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Shias Head for Uncertain Govt- Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatch
by Jamadagni das
01 Feb 2006
** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **
** Website by http://jeffpflueger.com **
*Inter Press Service*
Analysis by Dahr Jamail
DOHA, Qatar, Feb 1 (IPS) - Six weeks after parliamentary elections,
occupied Iraq is still struggling for a viable government, as violence
and instability worsen.
The results of the Dec. 15 elections have still to be finalised, but it
is clear that the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a Shia fundamentalist
coalition, won at least 128 seats in the 275-seat national assembly.
Where 138 seats are required for a simple majority, the powerful group
will still have to cut deals with Kurdish or Sunni alliances to form a
The Kurdish Alliance obtained 53 seats. The Turkmen who claim to
represent at least 11 percent of the population of the oil-rich but
volatile northern city Kirkuk are angry that they failed to obtain even
one seat in the new parliament. The Turkmen, like the Sunnis around
Baghdad, allege widespread election fraud.
After boycotting the Jan. 30 election of last year, the Sunni coalition,
despite continuing to contest the election results, obtained 58 seats.
Former interim prime minister and CIA asset Iyad Allawi managed only 25
seats through his al-Iraqiyah list, a huge setback to the occupying
powers' plans for a secular Iraq.
This means that the dominating Shia alliance is pro-Tehran, and that
Iranian influence will continue to grow in Iraq. On a recent visit to
Iran, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declared that his Mehdi Army and
millions of followers would fight for Iran if it was attacked by a
The largest Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in
Iraq (SCIRI), has strong Iranian links.
In a strange twist of fate, this means that U.S. policy-makers are
leaning now towards the more secular Sunni groups, some of which claim
that Saddam Hussein was a secular Sunni.
U.S. officials like Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad have been accused by
Shia groups of "reaching out" to Sunni Arabs in an effort to counter
growing resistance in Iraq, and in efforts to promote a unified government.
Shia leaders see this as an attempt to undermine their power. "The
Americans are so focused on Sunni interests that their motivation goes
beyond just promoting national unity," a UIA spokesman said.
Federalism, which in effect would mean decentralisation, with more
powers to a Shia south and a Kurd north, has emerged as a major sticking
point in any consensus. Sunni and Shia leaders have clearly conflicting
views on this.
Sunni political groups fear that federalism will lead the Kurds and
Shias to split Iraq into three parts. The Kurdish north and the
predominantly Shia south are the main oil producing regions of the country.
Sunni Arab leaders oppose either regional confederacies or federalism.
They are attempting to form political blocs with secular Shia and
Kurdish groups in order to counter plans for such federalism.
But the UIA is not a homogeneously pro-Iran group; it is wrought with
internal strife. Nadim al-Jabiri who leads the Virtue Party within the
group is angry, for example, at getting only one seat in parliament when
he says he was promised five.
Now the possibility that Sadr followers and the Da'wa Party within the
UIA could join forces would make them an effective counterweight to
SCIRI, furthering fragmenting the bloc.
Disputes continue also over control of ministries. Sunnis continue to
oppose Shia control of the Ministry of Interior. Sunni leaders say Shia
militias, like the pro-Irani Badr Organisation, are regularly being used
as death squads in Sunni areas of Baghdad and Fallujah.
"This will be one of the hottest issues," Sunni leader Hussein
al-Falluji said. "We will press this in the negotiations, and if the
Shias are not flexible on this, it will be a problem."
Shia leaders have said they will not surrender any ministry which
controls Iraq's security forces. Shias control also the defence ministry.
Adnan al-Duleimi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, which is the main
Sunni bloc, has said the two ministries must not necessarily be headed
by a Shia. "We believe that the posts of the interior and defence
ministers should be kept away from any sectarian and political
(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
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