Iraq update Feb. 2011 – protests, doubts about U.S. withdrawal, status of government building

This is an attempt at a succint overview of the political situation in Iraq early August, 2010 as the U.S.A. is reducing its military presence to 50 000 by month’s end, by withdrawing all combat troops, in accordance with the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) negotiated between the Bush administration and the Iraqi parliament.
Juan Cole says

“But the massive violence provoked by the US occupation so weakened the Bush administration that it was forced to accept a withdrawal timetable dictated by the Iraqi parliament, in part at the insistence of deputies loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and others connected to Iran.”

Elections were held March 7 which resulted in a ‘hung’ parliament. In all likelihood, there will be no government in place when the last of the U.S.A.’s combat troops depart.

After seven years of war and occupation by the U.S. hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died or been either internally or externally exiled and the infrastructure is in shambles. There is less electricity production today than the day of the invasion.
Here are the principal actors:

  • Shiite religious State of Law coalition of caretaker prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose major component is Da’wa or Islamic Mission Partyent
  • The Shia National Iraqi Alliance including:
    • the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq of Ammar al-Hakim, son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim who took over the former SCIRI after his brother.
    • the Sadr Bloc of Muqtada al-Sadr
  • The secular Iraqi National Alliance, where Ahmad Chalabi is a senior figure and whose main support comes from Sunnis
  • The secular Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi

The elections resulted in a three-way standoff involving the largest blocs in parliament. Allawi’s alliance finished with two seats more than Maliki’s, and the INA finished third. Negotiations between the parties are ongoing (or not going on) towards forming a new government. Juan Cole:

There is no end in sight of the political stalemate, which points to severe problems with Iraq’s largely US-authored constitution. The March 7 elections produced a ‘hung parliament’ in which no one party has enough seats to form a majority, and it has proved impossible for the four major coalitions to come together around a national unity government because they cannot agree on who should be its prime minister.

INA wants the State of law coalition to dump Maliki as its candidate if it is to resume negotiations with the State of Law coalition. The Shiite religous parties should be natural alllies of Maliki but he ordered an assault on al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Basra and Eastern Baghdad neighborhoods in order to restore order, an operation which did not illicit any love from the Sadrists.

Iran supports the Shiite alliance while the mostly Sunni states support Allwai as does the U.S. Allawi is a former CIA ‘asset’ who is no fan of Iran.

July (2010) was witness to a large jump in Iraqi casualties to 535. Some say this renewal of violence is at least in part due to the lack of a new government. The U.S. may have to request the assistance of the U.N. to get an electoral agreement in place.