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.
The return by the secular Iraqiyya coalition to parliament, announced yesterday, seems like a logical albeit long overdue move.
In the first place, to boycott parliament was in itself a tactic that above all signalled isolation: Iraqiyya was unhappy with the general direction of Iraqi politics but was evidently unable to change the political game, whether through its representatives in parliament or through its participation in cabinet.
More recently, there has been evidence that Iraqiyya was also hurting itself through its actions. Since the start of the boycott, the frequency of defections from the coalition in both Sunni and Shiite areas has increased. Still, it is noteworthy that Wataniyyun, one of the recent breakaway groups who promised to never rejoin Iraqiyya, yesterday hailed the decision of the leadership to return to parliament.
The lingering question is whether Iraqiyya will withdraw its ministers permanently from cabinet. In that respect, there have been even clearer indications of a substantial renegade trend headed by Iraqiyya ministers wanting to keep their cabinet jobs despite having been ordered to boycott by their party leaders. In particular, the ministers who have continued to attend meetings despite the official boycott are from the Karbuli bloc of Iraqiyya called Al-Hall as well as a Turkmen minister for the provinces.
At the same time, there are signs that Maliki and State of Law also have shortcomings with respect to their ability to benefit from the situation. For example, their deputy Fuad al-Dawraki yesterday expressed satisfaction of the return of the Iraqiyya “since it represents a certain component” of the Iraqi people. That is not only tantamount to falsely claiming Iraqiyya is a Sunni party; it also indicates the limits to the prospect of the (mainly Shiite) State of Law successfully co-opting breakaway elements from Iraqiyya as much-needed additional parliamentary support.