Friday, February 17, 2006

Bumpy road ahead to Iraq's first full government

16 Feb 2006 13:37:36 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Lin Noueihed
BAGHDAD, Feb 16 (Reuters) - It could be weeks or even months before Iraqis get their first full-term government since the ousting of Saddam Hussein, with political factions wrangling over top ministries and conflicting visions of Iraq's future.
"I think this process will take until at least the middle of next month," said Abbas al-Bayati, a Turkmen Shi'ite Muslim who belongs to the dominant United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
"There are two main problems: getting all the parties to agree on a government programme, which may take time, and the distribution of portfolios, especially key ministries such as interior, defence and foreign affairs."

Shias pick kingpin

Turkoman parliamentarian Fawzi Akram told Al-Ahram Weekly that, "because of the rivalry between Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Al-Jaafari, the United Iraqi Alliance decided to put the matter to a vote. In the vote, which took place at the headquarters of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Al-Jaafari got 64 votes and Abdul- Mahdi 63 votes... Al-Jaafari has the support of the Al-Sadr group, a block that has 30 parliamentary seats."
AL-AHRAM weekly

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Iraqi Kurds Take Tough Stance on Kirkuk

Wednesday February 15, 2006 1:01 AM
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Kurdish political chiefs led by President Jalal Talabani warned Shiite leaders Tuesday that a deal on the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk would be their key demand in talks on forming the country's next government.
Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni Arab leaders met in the most intensive discussions over the next government since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari narrowly won a ballot last week to be the dominant Shiite alliance's candidate to retain the premiership.
Talabani also met with al-Jaafari's coalition ally, top Shiite political leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, whose candidate to be the next premier, Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, lost by one vote to al-Jaafari.
Talabani said his Kurdish coalition's key demand in the government talks concerned Kirkuk, particularly implementation of the constitution's Article 136, which calls for a census to be held there followed by a referendum on whether it should be part of the Kurdish self-ruled Kurdistan region.
``The Kurdish Coalition has no demands except those which are known by everyone regarding the need to implement Article 136 of the constitution ... considering Kirkuk,'' a statement released by Talabani's office said.
Prominent Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said the constitution's Kirkuk clause is ``nonnegotiable.''
However, Arabs and Turkomen oppose the Kurds taking sole control of Kirkuk, the center of Iraq's vast northern oil fields. Control of Kirkuk is among the most intractable issues facing Iraq because of the conflicting ethnic claims.
Al-Jaafari, meanwhile, vowed Tuesday to work in ``accordance with the constitution'' and maintain his ``good, long and deep relations with the Kurds,'' particularly Talabani. The two have often been at odds over various issues.
Kurds complain that al-Jaafari's outgoing government failed to honor promises about the status of Kirkuk. Saddam Hussein deported tens of thousands of Kurds from the Kirkuk area and replaced them by Iraqi Arabs.
Talabani also said he wants the next government to include the Iraqi National List of former premier Ayad Allawi, who has close ties with the United States and has been touted as a possible interior minister.
Sunni Arabs oppose hard-line Shiites like current minister Bayan Jabr claiming the Interior Ministry amid accusations Shiite-led security forces have been killing and kidnapping Sunnis in a wave of sectarian violence.
But some Shiite leaders, including allies of radical cleric and al-Jaafari ally Muqtada al-Sadr, also oppose Allawi taking a senior government post, seeing it as a ``red line'' issue. Al-Sadr supporters reject Allawi because he directed Iraqi security forces in campaigns against al-Sadr militiamen in Najaf and eastern Baghdad in 2004 and early 2005.
But in his talks with Talabani, al-Hakim said there were no ``red lines'' on any bloc taking part in the government, a reference to Allawi's group.
The U.S. wants Iraq's various political groups to form a national unity government that gives key positions to Sunni Arabs, who form the backbone of the raging insurgency. Sunni satisfaction with the political process is seen as a way to end the violence.
Much of the battle over the new government will come down to numbers. Talabani's coalition has tapped him to take the presidency again, but he needs two-thirds of the 275-seat parliament to support his nomination.
Al-Jaafari's alliance holds 130 seats, not enough to form a government on its own. The Kurds, Allawi's list and a Sunni Arab bloc hold a total of 133 seats. Any government will be approved only after intense bartering.
Under the constitution, the new president calls on the largest bloc's candidate for prime minister - that being al-Jaafari - to form a Cabinet, which requires a simple majority of the assembly to be approved.
The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday welcomed the final results of the Iraqi election and called on political leaders to form ``a fully inclusive government'' that will strive to build a democratic and united country.
The council condemned acts of terrorism in Iraq and urged those who continue to use violence ``to lay down their arms.'' It said terrorist acts ``should not be allowed to disrupt Iraq's political and economic progress.''

Iraq: More trouble brews as new government takes shape

DOHA, Qatar (IPS/GIN) - Six weeks after parliamentary elections, occupied Iraq is still struggling to establish a viable government amid increasing violence and instability.
The results of the Dec. 15 elections have still to be finalized, 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. Since 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 government.
The Kurdish Alliance won 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. The Sunni coalition, which boycotted the Jan. 30 election last year and continues to contest the latest election results, won 58 seats.
Former interim prime minister and alleged CIA asset Iyad Allawi managed only 25 seats through his al-Iraqiyah slate, a huge setback to the occupying powers’ plans for a secular Iraq. This means that the government will be dominated by a pro-Tehran Shia alliance, 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 were to be attacked by a foreign power.
In a strange twist of fate, this means that U.S. policymakers are leaning now toward the more secular Sunni groups, some of which claim that Saddam Hussein was a secular Sunni.
U.S. officials, including Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, have been accused by Shia groups of “reaching out” to Sunni Arabs in an effort to counter the 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 decentralization, 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 to counter plans for such federalism.
Disputes continue also over control of ministries. Sunnis continue to oppose Shia control of the Ministry of Interior. Sunni leaders say Shia militias are regularly being used as death squads in Sunni areas of Baghdad and Fallujah. Shia leaders have said they will not surrender any ministry that controls Iraq’s security forces. Shias also control the defense ministry.
“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.”

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kurdish Name for Historically Turkmen City Altınkopru

Kurdish Name for Goldenbridge (Altinkopru)
The name of the Kirkuk town, Altinkopru, was changed on new guideboards by the Kurdish Administration in North Iraq.
Historically known as a Turkmen town, the town was given the Kurdish name “Pirde” that means “bridge” in English. The officials declined to comment on this change of name that occurred almost two days ago. The Turkmen here said hundreds of people died for Altinkopru during the Saddam Hussein regime. They also argued that the Kurdish political parties are looking for ways of including Altinkopru in the map of Kurdistan.