Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Iraqi Shi'a Groups Counter Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his State of Law Alliance (SLA) continue to express confidence that they are in a leading position to form the next government. Maliki claimed that he has the support of 175 members of the Council of Representatives (CoR), although there are no other indications that Maliki has garnered 175 supporters yet. These tactics are intended to create the impression of momentum. Other groups claim similar levels of support. However, PM Maliki and the SLA are acting with increased confidence. 

The SLA’s Iraqi Shi’a opponents, primarily the Sadrists and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), have undertaken two tactics to countervail the SLA’s perceived momentum. Firstly, they are working to revitalize the pan-Shi’a Iraqi National Alliance (INA) which competed against Maliki in the 2010 elections. The INA intends to position itself as the dominant Iraqi Shi’a political force. Secondly, the INA is working to maintain the role of the National Alliance (NA) which includes the SLA. However, in these efforts the INA will face the difficulty of remaining united and overcoming the SLA’s numerical superiority. 

For the Iraqi Sunnis, the main push is to maintain political unity as some Iraqi Sunni groups formed a group, Etihad [Union] that includes some members of the major Iraqi Sunni group Mutahidun. Mutahidun leader and Speaker of the CoR Osama al-Nujaifi is also seeking the assistance of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to ensure fair representation of the Iraqi Sunnis. 

Sistani continues to avoid direct involvement in the political process. But he has expressed through his representatives that the next Iraqi government should be inclusive and avoid the possibility of marginalizing any group. 

Iraqi Shi’a Political Groups:

Iraqi National Alliance (INA)

Theme: Counter Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and attempt to outmaneuver him along with his State of Law Alliance. Furthermore, attempt to position itself as the representative of the Iraqi Shi’a political community.


MAY 27: The Iraqi National Alliance (INA) stated that its Political Commission held a meeting at the Sadrist Trend’s headquarters. In a statement, the attendees decided to maintain the National Alliance (NA) and “objected” to the State of Law Alliance (SLA) of PM Maliki for offering a political candidate and a government program “away” from the NA. (All Iraq News)
JUNE 1: The INA issued a statement that said that it will form a committee to assist in the selection of candidates for high-level positions. The INA said that candidates must meet certain standards and criteria to be selected for the “three presidencies:” the presidency, the premiership, and the speakership of the Council of Representatives. The INA also emphasized the need to follow the direction of the Iraqi Shi’a religious authorities known as the Marjai’ya. (Shafaq News)

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the State of Law Alliance (SLA)

Theme: Continued effort to build a coalition within the Iraqi Shi’a community. Expression of confidence that it is in a leading position to form the government. Continued criticism of Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Osama al-Nujaifi.


MAY 31: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the headquarters of the Iraqi Shi’a Fadhila party to meet with its senior leaders, including its secretary general, Hashem al-Hashemi to discuss the formation of the next government. (Al-Sumaria News)
JUNE 1: A member of CoR belonging to the SLA, Abbas al-Bayati said that the SLA presented PM Maliki as the “only candidate” to lead the next government. Bayati added that Speaker of CoR, Osama al-Nujaifi, and the Mutahidun alliance are no longer influential in light of the formation of a new group composed of Iraqi Sunni CoR members named Etihad (Union). Bayati called on Mutahidun to join the “opposition.” (Al-Sumaria News)

JUNE 2: PM Maliki stated in an interview with Al-Iraqiyya TV that he has secured the support of 175 CoR members who will back him for a third term. PM Maliki added that this number allows him to form a majority government, but that he wants to add more partners. (Al-Mada Press)

Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)

Theme: Emphasis of the role of the pan-Shi’a National Alliance and unity of Iraqi Shi’a. Outreach to former ally, Badr organization, which now supports Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. 


JUNE 1:  The leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar al-Hakim said that the NA must act as an “effective institution” with a clear vision for the direction of the state at a meeting with the Secretary General and of the Badr Organization, Hadi Al-Amiri.  (All Iraq News)

Iraqi Sunni Political Groups:

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s Mutahidun Alliance

Theme: Attempt to maintain semblance of Iraqi Sunni political unity in light of formation of the Etihad group.


MAY 29: Leader in Mutahidun Alliance of Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Osama al-Nujaifi, Mohammed al-Khalidi, denied the statement made by leader of Diyala is our Identity, Salim al-Juburi who announced earlier today that Mutahidun joined an alliance known as Etihad. Khalidi described the statement as “personal.” (Al-Sumaria News)
JUNE 2: Governor of Ninewa province and senior Iraqi Sunni figure, Atheel al-Nujaifi, criticized the Etihad alliance. Nujaifi described Etihad’s formation as an undermining step in the effort to weaken Prime Minister Maliki and limit his chances of a third term in office. (Shafaq News)

Shi’a Religious Authorities:

Grand Ayatollah  Ali al-Sistani

Theme: Not directly involved in government-formation, but calls for an inclusive Iraqi government and emphasizes need to avoid marginalization. Political groups, anti-Maliki in particular, express their concerns to him.


MAY 28: An anonymous source reported that the Speaker of the Council of Representatives and a leader of Mutahidun Alliance, Osama al-Nujaifi sent a letter to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani explaining his stance on the formation of the next government. Meanwhile, a source from the office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani denied reports that the office had intentions to resume meetings with political leaders to discuss the formation of the next government. (All Iraq News)
MAY 29: Spokesperson of Wataniyya Alliance of former PM, Ayad Allawi, Mayson al-Damaluji stated that the Allawi sent a letter to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. She added that the letter discussed security, politics, and requested Sistani’s “personal intervention to stop PM Maliki’s autocracy.” (Assafir News)
MAY 30: The representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, stated in his Friday sermon in Karbala that the formation of the new Iraqi government must be an inclusive process. Karbalai added that the new government must contain “all components of the people.” Karbalai recommended forming a government that will ensure the various components of Iraq that they are not “marginalized.” (Shafaq News)
JUN 1: The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Nikolay Mladenov, stated after meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf that the UN will continue to support dialogue between the political blocs attempting to a form a new government and that the UN desires to see a government formed according to “constitutional schedules.” Mladenov also stated that the government has to include “core participation by major groups.” (Al-Mada Press)

Ahmed Ali is a Senior Iraq Research Analyst and Iraq Team Lead at Institute for the Study of War.