London, Asharq Al-Awsat – At the time that leader of the Iraqiya bloc, Iyad Allawi, and Iraqi Vice President and National Iraqi Alliance [NIA] prime ministerial nominee Adel Abdel-Mahdi are scheduled to travel to the capital of the Kurdistan region to meet with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, media sources in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] have revealed that PUK leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is also set to meet with Barzani tomorrow in order to discuss the latest developments in the ongoing negotiations to form the new government of Iraq.
The Kurdish sources, who are close to the Kurdistan Region presidency, did not rule out Barzani inviting Talabani, Allawi, and Abdul-Mahdi “to a joint meeting; implementing the initiative of the Kurdistan Region president to bring together all the blocs that won seats at the elections in order to resolve the issues towards forming a government, not to mention that the Iraqiya bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [ISCI] have expressed their support for this initiative.”
In this regard, an official source within the NIA which is led by Ammar al-Hakim, who is also the leader of the ISCI, has revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat the presence of “great Iranian pressure on the leader of the ISCI to agree on the nomination of Nuri al-Maliki, leader of the State of Law coalition [SLC] and head of the outgoing government, for the position of prime minister, and withdraw the nomination of Dr. Adel Abdel-Mahdi for this position.” The NIA official added “Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim remains steadfast in the face of this pressure, and will not yield to this, especially after he said last week that ‘we will not accept being false witnesses for a failed government’ renewing his complete rejection to participating in a government that is led by al-Maliki.”
This NIA official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity via telephone from Baghdad yesterday, also confirmed that “Iranian pressure is being exerted upon the leader of the ISCI [Ammar al-Hakim] from two directions; firstly, support for al-Maliki’s nomination for the post of prime ministerial, and secondly, attempting to convince the Iraqiya bloc and the Kurdistan Alliance to participate in this government.” The NIA official added “this pressure is in the name of preserving the unity of the Shiites and not wasting the power that is in his hands. [This is] in order to make Sayyed al-Hakim feel as if he is sacrificing the unity of the Shiites in the interests of his own party.”
The NIA official also said that “al-Maliki, who is working to win over the neighboring Arab countries, [as well as] Egypt, Turkey, and Iran, with regards to his prime ministerial nomination, is also – at the same time – seeking to take advantage of these countries, including Iran, to pressure Allawi to participate in a government that he [al-Maliki] is expected to head, especially after Moqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Sadrist trend, informed him in Qom that he will not support a government that does not include Iraqiya bloc participation.”
The NIA source added that “al-Sadr informed al-Maliki that he supported his nomination under strong Iranian pressure and that he has agreed a specific timeframe with Tehran for this support [of al-Maliki] to end.” The source also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “al-Sadr informed al-Maliki that if he did not reside in Iran he would not have supported his prime ministerial nomination.”
The NIA official added “it is very difficult to predict al-Sadr’s position, especially after he [previously] announced his support for Allawi, and then Adel Abdel-Mahdi, for the position of prime minister, strongly rejecting dialogue with al-Maliki or meeting with him to support his prime ministerial nomination, describing him [al-Maliki] as a liar [before later announcing his support for al-Maliki’s nomination]. The source noted that “[in light of this] al-Sadr could withdraw his support for al-Maliki at any time, and without prior notice.”
In addition to this, a source within Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc has revealed that “the agreement between the Iraqiya bloc and the ISCI, that relates to support for the nomination of Adel Abdel-Mahdi for the post of prime minister, is built on the basis that the ISCI will discuss Allawi being granted the position of Iraqi president [usually reserved for Kurdish candidates] with the Kurdish electoral blocs, with Allawi [also] being granted greater [presidential] powers.”
The Iraqiya bloc source added that “the Iraqiya bloc were the victors at the elections, winning 91 parliamentary seats, and it is not reasonable for the Iraqiya bloc to waive its electoral and constitutional right [to head a government] in favour of the ISCI without receiving anything [in return].”
Commenting on this revelation, the NIA official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed that “Yes, such an agreement exists, however we believe that al-Hakim feels embarrassed to ask the Kurds to give up the position of president, especially after they [the NIA] informed the Kurdish negotiation delegation of their agreement to their 19-point initiative.” The official added that “the meeting between Abdel-Mahdi, Allawi, and Barzani will settle this issue, and perhaps move forward the formation of the government.”
The Kurdistan bloc’s negotiation delegation returned to Arbil today to meet with Kurdistan Region President Barzani and inform him of the recent developments in their negotiations with the Baghdad electoral blocs, according to unnamed sources in the Iraqi media.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Rafi al-Issawi, who is also the head of the Iraqiya bloc’s negotiating committee – along with Iraqiya bloc senior member Mohamed Allawi visited the Kurdistan bloc’s negotiation delegation leader Rowsch Nuri Shaways on Wednesday. According to a statement from al-Issawi’s office, this meeting focused upon a range of issues, most notably the results of the first meeting between the two parties which took place on Monday, and explaining the initiation that was put forward by Barzani to bring together the representatives of all political blocs in a serious attempt to overcome obstacles and facilitate the formation of a new government.
Al-Issawi also praised the position taken by the Kurdish blocs and their striving to bridge the gap in views between the various electoral bloc, referring in particular to the document put forward by the Iraqiya bloc and which includes a clear vision on forming the new government of Iraq.