London/Arbil, Asharq Al-Awsat- A source in Al-Iraqiya List, which is led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has cast doubts on reports of a change in Syria’s stand toward the nomination of outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for a second term.
A source in the List told Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Baghdad yesterday: “We have not heard these reports and no official stand on this matter has been issued.” It stressed that “the formation of the Iraqi government is an absolute Iraqi affair that is not subject to foreign interventions despite the Iranian pressures backing a certain party in the political process and seeking to impose him on the other political blocs and even on Al-Iraqiya List which came first in the legislative elections and has 91 seats in parliament.” The source, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, added that “Iraq is part of the Arab homeland and its Arab neighbors have the right to express their opinion of issues that concern the interest of Iraq and their interests, especially as our country is an important factor in the Arab and international equations. Seeking opinions is necessary and stems from a fraternal concern.”
As to a change in the Syrian stand toward Al-Maliki, the source said: “The Syrian leadership is free to take its political stands that serve the interests of its country and people. All changes are possible in politics though we regard such a change happening unlikely even if it came by Iranian mediations. We know the Syrian leadership’s principled stand on Al-Iraqiya’s right to form the government in accordance with the Iraqi constitution.”
On his part, an Iraqi political observer living in Damascus said “it is difficult for the Syrian leadership to support Al-Maliki or stand with him, especially after he had turned his back on it and accused it of being behind the bloody Wednesday bombings which shook Baghdad last year.” He pointed out that the Syrians “do not trust Al-Maliki because he attacked them two days after signing a strategic treaty with the Syrian leadership in Damascus last year.” The observer, who opted to remain unidentified for security reasons, went on to say: “The Syrians are surprised by the stands of Al-Maliki, whom Damascus sheltered during his years of opposing the Iraqi regime, took care of him, and protected his life only for him to attack the Syrian leadership after all this.” He pointed out that “Al-Maliki stated at one of his private meetings that he would revenge himself from Syria because it humiliated him during his stay in Damascus and this remark was leaked to the Syrian leadership and annoyed it very much.”
The reports about a change in the Syrian stand toward the issue of Al-Maliki staying as prime minister came after Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji al-Itri telephoned Al-Maliki before three days. It was the first contact between a high-level Syrian official and Al-Maliki since the severance of contacts between the two sides in August 2009.
The Iraqi political observer pointed out that “Al-Maliki sent several messages to the Syrian leadership and dispatched members from his coalition, the State of Law Coalition [SLC], or officials from his government in an attempt to repair relations so as to win the Syrian stand in the battle for the prime minister’s post. Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi Government’s official spokesman, and SLC member Izzat al-Shabandar were among those he had sent to Damascus.”
On the other hand, Saleh al-Mutlak, leader of the National Dialogue Front that is part of Al-Iraqiya List, called on the Kurdish leaders “not to side with a sectarian government” and said “there might be an immediate interest for the Kurds’ participation in such a government but they must understand that forming this government will inflict the worst damage on Iraq’s future and take it back to square one in the sectarian conflict.”
Al-Mutlak was talking to the local Kurdish “Khandan” website and pointed to the concessions that some figures in Al-Iraqiya List known for their extremism against the Kurdish people have started to make to please the Kurdish side and said: “These concessions are needed at this stage because we are going through critical times. The Kurdish people are the sons of this homeland and any harm to them is harm to us too.” He added: “The Kurdish leaders must think of all the Iraqis’ interest at this sensitive stage and not just the Kurdish people alone.”
Meanwhile, a leading figure in the Kurdish Alliance asserted in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Kurds realize the sensitivity of the current situation. They have exerted strenuous efforts to bring together the parties concerned with the government crisis but no one is listening to them despite the Kurds’ concern for the higher Iraqi interest. In such conditions, the Kurdish leadership presented its principal demands as stipulated in the working paper of 19 points which was presented to all the political blocs that won in the elections. This paper became the basis that the Kurdish negotiating delegation relies on. We have announced repeatedly that we will stand with any bloc that commits itself to implementing this paper and meets our demands and will take part with it in a political alliance aimed at forming the new government and ending the present crisis.” The source, which asked not to be named, went on to say: “It seems that the ongoing struggle between the major blocs over forming the government is larger than we thought. We believe there is an actual need for foreign interventions for solving this crisis before it turns into sectarian violence, especially with the exchange of accusations between the blocs’ leaders.”