After more than 100 days of holding parliamentary elections and after pulling and pushing on the results, on the third of this month the work of the first session of the Iraqi Council of Representatives was held. After the completion of the protocol procedures for the session, which included speeches by the presidents of the republic and the outgoing government and parliament, the new parliament inaugurated a new session with a session led by the oldest MP where the winners were sworn in, then he opened the door for blocs to present papers of a parliamentary majority. The first session turned into a scene of political conflict between two groups, each seeking to form the largest bloc, which has the right to nominate the next prime minister. While the final hours of Sunday night seemed crucial to swaying the US-backed team led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the hours of the following morning was a big surprise when the Iranian-backed team led by Nuri al-Maliki took the lead.
As expected, the Abadi team presented , which includes in addition of al- Naser coalition, other coalitions such as the list of Saroon supported by the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, al-Hikma movement led by Ammar al-Hakim, al-Wataniya Coalition led by Iyad Allawi and Osama Najafi and others, papers to confirm forming the largest block under the title :” a coalition of reform and construction, “and asked the Chairman of the session adoption of it . The papers included the signatures of the leaders of blocs of 184 deputies. In contrast, the team of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki presented , which includes state of law coalition ( Dawlat al-Qanun) , the alliance led by Hadi al-Ameri, and the Arab project led by Khamis Khanjar, and the Union of forces led by Mohamed Halbusi and other deputies dissidents from the list of Abadi and Allawi , a list of signatures of 153 members of parliament , as representatives of the largest bloc, which they called “construction”.
And on the impact of political differences between the parliamentary blocs in the determination of the largest bloc in the House of Representatives and the selection of its President and President of the Republic , the Iraqi Council of Representatives suspended its meetings until the middle of this month with the aim of conducting extensive negotiations between the parliamentary blocs to reach an agreement on naming a president of the Council and end differences on the formation of the largest coalition. Although the meeting failed to achieve any of these goals, this does not diminish the importance of political movement in Iraq, which may lead, if things go in the right direction, to two major results: First, change the nature of the political system established by the US occupation based on sectarian quotas, and to develop an Iraqi national political line, seeking independence from the American and Iranian influence alike .
The first indications for the current Iraqi movement is signaling the end of alliances based on sectarian basis as the National Alliance (Shiite), which has ruled the country under the leadership of the Dawa Party, has collapsed since 2005 and is dedicated during the mandates of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the first and second (2006-2010 and 2010- 2014) and a group of political forces emerged in two major alliances the first includes law state coalition and al-Fatah coalition (Nuri al-Maliki-Hadi al-Ameri), the second coalition includes “Sairoon” led by Muqtada al-Sadr, and “al-Nasir” led by the current Prime Minister, Haider Abadi , And “Hikma” led by Ammar al-Hakim. This does not apply to political forces, “Shiite” only, but also includes the political forces, “Sunni”, as part of the “al-Qarar coalition ” headed by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Osama Najafi, joining the camp of Sadr – Abadi – Hakim, while another part of “al-Qarar coalition ” Khamis Khanjar , joining the al-Maliki camp.
This time, the remarkable divisions are no longer based on personal differences between the Iraqi political symbols, despite its importance, especially the relationship al-Maliki with both al- Sadr and Abadi, but most importantly, they are centered around programs and visions, especially those related to the identity of Iraq Its regional location and the independence of its decision, and its relationship with the wars in the region. Although repeated disappointments require caution in launching quick conclusions, it is clear that the major conflict taking place in Iraq today is clearly shifting from a sectarian (Sunni-Shiite) context to a two-camp political context , the first camp is strongly linked to Iran . but based on absolute subordination to it by recognition of the Wilayat of the Faqih, and its faith in a transnational ,supranational Shiite political project led by Iran . While the second camp seeks, which includes a significant number of Iraqi political forces, Sunni, Shiite and civil ones, to get rid of the Iranian hegemony, and emphasize the interests of Iraq and its national identity and its Arab cultural affiliation, without necessarily being hostile to Iran
As for the Kurds, they have decided so far not to enter any alliance of the largest bloc, but they are willing to negotiate with any bloc formed. The Kurdish position could be a decisive factor in the US or Iran’s influence in the formation of the new Iraqi government , that is meant that the Kurds provide the necessary balance ( equilibrium ) in the Iraqi political process , their joining the Iranian bloc in the new Iraqi parliament, in order to shift the balance in favour of Nuri al-Maliki or Hadi al-Ameri is not guaranteed. Although the Kurds, at least some of them, have a score to settle (a reckoning) with Haider al-Abadi and his post-referendum role on the Kurdish independence and the Kirkuk battle, but they can not completely ignore what the administration is seeking. The US administration, through its envoy to Iraq, Brett McGurk, has played a pivotal role in forming a broad front against the Iranian expansionist project, which considers Iraq to be merely a state or province run by Tehran.
