The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford and currently based at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
It is exactly one month since the secular, increasingly Sunni-backed Iraqiyya coalition began boycotting the Iraqi parliament, followed by the withdrawal of its ministers from cabinet sessions. It has been a dramatic month full of heated verbal exchanges with political opponents; nonetheless it is high time that Iraqiyya stands back and reflects on what exactly it has achieved so far.
In terms of practical results, Iraqiyya’s actions have at least managed to put the subject of some kind of “national conference” on the agenda. Iraqiyya are hoping that such a conference will deal with the fulfilment of promises made by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during the process of government formation in November–December 2010. But doubts remain about the exact agenda, location and date of the conference.
More fundamentally speaking, it is the unequivocally negative results of Iraqiyya’s boycott that stand out. The boycott has clearly accelerated a trend of defections from the Iraqiyya coalition by individual politicians and groups of politicians that are more interested in taking part within the system than in boycotting. Examples include prominent politicians from Babel and Nineveh – the latter showing that this is a phenomenon that includes Sunnis as well as Shiites from Iraqiyya. The defectors are not necessarily openly pro-Maliki, but they tend to agree with Maliki on some issues, including an aversion against the recent pro-federal trend among some Sunni politicians.
The net effect of all the defections from Iraqiyya since early 2011 may be a loss of around 5 deputies so far. That may not sound like a lot, but every single defection does bring Maliki closer to his dream of a so-called political majority government.