Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Iraq Political Situation, Post Elections

If you've been remiss, you should be reading ITM (Iraq the Model) on a regular basis to get the 411 on the Iraq political situation. I'll put this simply so we can all have an idea of how the process is working.

First, there are 275 seats in the assembly. 230 seats are given through the election based on "governates" who are assigned number of representative seats based on the population of the area. There are 45 seats held for the "national" level which will give a seat to each party that meets the minimum number of votes based on an average cast per seat. So, if the average # votes per seat was 6,800 and generic party XYZ did not win in the general election by a majority, but received at least 6,800 votes, then they will be given one of the national seats.

This was created to insure that the minority parties would not be completely shut out of the political process.

The Shi'ite UIA party did win a majority of votes and are likely to get 130 seats (give or take a few based on final results) and this is largely from the southern provinces as well as some mixed results in and around Baghdad. As you can see, with 275 total seats, 130 gives them just under 50% of the assembly (46% approximately). In order to form the government, any group needs 50% or more. In order for the selected people to become president, prime minister and vice presidents (not to mention ministers of each department) they need 2/3 or 66% approval from the assembly.

This means that, while the UIA forms the largest block, they can't form the government on their own. However, it also means that, even if all the minority parties band together, they can't form the government or get any of their members elected to top office they can't do it with out the UIA.

In fact, while there have been many screams about a Shi'ite Islamist government taking over the Iraq government, the fact is, while the party might be strong in government, they can't rule without the cooperation of the other parties. Of course, with a strong showing this election, they can insist that they have a mandate from their supporters to press certain issues such as maintaining or increasing the level of Sharia Islamic law in the constitution or, more likely, federalist Shia south which would probably be a lot less free and safe than Kurdistan and try to make deals with Iran if the central government is not strong enough to hold the country together and insist on only negotiations with foreign countries through the central government.

However, in late 2004, the Kurds may have already set a bad precedent by making deals with foreign countries concerning their oil.

Here's something to remember. The UIA was originally a conglomerate of Shia parties, but post December 2005 elections, the group made all of their members sign an agreement that effectively makes them one large party that members cannot stray from or seek to vote independently on issues without suffering some sort of censure or sanction from the party. I think most people watching Iraq knew this was coming and actually assumed it was already the case. This just makes it official.

In the mean time, both the Kurdish party and the Sunni Accord party made decent showings that make them both important swing parties in the assembly. ITM has the unofficial results here:

UIA: 130 seats.
Accord Front: 42 seats.
Kurdish alliance: 52 seats.
Iraqi list (Allawi): 25 seats.
Dialogue Front (al-Mutlaq): 11 seats.
Islamic Union of Kurdistan: 5 seats.
Reconciliation and Liberation Front (Mish’an al-Juboori): 3 seats.
Each of Mithal al-Alusi, Risalioon (Sadrists), Rafidain (Christians) and Turkmen Front won 1 seat.
3 remaining seats will go to other religious/ethnic minorities, probably Mendaeen, Ezedyeen.

The three parties now trying to form up their own similar group to the UIA were the Accord front, the Iraq List and Dialogue. This would give them 78 seats in total, the next largest block. These groups signed an accord called "Maram" which is the group insisting there was voter fraud. There probably was, but IBC has done some basic calculations and concluded that, whatever fraud there might have been would not substantively change the outcome of the election.

It seems that the Accord Front has made the same calculation and has met with the Kurds and the UIA in the north looking to make their mark. They have determined that, if the UIA and the Kurds come together, they will have, not just a majority, but nearly enough, minus a vote or two get 2/3 votes for leadership and cabinet connection which would have shut out the Sunni/Secular groups. The Accord will now leave Allawi's group and Mutlaq in the dust as they become the third power broder party. Allawis list and Mutlaq will want to work with the Accord to insure their issues are considered. As the outside parties, they are the pressure wing (like Reid, Waxman and Pelosi for the Democrats) who can keep insisting that there was fraud and making noises about continuing security problems if their demands aren't met while the Accord Front plays the broker.

