London, Asharq Al-Awsat – The political manoeuvring in Iraq between the political leaders and electoral blocs over the past two days has intensified amid signs of an imminent breakthrough between the Iraqi electoral blocs regarding the formation of the next Iraqi government. In this context, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani visited Ayad Allawi, the winner of the Iraqi elections and leader of the Iraqiya List.
Talabani’s visit to Allawi at his political office on Wednesday afternoon comes as no surprise, and a senior figure in Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the relationship between Talabani and Allawi is solid. This includes long decades of joint political action and struggle, and Allawi [previously] visited Talabani in Dokan [in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan].”
The senior official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the telephone from Baghdad Wednesday added that “details about what was said between Allawi and Talabani have not been revealed, [but] they met alone for more than one hour without the attendance of any aides or [other] politicians. All we know is that they discussed the nature of the situation in Iraq, pacifying the media, and working to form a joint partnership government.”
During the press conference that took place between Talabani and Allawi, the Iraqi President confirmed that his meeting with the head of the Iraqiya list “took place in order to clear the air and unify the positions between the political blocs in order to pave the way for the formation of the next Iraqi government.” Talabani also said that his relationship with Allawi “is an old relationship; we are friends and understand one another.” Political circles in Iraq interpreted this statement as representing an important step towards an alliance with the Iraqiya List.
For his part, Allawi said, “The [Iraqiya] List commissioned a high-level delegation to visit neighbouring states, including Iran, in order to discuss and explain the position of the Iraqiya List to form a government. We also appeal to these states not to interfere in Iraqi affairs, and for this relationship [with the neighbouring states] to be built on the principles of cooperation with the regional countries, because any violation of Iraqi sovereignty would mean a violation of that country’s sovereignty.”
Allawi also stated that his goal is not to become prime minister or president because the people who voted for him, or for the other [Iraqiya] leaders such as Tariq al-Hashimi and Rafi al-Issawi, were voting for Iraqi unity, and in order to change a government that had failed to grant the Iraqi citizens their rights, root out sectarianism, and raise Iraq to the level of major countries.
According to an official source involved in the negotiations, the political meetings and negotiations with regards to forming a government can be described as an endless game that until now has only resulted in “dead ends.” The source revealed that the lines of these negotiations even surpass the borders of Iraq and reach Iran, particularly in view of the high-level Iraqi delegation led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani who visited Tehran last week. This delegation also included Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and senior members of al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The official reason behind the invitation of this Iraqi delegation to Tehran was in order to participate in the Iranian celebrations of the Nowruz festival however a number of sources revealed that unofficial talks addressing the issue of the formation of the next Iraqi government were held on the sidelines of these celebrations.
However Iraqiya bloc spokesman Maysoon al-Damluji informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iraqiya bloc’s lines of negotiation extend even further and include “all neighbouring Arab countries, in addition to Turkey and Iran.” Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone from Baghdad, al-Damluji also revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Rafi al-Issawi is set to “lead a high-level delegation, and he is expecting an invitation from Iran.”
Negotiations between the Iraqi political blocs, especially the Shia blocs, have reached a standstill due to the failure to reach an agreement over the formation of the next Iraqi government, as well as who will be the next Prime Minister of Iraq. A senior figure in the Iraqi National Alliance told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the talks that took place between the Iraqi National Alliance [INA], the State of Law coalition, the Sadrist trend, and the Kurdistan Alliance, have not produced any results” adding that “it is hard to predict or be optimistic about reaching a positive result.”
The senior INA official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, also revealed that “there are disagreements over the names put forward for the premiership of the next government” adding “there is an Iranian rejection of Allawi as Prime Minister, although others are of the opinion that the head of the Iraqiya bloc has Arab weight, and he has strong relationships with a number of Arab and even Western leaders, and he is also the leader of the electoral bloc that won the elections.” The official also said that “it is very difficult for the political blocs to agree on any name put forward, however everybody is in agreement on the rejection of discussing al-Maliki for a second term as Prime Minister.”
Rafi al-Issawi, a senior member of the Iraqiya List, delivered a message to al-Maliki yesterday with regards to an agreement that the next government will be a national partnership government. The message also urged the Prime Minister to name negotiators to work with in the coming stage. Al-Maliki also undertook a series of meetings, including meeting with National Reform Trend leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in order to discuss a potential political partnership in the future.
Sources also informed Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that al-Maliki is set to hold a crucial closed meeting with members of his coalition in order to discuss plans for the future, and the results of his discussions with other electoral bloc. The sources said that al-Maliki appears to be more flexible over the position of prime minister, although he did not concede that the next government will be formed by the party with the political majority, which is what he previously confirmed prior to the elections.