A new government in Iraq — signs of a breakthrough
On Friday we pointed out that the prospects of Adil Abdul Mahdi as the next prime minister in Iraq were rising, while those of outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki were declining. There are numerous indications that the negotiations between the factions are about to break the stalemate.The most viable scenario for a new government would appear to be taking the following shape. It would be a government supported by three of the four key elected groups in parliament, namely Allawi's al-Iraqiya, the Iraqi National Alliance, and the Kurdish Alliance. The most significant posts would be allocated as follows:
Adil Abdul Mahdi as representative of the Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) will be prime minister. This important proviso – that he is selected as a representative of the SIC rather than the Iraqi National Alliance (which also includes the Sadrists) – is significant because it downgrades the weight of the Sadrists who control a little over half of the seats of the Iraqi National Alliance and who will probably be making unacceptable demands, including the one that the strategic agreement with the U.S. should be terminated, or that they should be assigned one of the two key security ministries – either defense or interior. The presidency will be assigned to al-Iraqiya, with one vice president to be offered to al-Maliki's State of Law.
The ministry of foreign affairs would most likely go to a Sunni politician, in an effort to bring Iraq back into the Arab fold.
The parliamentary speakership goes to the Kurdish alliance. They will be compensated for the loss of the office of the president with the highly significant ministry of oil. This will allow the Kurds greater flexibility in dealing with the oil extracted from their province and its sale, and reduce the conflict with the central government. It would also signal to the international oil companies that have recently reached agreements with the ministry of oil to develop Iraq's oil fields that the ministry is in the hands of the most pro-Western element in the Iraqi political landscape.
There also seems to be a broad agreement on the allocation of the various cabinet posts, particularly those that are commonly referred to as the “sovereign ministries,” namely foreign affairs, finance, interior and defense.
Al-Maliki's State of Law will most likely join such a coalition whose three pillars are al-Iraqiya, the Supreme Islamic Council, and the Kurdish Alliance. Even without the State of Law, the three other factions control at least 225 seats in a 325-seat parliament, a large enough majority to rule the country for the next four years.
Al-Maliki himself would most likely opt to stay out of a new government, but he could be offered enough incentives to join.
We should emphasize that the above falls in the domain of “political projection” which, as one once quipped with regard to economic projection, “it is always correct except when you need it.”
Photo: Iraq's Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi