Breakthrough for new Iraq government? Allawi meets Maliki, Sadr
A flurry of meetings could signal the formation of a new Iraq government by next week's deadline. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's main challenger met with him tonight, after meeting kingmaker Muqtada al-Sadr yesterday.
Top politicians are stepping up efforts to break a political deadlock and form a new Iraq government more than four months after national elections gave a narrow victory to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s main challenger.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Maliki met late Tuesday night in Baghdad with former premier Ayad Allawi, who leads the Sunni-backed Iraqiya coalition that beat Maliki’s Shiite bloc by two seats in Iraq’s 325-seat parliament. Giving little away, delegate Mohammed Allawi said the talks were “positive" and aimed to form a government "in the next few days," though no top positions were discussed.
That came one day after an unusual meeting in Damascus, Syria, between Allawi and the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who rarely leaves Iran where he is undergoing religious training. His Shiite followers won 39 seats – making him kingmaker.
The reclusive junior cleric praised Allawi’s party as “ready to compromise” to form a government. When asked about his readiness to work with Allawi, whom he had called a tool of the Americans when he was prime minister – Allawi had nearly had the cleric killed in 2004 – Sadr said he could “forget all previous differences for Iraq, so that the political process can move forward.”
But Sadr upheld his opposition to Maliki – who in the past deployed Iraqi security forces against Sadr’s militia followers – becoming premier again.
“I haven’t even met [Maliki] – how can I ally with him?” Sadr said.
Progress, but not a breakthrough
The political meetings sought to breathe new life into a process that has angered Iraqis. They are fed-up and frustrated with politicians who appear, with all their bickering, more worried about their posts and perks than with forging a government that can solve Iraq’s multitude of problems.
“If one imagines that Sadr had reconciled himself to Allawi being the lesser of two evils, you’ve still got a long way to [go],” says Mr. Dodge. “It’s still much more likely that Allawi will take second fiddle to Maliki… The Sadrists have a veto, and maybe in talking about Allawi so positively, Sadr is setting some form of [high] price for what’s to come.”
Such a deal might include Allawi gaining several key security ministries, and serving perhaps as deputy prime minister for security, while Maliki – or someone else from his State of Law bloc, if necessary – takes the top spot.