, this is a matter to be haggled out by the political powerbrokers. The Iraqi people are considerably more frustrated with resurgent sectarian violence and the utter failure of their government to deliver on basic services such as clean water, electricity, schools and jobs.

However, Rueters is reporting that one of several scenarios is likely to unfold. Although once considered inevitable to the political process, the Iran-friendly Iraqi National Alliance has suddenly become unwilling to bargain with Maliki’s State of Law coalition based on ISCI’s blistering opposition to another term for the PM. On the other hand, Maliki may be finessing an unlikely alliance with anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr, who is said to be considering a lifting his veto of the Prime Minister if he agrees to a release of jailed Sadrists, lifts death sentences for other and rains cushy government position on his loyal supporters.

Moqtada is Back

Moqtada is Back

To further confuse the matter, Sadr recently emerged from a period of self-imposed exile and religious study in Qom, to meet with PM Maliki’s chief political rival, Ayad Allawi, in Damascus. This latest meeting cemented al Sadr’s potent political stature, and the certainty that this heir to Shi’a Iraq’s fiery populism will help tailor the government that emerges to his liking.

As reported by Steve Lee Meyers of The New York TImes, this meeting marks “the first time Mr. Sadr[…]met with any of the political leaders vying for ascendency in the country’s new government. That he met with Mr. Allawi, not his putative coalition partner, was clearly intended to increase pressure on Mr. Maliki to step aside.”

Shi’a Iran, which has maintained something of a love-hate relationship with the scion of Iraq’s prominent Sadr family, is nonetheless pushing for a united front against Allawi’s candidacy, viewing the secular strongman as a threat to their interests.



Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.