Our sources in Iraq tell us that negotiations are expected to continue late on Wednesday to decide the formation of the next Iraqi government, and it looks likely that the parliamentary session that had been postponed until Thursday will be delayed further.
It is now generally accepted that Nouri al-Maliki will retain the position of Prime Minister, but the positions of President and Speaker (or Head of Parliament) are still being hotly contested.
The expectation is still that Jalal Talabani will hold on to the Presidency, and that Ayad Allawi will have to accept the position of Speaker.
But there is also some significant horse-trading to be done regarding the service ministries, such as Communications, Education, and Health. The Sunnis from Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc who have agreed to support Maliki need to be kept happy, and the more important of these will expect to receive ministries.
The campaign of bomb attacks has been stepped up, blamed on al-Qaeda and disaffected Ba’athists who are unhappy with the direction of the talks. The Mansur district of Baghdad was heavily targeted this morning, with the timing of the attacks considered by some to be linked to the information flow from the negotiations.
Saudi Arabia is said to be particularly displeased with the latest developments, and doubts have been cast on the sincerity of plans to re-build the Iraq-Saudi oil pipeline. “It’s all just talk”, said one commentator.
Many are blaming the delays in forming a government on what they see as foreign ‘interference’ in the process.
We’ll keep you informed at Iraq Business News as the story develops.