It's important to remember that some insurgents (non-foreign fighter elements) are probably loosely associate with the Accord Front which has links to the Islamic Scholars Association (Sunni clerics). The ISA has been instrumental in negotiating the release of hostages or at least in relaying demands. It's been noted that the group (ISA) has probably taken "fees" from the ransom in these cases though some is speculation at this time.

An important factor to remember is that during each election cycle, as the Sunni groups participated more and more fully in the elections and received more political acknowledgement, less and less violence has been perpetrated during each election. It could be said that the Sunni parties actually have controlling power over the Al Qaida groups which makes sense since that violence was also curtailed during elections and Al Qaida is subject to the good graces of their Sunni hosts.

This is both a good and a bad sign. The bad is, of course, that this group has made any association with Al Qaida and thus is complicit in their crimes of mass murder, beheadings and torture. The good sign is two fold.

First, that the Sunni political parties controlling the violence of Al Qaida means that they recognize that al Qaida does not represent a political alternative in Iraq and that the Sunni groups still identify themselves as Iraqi, living in Iraq and participating in Iraq politics. Al Qaida is being used for the politicians own ends.

Which brings the second good news, if the Sunni can be brought fully into the political process and feel secure, they can control, if not expel, the al Qaida terrorists.

The unfortunate issue here is that these groups still feel insecure in Iraq, particularly with the Shia pushing for a federal southern Shia state. This would mean that the Kurds and the Shia control most of the natural resources as well as have access to ports and other nations where they can export. The Sunni would have little natural resources except farming and agriculture, would be dependent on the other federal states for their fuel, electricity, etc and would essentially be stuck trying to work something with the Syrians or Jordan, neither of which have the kind of economy that would make Sunni Iraq a good economic partner (particularly, with Syrians getting sanctioned left and right for their other activities).

On the otherhand, federalist or not, the Kurds and the Shia also have problems should they try to go it alone or make their federalist states more powerful than the central government, they will be left in difficult positions with their surrounding neighbors. The Kurds have problems with both Iran and Turkey, with Kurdish minorities in both countries getting support from Kurdish Iraq. The Shia might have relations with the Iranians, but they have Sunni dominated nations on their borders (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait). So, as much as these areas may want more autonomy from central Iraq and feel more secure with a weak central government, without a compact of centralized, strong federal government, that insures mutual protection, these groups are equally in danger.

What this means is, contrary to calls that the state of Iraq is going to fall into chaos and civil war, there is much incentive for these groups to work together and come to a good economic and security compact for government.

It looks like it's going to be al-Jaafari as Prime Minister, a Kurd as President and Sunni Vice presidents and ministers. The Sunni's however, have a problem with getting near anything like the defense, interior or oil ministries since the Kurds and Shia rightly surmise that the Sunni groups control of these areas would likely result in further infiltration of insurgent or terrorist elements into these organizations resulting in important information on bases, equipment, troop movements, intelligence efforts and protection or output of oil. None of which is conducive to improved central government, economy or security.

The Kurds and Shia aren't wrong in these assumptions either because it is true already without Sunni control and it is obvious that the Sunni political parties have great influence over the insurgency.

On the other hand, as long as the Sunni are shut out of the three major ministries that control large amounts of money and influence. If the Sunni could feel that they are part of the important decisions by having control of an important ministry, then they might not feel shut out of the political process.

These are probably part of the negotiations going on as each group goes to Kurdistan and discusses the political situation, demands and possible outcomes. In the mean time, the insurgency continues, though at a lower level which means that the Sunni are going to keep using it for power brokerage.

The end of the insurgency is completely an Iraqi political problem which may be why we are considering withdrawing from Iraq significant numbers of troops in 2006. These groups must settle it for themselves and that includes, to a large extent, the existence of Al Qaida in Iraq. Of course, because Al Qaida is our main concern, we will continue to persue them, even in Iraq, which is why we were not adverse to taking the fight to the Al Anbar province since these political groups have AQ in their pockets. We are most likely putting pressure on these other political groups through carrot and stick, more money or less money, investments and trading or none, physical protection from internal and external enemies or none.

This is the part that America now plays and why it is important for our State Department to take a continuing advance position in the negotiations and settlement of Iraq.

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