BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Last week was a very busy one for Iraqi politicians, with Erbil once again being the center of attention.
Ayad Allawi, head of the Iraqiya bloc, Muqtada Sadr, head of the Sadrist Trend, and Adil Abdulmahdi, senior official with the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council, all visited Erbil and met with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani.
Separately, Barzani met with head of the Change Movement (Gorran) Nawshirwan Mustafa and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
News leaked from the meetings that Talabani and Barzani had reached an agreement on solving the current problems within the principles of the Erbil Agreement. Talabani and Barzani have pointed to the significance of meeting with Iraqi leaders until an agreement is reached on how to tackle the problems that have brought the country’s political process to a standstill.
The Iraqiya bloc attended four of the five Erbil meetings. Dr. Fuad Masoum, head of the Kurdistani Coalition in Iraqi Parliament, told Rudaw, “The last meeting cannot be considered part of the preparation for a national consensus meeting since one of the major parties did not attend.”
Dr. Masoum added, “We suggested all Iraqi political parties comply with the provisions of the Erbil Agreement. Ninety percent of the Erbil Agreement covers nationwide issues. We asked the National Alliance to bring their concerns to the negotiation table and for the Iraqiya bloc to do the same. Then the Iraqi president can assess the concerns, talk to the parties and set a date for a national consensus meeting.”
Moayad Teyib, spokesperson for the Kurdistani Coalition, says a national consensus meeting is the best option for addressing Iraqi issues, but added, “In the last meeting, we refused to reach an agreement on holding the national consensus meeting due to the absence of the Iraqiya bloc.”
Shakir Daraji, an Iraqi MP from the National Alliance (Shia) and senior official in the Iraqi prime minister’s Dawa Party says the Iraqiya bloc’s absence at the meeting was unjustified and that had a number of conditions for participating at the last minute.
“The discussions were going well, but the Iraqiya bloc is interested in escalating conflict. They do not want the meetings to go well. At each meeting, the Iraqiya bloc brings a new set of conditions. This shows that the Iraqiya bloc is not honest about their demands and do not want progress,” Daraji says.
Daraji thinks that the Iraqiya tries to use the Kurdistan Region president, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to gain political points.
“But political issues cannot be solved this way. The issues can only be solved in Iraq, not outside Iraqi borders,” he says.
Nahida Daini, an MP from the Iraqiya bloc, disagrees with Daraji, saying, “The Iraqiya bloc has never been assured that the Erbil Agreement will be implemented, which is why we refused to participate in the last meeting,” she said. “We were the first party to call for a national consensus meeting.”
During a visit to the United States earlier this month, Barzani stated that he would bring Iraqi leaders together in Erbil when he returned to Kurdistan. Most Iraqi leaders, among them Muqtada Sadr met in Erbil this week with the exception of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s party officials.
Daraji says Dawa Party senior officials refused to participate in the meeting for two reasons “Firstly, recent statements by President Barzani show that he is not impartial to the issues; he has taken sides and therefore cannot play a mediator’s role. Secondly, if the meeting takes place in Erbil, some individuals will attend that we do not want at the meeting.”
A political analyst says the real reason behind Maliki’s party’s refusal is that they may face undesirable circumstances if they attend the meeting -- Iraqi parties might agree in Erbil to withdraw confidence from the Maliki cabinet.
Maliki’s coalition has described Barzani’s initiative as an attempt to disregard Talabani’s plans, but Dr. Masoum told Rudaw, “Talabani and Barzani are in complete agreement on the issues.”
Baha Aaraji, head of Sadr’s Ahrar Trend, describes Barzani’s initiative as “significant”.
“The Kurdistan president’s initiative allows political parties to voice their concerns and thus prepares them for a national consensus meeting, a meeting that Talabani has called for as well,” he says.
Teyib, spokesperson for the Kurdistani Coalition, told Rudaw, “The initiatives of both Talabani and Barzani have the same end. They both aim at solving the current Iraqi crisis. They both agree that the best roadmap to reach a solution is to comply with the Erbil Agreement.”
Political analysts believe the Kurdistan president does not intend to “checkmate” Maliki -- to borrow a term from chess – but simply to put him in “check” since there is no better alternative.
Teyib added that forming a new coalition with the Iraqiya bloc was not feasible under the current situation, as some of the groups in the bloc have conflicting opinions to those of the Kurds. “We have some common ground with the Iraqiya bloc, but we also still have some with our former allies in the PM’s coalition,” he said.
The Iraqiya bloc’s statements regarding the removal of Maliki are seen more as a way to put pressure on the Iraqi PM, rather than genuinely attempt to remove him from his post.
Daraji says forming a new alliance between the Iraqiya bloc, Kurds and the Sadrist Trend is more a dream than a real possibility.
“The Sadrist Trend has no intention of withdrawing confidence from Maliki’s government,” Daraji said, adding that during Maliki’s visit to Iran he was assured by Sadr that the group supports the prime minister’s coalition. My link