By Reidar Visser.
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.
Through last-minute maneuvering this week, both Anbar and Nineveh managed to get new provincial councils seated before the end-of-Ramadan holiday begins in Iraq. This means the process of forming local governments following the local elections earlier this year is complete across Iraq (with the exception of the KRG and Kirkuk where no elections were held).
The Mutahhidun bloc of the Nujayfi brothers (Parliament Speaker Usama and Governor of Nineveh Athil) expressed satisfaction with both these new local governments, reflecting the fact that they played a key role in forming them. That is something of a comeback for the Nujayfis, who had seen a substantial drop of votes on their home turf in Mosul in the elections themselves. Whereas it seems clear that much wheeling and dealing has been involved and Mutahhidun among other things were forced to cooperate with the Kurds in the Nineveh council (they had marginalized them in 2009), Mutahiddun now clearly does emerge as something of a leading party in the Sunni-majority parts of Iraq from Anbar via Nineveh to Diyala, and with some decent representation in the Baghdad council as well.
What happened politically is that the Nujayfis in both governorates managed to win people from the Karbuli and Mutlak factions over to their side in order to neutralize potentially hostile blocs. This is a significant victory for the Nujayfis since these are precisely the factions of Iraqiyya that have been more disposed to cooperating with Maliki in the past. Other parties with a greater potential for working with Maliki than the Nujayfi camp – including the bloc of former Anbar governor Fahdawi and the list of the Yawer clan in Nineveh – in the end remained marginal and on the sidelines of these new local government formations. Maliki can now probably only count on Salahaddin among the Sunni-majority governorates for some potential support.
The council formations in Anbar thus cements the role of Nujayfi as some kind of unifying figure in the Iraqi north-west, and to some extent compensates for lost prestige resulting from the marked decline in votes in Nineveh itself. Even though it is debatable whether the Nujayfis personally enjoy the same level of influence in Anbar and Diyala as in Nineveh, this turn of events does seem to signify the return to the agenda of some of the radical rhetoric that characterized protest movements in Anbar earlier in the year. With Nujayfi stronger, these parts of Iraq are inevitably drawn closer to Turkey, the Kurds and Sunni oppositionists in Syria than whatmight have happened with an Anbar governor closer to Maliki.
Still, these were local elections only. There has already been talk about the emergence of a potential alternative to Maliki in the shape of an inter-sectarian alliance between his opponents; yet back in 2009, many tentative alliances that were floated during local council formation never grew into anything enduring for the subsequent parliamentary elections. It is that crucial stage of national elections, scheduled for 2014, that will henceforth take centre stage in Iraqi politics.
(Source: Iraq & Gulf Analysis)