“Faced with little choice if he hoped to preserve his political bloc, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, the head of the largely Sunni-backed bloc of Iraqiya, grudgingly agreed to support Mr Maliki’s bid for Iraq’s top job,” reports suggest, “in spite of no real concessions from the Shiite leader to share power.”
The deal ends the months-long political stalemate, apparently without the power-sharing arrangements that many considered essential to breaking the deadlock.
“It looks a lot like the old government,” said a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Allawi’s party will assume the post of parliament speaker and the chair of a new National Council for Strategic Policy, but that body’s powers have yet to be determined. Iraqiya officials reportedly “sounded shocked and defeated” as the deal was announced.
“There was too much pressure from our own political groups. Unfortunately a deal was made, and now we have to concentrate on the ministries,” said a leading parliamentarian from the Iraqiya bloc. “We didn’t want Iraqiya to split, and our negotiating team failed.”
The negotiations ended on a rancorous note, reports suggest:
“Even if there are differences it should be remembered that we are in the same boat,” Maliki said after Allawi failed to show up at Tuesday’s meeting.
“But if these differences are not managed responsibly they can easily degenerate into conflict,” Maliki said against the background of a flare-up in violence that some leaders blame on the power vacuum.
“We must take up the challenges that arise, not allow conspirators to return and put their hand into all that we have achieved,” Maliki said in an apparent barb at Allawi, [a former Baathist].
Many observers were concerned that the stand-off had created a political vacuum which Iraq’s neighbors were exploiting. Iran is emerging as the country’s principal power broker, writes Zalmay Khalilzad, a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.
This year’s elections initially appeared to be a setback for Tehran when former premier Allawi’s Iraqiya won the most seats, writes the former US Ambassador to Baghdad. But the Iranians rallied and are actively fostering sectarianism while pushing their sympathizers into positions of power and influence.
Amid growing disillusion with democracy, there was a serious risk that the Sunni minority would abandon constitutional politics and revert to sectarian violence.
It remains to be seen whether the new dispensation will address Sunni fears of marginalization.