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Update No: 087 - (27/06/10)

The tug-of-war continues
The alliance of Maliki’s State of Law coalition with the other leading Shiite alliance in May has not managed to break the political deadlock in the formation of the new cabinet. Apart from having still to decide on the name of the Prime Minister, there are other issues still outstanding. The negotiations over the formation of a new cabinet stalled over the inclusion of the Iraqiya coalition, led by Allawi but mainly composed of Sunnis. Allawi insists that he should be Prime Minister, following the narrow majority that his coalition gained at the polls. A proposal to reduce the powers of the Prime Minister in order to facilitate coalition making was initially rejected by Maliki, who argues that a strong premiership is needed in order to keep the country together and avoid a new civil war. The Americans have been trying to mediate, but so far without apparent success. Around mid-June Maliki seems to have abandoned his prejudicial position and the two Shiite groups announced that they had found a compromise over the powers of the Prime Minister. Exactly what the compromise consisted of was not clear at the time of writing, but it seems to feature at least the establishment of three deputy prime ministerial positions, coming from different factions and each in charge of one of three major portfolios -- security, finance and services. The Shiites claim that two Sunni groups have also agreed to the deal, but did not specify which ones. It is assumed that the Kurds will be party to any coalition which will form, but the problem is not merely one of having a majority in the parliament.

Re-awakening the war?
The Awakening militias linked to Iraqiya have been threatening violence in case their representatives were not included in the ruling coalition. At the same time the Shiite militias linked to Muqtada As-Sadr have reappeared on the streets in recent weeks, prompting fear of a new sectarian war. The Sadrist claim that they want to defend the Shiite community from Al Qaida’s attacks but also threaten to resume the fight if the US forces will not quit the country entirely. Al-Qaida is trying to re-ignite the sectarian conflict by targeting government building and Shiites with terrorist attacks. At the same time the tribes are trying to reassert themselves politically, with some of them demanding now a nationwide tribal council which could function as an upper house of parliament; the political party leaders might not like the tribes, but need their support and have to listen. The neighbouring countries are intervening in the Iraqi political debate heavy-handedly, Iran and Saudi Arabia more than anybody else. Few doubt that Iran had a hand in favouring the reconciliation between the two main Shiite alliances; Saudi Arabia does not hide its support for Iraqiya and Allawi.

Next round of bidding in September
The Iraqi government continues to trump big plans for the oil and gas sector. It has announced the building of four new refineries, which will allow Iraq to become self-sufficient in fuel. In September, a new tender will open, concerning three natural gas fields to be developed. Iraq and Turkey have just renewed the deal on the use of the northern Iraqi pipeline, which supplies oil to Turkey, for another 12 years. Iraq tried to renegotiate the conditions, with only, limited success.

In the meanwhile the shortage of electricity is becoming a political issue, as the summer begins and air conditioning is rarely available to common Iraqis. In Basra street protests took place in June, with protesters demanding the resignation of the electricity minister. At the same time water shortages are hurting the agricultural sector, as dams in the upstream countries, Turkey and Syria, have reduced the flow in the Tigris and the Euphrates, while many Iraqis are also facing shortages of water for their personal use. Large amounts of water will also be needed by the oil industry in the future to be pumped into the ground to maintain pressure in the fields. This is likely to lead to longer term strains between Iraq and its neighbours.

 



 

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