Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The B-Team

When you've invaded a country for reasons which turn out to be entirely spurious and you're left with nothing more than the patently absurd claim that your key goal was to spread democracy, you're going to be in some trouble if the party with the most seats after the elections you've been celebrating tells you to mind your own effing business. In all honesty I'm not keen on Jaafari either but he does have a point. It's a reminder that US and UK troops are essentially passengers in a political situation over which their government's exert almost no control.

Who said "quagmire"? Stop that...

It's been clear for a while that the US administration, through Khalilzad, don't want Jafaari to continue as prime minister. The UIA narrowly voted for him though and they do have the right to chose the PM according to the constitution. Sort of.*

What's interesting is the way this unfolded. If this is true, Khalilzad went to Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (part of the UIA) and told him that the US administartion considered Jafaari unacceptable. What's interesting about this is that the SCIRI actually didn't want Jafaari either. They put forward their own candidate for PM but Jafaari (the Dawa candidate) narrowly defeated him in the internal UIA vote. Khalilzad, it seems, was attempting to exploit the SCIRI's opposition to Jafaari in that contest. This appears to be an extremely obvious attempt to divide the factions of the UIA in order to get Jafaari out.

But the SCIRI leader, rather than agreeing to help oust Jafaari and perhaps get their own man in, decided instead to inform Jaraari's office about what Khalilzad was up to. It seems that the often fractious relationships within the UIA are less significant than is sometimes thought. In fact, it looks very much as if they're rallying round rather than falling apart. Uniting against the common enemy, to use my favourite cliche. I suspect this is partly a response to the Mustafa Husayniyah raid on Sunday. (Baghdad provincial council has suspended co-operation with the US authorities as a result of the raid.)

The BBC analysis of the apparent political motives has merit but misses an essential point. The unusually hostile reaction from the UIA is directly related to the fact that the US led/advised raid targetted their guys. That's what makes this different from all the other killings. Whether by mistake or on purpose, Iraqi Special Forces under US control attacked a Shiite miltia religious stronghold. Up till now, certainly since late 2004, they've pretty much avoided confronting the Shiite militias and left them to their own devices. Now, they've attacked a militia area head on. That's got a lot to do with the stronger reactions we're seeing from UIA politicians.

Anyway, Jafaari is essentially correct. If Iraq is a democracy, Khalilzad had better back off the mike. If he does though, Jafaari will remain as prime minister and the SCIRI will remain in control of the interior ministry. Sectarian tensions will not go away. It'll be yet another step down the road.

I love it when a plan comes together. Unfotunately, in the case of post invasion Iraq, the coalition didn't ever seem to have a plan. They appeared to think they could go steaming straight in, get in a jam, and then construct a getaway vehicle out of an beatup pick up truck, four tin cans, a tea tray, and two frayed elastic bands. Do you think they can spell "gross negligence"?

* It's my entry for the longest footnoot world record. The constituational arrangement for nomination for the prime minister is this. Deep breath.

First, you need a president.
Article (68):
1. The Council of Representatives [the parliament] selects from among the candidates a president of the republic by a two-third majority.
2. If no single candidate gets the required majority, the two candidates with the highest votes will compete and whoever wins a majority of votes in the second round is declared president of the republic.
Once that's done, it time for a PM.
Article (74):
1. The president assigns the candidate [for PM] of the parliamentary majority to form a Cabinet... This appointment should take place within 15 days after the president of the republic is elected. [The constitution states that the president must be elected within 30 days of the first sittting of the CoR.]

4. The assigned prime minister presents the names of the members of his cabinet and its ministerial platform to the Council of Representatives. He is considered to have won confidence when his ministers are approved individually and his ministerial platform is approved by an absolute majority.
Note that the PM and cabinet don't need a 2/3rds majority. It's the presidential nomination which needs that. So, the UIA needs the Kurds and 3 more votes to get a president. Once that's done, they'd theoretically be able to get their PM with the support of only 10 more CoR members. But, the Kurds probably won't vote for Talibani as president (even though he's a Kurd) until such time as the UIA agree to nominate a cabinet which they don't find objectionable. Add in the need not to exclude the Sunnis and the desire to build a national unity government as well as the understandable insistance among UIA members that as the largest party they ought to get the largest slice of the pie, and you've got some idea of what's going on. Sort of. I think.

In any event, it is now essentially a sovereign matter (unless we're joking about giving Iraqis democracy). The largest party, the UIA, gets to nominate a prime minister. They narrowly chose to stick with Jafaari. But the Kurd and Sunnis don't want him. And round we go again...

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