Reports indicate that Iraq’s leaders are meeting today and throughout the week to discuss the formation of a new government, and that a powersharing deal may be imminent. If any of you pay attention the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you will have your doubts about something being “imminent.” I could not give you a count (because it is too many) of the number of times that Gilad Shalit would be “imminently” released or that Hamas and Fateh were close to an “imminent” breakthrough for re-uniting their separate factions. Such is the news cycle of the Middle East. Negotiations and the rumors about them are common. Deals and breaking the gridlock? Not so much.
Yet, let us be optimistic for a change. Reports are that the deal would include Nouri Al-Malaki staying on as Prime Minister, and Jalal Talabani staying on as President, which is nothing relatively new. The breaking news in all of this, so to speak, is that the secular Iraqiya bloc, led by Iyad Allawi, would now accept a spot in the new government. Al Jazeera reports that it “could be offered the speaker’s post in parliament, the foreign ministry and a role with possibly expanded authority over defence issues, the economy and foreign affairs.”
Why this abrupt change, from denouncing Maliki only a short time ago to now wanting to be included in the government? The short story? Politics. The long story? Well, politics again. Iraqiya most likely realized that it could not form any solid oppostion to the formation of Maliki’s bloc. It held out until the last possible second, seeking some sort of breakthrough, which did not materialize. One can be guaranteed that even while this was taking place, negotiations were being coordinated between the leaders of all parties involved that have brought them to the table they sit at now.
One also wonders if Iraq’s recent renewed outbreak in violence was another reason that steered them toward this meeting. All signs point to yes. Al Jazeera’s Rawa Rageh reports that:
The speakers have said, one after another, that they would like to see a government formed as soon as possible in order to prevent the security situation from getting any worse – and in order to prevent insurgents and fighters from capitalising on this political vacuum.
I will speculate that with the religious holidays of Ashura and Christmas a little more than a month away, Iraqi leaders may be bracing for a great wave of violence against Shia Muslims (both Iraqi and Iranian Pilgrims) and minority Christians. In the past Sunni extremists have murdered many Shia pilgrims(including today), and the latest attack on Christians a little over a week ago shows that they are not to be spared either. Iraq’s leaders no doubt want to be prepared for combating this outbreak, and dealing with it if it does commence. Having a government formed would send a message that they are concerned about the future of the country, rather than just the deepening of their pockets.
This too, may send a signal to Iraqis on the ground that maybe,just maybe, the politicians have their interests in mind. If a new Iraqi government can be effective in combating extremism and terrorism it will give hope to a great number of Iraqis that are currently stinging from the recent deadly attacks of the last two weeks.
Yet Iraq no doubt sits on a very steep precipice, as it always has since it’s borders were carved out of the sand not yet a century ago. If the government is formed and no real solutions are found, infighting will no doubt continue. Iraqis will continue to question their leaders and the security situation will continue to deteriorate. Such is politics in Iraq.