The personal appeal, coming directly to the heart of Saddam’s former power base, is a spectacular move by Maliki. Up to now, he’s mostly been known as a sectarian forced to deal with Sunnis and Kurds by circumstance. He may have finally taken the necessary steps to become the statesman Iraq needs, and the father of their liberated national unity most of them desire.
Um. Sadly, no.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the purpose of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s visit to Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s old home base) was to convince some tribal notables there to accept ministerial positions in his government. The main Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Accord Front, is boycotting al-Maliki’s government, and he is therefore desperate to find some Sunnis somewhere who would be willing to join his government. The problem is that although there are prominent Sunni Arab figures in Tikrit, they would not represent anyone but themselves if they joined the government. The Iraqi Accord Front won 44 seats in parliament. A seat is 40,000 votes, so the IAF represents 1,760,0000 persons out of Iraq’s 11 million voters. Some son of a tribal sheikh in Tikrit represents no one but himself and maybe some close family members.
That’s some mighty effective statesmanship there. Did I miss the political “benchmark” that recommended gaining inconsequential support from tribal leaders whose memories of the departed regime are somewhat less than bitter?
The other piece of hilarity here is that the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council — one of the four parties that make up al-Maliki’s new (sub-majority) coalition — is almost universally perceived by Sunnis (correctly or not) to be an Iranian proxy, while the militias acting on behalf of the SIIC have participated in the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis throughout the southern provinces. I can’t wait to see how this “spectacular move” draws the Iraqi Accord Front back into the government.
Then again, Iraq’s football squad won the Asia Cup, so anything’s possible!