While all of the major parties in Iraq’s March 2010 parliamentary election are furiously meeting with each other to form a new government, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran are trying to influence the results. The Saudis are pressuring former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to make concessions to ensure that he can return to power, while Turkey is trying to patch up relations between him and the Kurdish Alliance. Iran on the other hand is trying to keep the Shiite and Kurdish parties together so that they can remain in power.
First, the Saudis and Turkey are trying to assist Allawi’s list. The Saudis are intent on making Allawi prime minister again, so that the Shiites aren’t in power anymore, which they consider a means for Iran to take over the country. The Saudis have told Allawi he needs to make concessions to the other leading lists like the Supreme Council-Sadrist led National Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to form a new government. Riyadh allegedly suggested that Allawi should even consider making compromises on Kirkuk to win over the Kurds. Allawi has already accepted Jalal Talabani of the PUK to be re-elected president, after National Movement member Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi originally said an Arab should hold the position. Turkey has also stepped in to try to help in negotiations with the Kurdish Alliance. They got Allawi ally parliamentarian Osama Nujafi to offer to go to Kurdistan to hold talks. Nujafi said he was willing to go to Irbil on the condition that the Kurds respected the election results and realize that they are not in the same position as they were before. The Alliance however, is very suspicious of Nujafi and his brother Atheel who is governor of Ninewa and leads the ruling al-Hadbaa party there. As a result, the Kurds have questioned the National Movement’s victory in Ninewa, and asked whether they would stage a coup there. Until then, the two sides had one meeting in Baghdad on March 29 when Osama Nujafi and Deputy Prime Minister Rafia al-Issawi of Allawi’s list met with their Kurdish counterparts. The U.S. is allegedly sponsoring a meeting with Nujafi and the Kurds in Turkey as well. It seems that the Turks and Saudis would rather have a secular Shiite in power with a large Sunni base, rather than the current religious Shiite powers again running Iraq.
Tehran is working towards just that latter goal. Right after the March 7 election, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent a delegation to Iran to gain support for a second term in office. Then Talabani met with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad on March 23, who offered the president an invitation to visit Tehran for the Nowruz festivities. He left on March 26, followed by Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi of the National Alliance. The next day delegations from the Alliance and Maliki’s State of Law arrived in Iran as well, where talks were supposedly conducted with Moqtada al-Sadr who resides there. Reports are that Iran wants the current ruling coalition of the State of Law, the National Alliance, and the Kurdish Alliance to remain in power, and stop Allawi, and his Sunni allies from taking office.
Since the U.S. invasion, Iraq has been so weak that its neighbors have had almost free reign to interfere in its internal affairs. The 2010 balloting was just the latest example. On the one side, Turkey and the Saudis want to curtail Iranian influence and Shiite rule, while Tehran wants their friends in the Shiite and Kurdish parties to stay in office. Whether any of these attempts at mediation will work is unknown. The Kurds for example, have serious misgivings about the Nujafi brothers within Allawi’s alliance, and it would seem that no matter what the Saudis and Turks say, they would not be able to overcome that divide. On the other hand, Sadr has come out against Maliki returning as prime minister, and may join with Allawi instead, despite Iran’s pressure. Who will be able to form a new government is unknown right now since everything is in such a state of flux, and it’ll probably take months for everything to work out. Whoever comes out on top, will be partly beholden to the outside powers that helped them out.
Aswat al-Iraq, “Al-Iraqiya delegation discusses with KA ways of cooperation,” 3/29/10
- “Kurdistan Alliance’s purpose: Article 140 and national unity government,” 3/29/10
MEMRI Blog, “Iraq Votes – Part XI,” 3/29/10
Radio Nawa, “Talabani leaves Baghdad for Iran at the head of an official delegation,” 3/26/10
Roads To Iraq, “Allawi and Maliki reached an agreement, Saudi Arabia asked Allawi to accept any deal,” 3/17/10
- “The new government and the bumpy road ahead,” 3/27/10
Al Sumaria News, Qanon, Al Cauther, Al-Iraq News, Al Rafidayn, RM Iraq, Sotal Iraq, “Iraq Votes – Part IX,” MEMRI Blog, 3/23/10
Wasat, “Maliki send representatives to Tehran to discuss support for a second term,” 3/17/10