As Iraqis watched the news and pictures of the negotiations to form the largest bloc, there were two foreign players in the background of the scene, leading two campaigns against each other to shift the balance of one Iraqi team in favour of another team in the race to win the post of new president of the government of the country. The two players did not need, namely Brett H. McGurk, special envoy of US president in the international alliance and Qasim Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, to cover all their movements but in the few days before the first session of the new parliament, they abandoned the secrecy a bout their movement, turning the competition between them into an open field in front of the public.
These days, the Americans are no longer supporting Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi for a second term, or the Iranians standing behind Nuri al-Maliki, to return to the position of prime minister, in secret, but has become a subject of the media as a normal part of the negotiations to form a new Iraqi government. According to Iraqi figures who met the two men, or received contacts from both or from one of them, the tactics adopted by them seemed very similar significantly, even though McGurk seeks to form a government loyal to his country, while Soleimani tries to ensure continued Iraqi submission to Iran.
The US envoy and the Iranian general have been making contact with the target Iraqi figures, usually waving the carrot stick, but they will not wait long before waving the stick. But the difference is in the nature of the carrot and the stick, which are used in “negotiations of persuasion or subjugation.” While “political support” is a common factor between the American carrot and the stick, by providing it or cutting it, the Iranian carrot is a government job that generates abundant money and political leverage, while the stick is sometimes a dead death.
In several cases, prominent Iraqi figures complained of the “dry” way of McGurk in dealing with them , while such complaints were not recorded in the case of Sulaimani. Following a meeting in Erbil between the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Massoud Barzani and the US envoy, Kurdish media quoted details of the dialogue between the two men ,and it revealed the grumbling of the prominent Kurdish leader of the rigidity of McGurk . Kurdish media reported that Barzani tried to convey his complaint from McGråk to the US State Department or President Trump’s office, but was surprised by the strong support of these two centers of the “efforts of the envoy in helping Iraq to form a strong government” . It seems that the image refers to the “kindness” of Sulaimani, in the face of the “intensity” of McGurk. But the truth is that the Iraqi politicians who deal with Soleimani do not dare criticize him in public, because the punishment, according to Iraqi officials familiar with the scenes of this kind of meeting, may reach to their physical liquidation.
At the level of public appearance, McGurk preferred to reveal the moment of his arrival in Baghdad, hinting at the possible consultations without going into detail, while Sulaimani preferred to leak news of his meetings with Iraqi politicians after the end of the session of negotiations with them, and perhaps after leaving the country. Observers say that the the behavior of Trump’s envoy is not separated from the context of the arrogance that covers the performance of American officials when it comes to dealing with Third World countries, while the behavior of the commander of the Quds Force indicates the pragmatism pursued by Iranian politics while it is engaged in a dangerous confrontation with the United States. Observers say the current situation in the negotiations for the formation of the new government in Iraq represents the height of the competition between the United States and Iran in the region, with both sides seeking to extend their influence on the most important capitals, and Baghdad in the forefront. Therefore, observers believe that the fierce competition between McGurk and Sulaimani is likely to continue till the closure of the file of the new Iraqi government, which its shape ill announce about the winner of the battle between Washington and Tehran.
In all cases, the battle of the Iraqi political forces to achieve the independence of the national decision will not be easy. Iran has invested most of its efforts during the last two decades in keeping Iraq weak and dependent, and it will become more important for it politically and economically in the next phase, under the conditions of the return of the US embargo and sanctions. Iran is apparently going to turn Iraq, like Syria and Lebanon, to a third line in its security and defense strategy. According to media reports, it has armed factions of the popular crowd with missiles with a range of up to 700 km., this means that the battle of independence of Iraq will be more difficult and more urgent at the same time.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies