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Mar 30

Written by: Diana West
Tuesday, March 30, 2010 6:38 AM 

Qom, Iran: One site of Maliki's post-electioneering. (The other is Tehran.)

US media seem to be missing a Big Piece of the post-election picture in Iraq, perhaps, as noted yesterday, because it is taking place in Iran. Asia Times, the Guardian, The Independent, the Irish Times have all noted the, at the very least, intriguing news, missed here as far as I can tell, that last week, Iraqi PM Maliki, in second place after the vote count with 89 seats to Allawi's 91, sent emissaries to garner support for a ruling parliamentary coalition (153 seats) to Tehran, where they met with A-jad, and to Qom, where they met with Moqtada al-Sadr. But didn't Maliki leave Shiite politics behind him, or something? Isn't the Allawi "victory" -- by two seats -- an indicator that "secular" Iraq is here to stay? (Right.) Some would laugh, almost, but maybe we should just say time will tell.

More from the German news service DPA:

Baghdad - Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is "worried" by talks in Iran on forming a new Iraqi government, he told a leading regional daily published Tuesday.

Intense political jockeying has followed last week's announcement that former prime minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List had narrowly won March 7 parliamentary elections. Aides to incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose State of Law bloc placed a close second in the polls, on Monday met with Shiite preacher Moqtada al-Sadr in the Iranian city of Qom to discuss forming a coalition government.

"Iraqis are very worried about the meetings (in Iran) because they signal the redrawing of the political map along sectarian lines," al- Hashimi, a Sunni Muslim who campaigned with Allawi's list, told the regional daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. "Neighbouring countries' interference in (Iraq's) internal matters is clear," al-Hashimi charged. Al-Maliki has vowed to challenge the election results in court, saying he has evidence of fraud. His bloc also hopes to convince members of rival coalitions to switch sides before parliament reconvenes in June, following a Federal Court ruling that the coalition with the most seats in June will have the right to form a government.

"The Federal Court's opinion is not binding on anybody, because it is not the competent authority," al-Hashimi told al-Sharq al-Awsat, which is based in London and funded by the Saudis.

You've heard of the Sino-Soviet split? What if Iraq becomes the epicenter of the Saudi-Iranian split? In some ways it already is. Indeed, if Maliki is still Iran's boy, Allawi, as mentioned below, is heavily funded by Saudi Arabia. Such a split, of course, would be an awful drag on both Iran and Saudi Arabia -- and that would be just too darn bad, wouldn't it?

Al-Sadr's followers ran with the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a coalition of Shiite religious parties that came a close second to al- Maliki's bloc in many predominantly Shiite provinces in southern Iraq. Al-Maliki's aides have said they hope to assemble a government including INA members and the Kurdistan Alliance, which easily won the polls in northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.The  INA's 70 seats in the new parliament could make it an indispensable part of any ruling coalition.

Sadrist politicians, who won 40 of the INA's seats, have expressed reservations about a government led by Allawi, who presided over a joint US-Iraqi military campaign against them when he was prime minister in 2004.

"Expressing reservations" sounds like demanding political power as a condition for joining a Maliki coalition.

According to Asia Times, the jockeying looks likes this:

Allawi's coalition is a motley crew of former Ba'athists (such as Allawi), secular Sunnis and Shi'ites, nationalists, anyone who is against Iranian interference, plus a collection of provincial parties. Allawi was heavily supported by all Sunni states in the Gulf - especially Saudi Arabia. He secured a surprising number of votes from Sunnis in northern and western Iraq. In Baghdad, he received not only the remaining Sunni votes (the city is now overwhelmingly Shi'ite) but also a lot of secular Shi'ite votes.

In Maliki's State of Law coalition, the predominant power is his Islamic Da'wa party. Before the election, Maliki got into bed with INA [the Shiite bloc containing the Sadr group] and organized what for all practical purposes was a purge of the vast security and intelligence apparatus (which are de facto financed by US taxpayers).

The INA itself was put together in Tehran in the summer of 2009 as the late Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of ISCI, lay dying. His son, Ammar al-Hakim, is now the head of ISCI. The key truce between Muqtada al-Sadr and al-Hakim was organized by none other than the speaker of the majlis (Iranian parliament), Ali Larijani, who is an Iraqi born in Najaf, as well as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Now Tehran is pulling no punches. Late last week, a meeting in Tehran united Maliki's people, Sadrists, President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd), and Vice President Adil Abdel Mahdi of ISCI. Target: find the way to set up a non-Allawi-led coalition ...

Got that? Meanwhile, no one should be surprised if they eventually succeed.

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