Sunday, July 13, 2014

It’s not Washington’s job to tell Iraq who its leaders should be

By James. F. Jeffrey, WashPost, July 11

James F. Jeffrey has served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Turkey and Albania. He is the Philip Solondz visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

As the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, I dealt extensively with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And now, like many others, I am deeply skeptical about his ability to lead the country. But I have several points of contention with the July 6 essay on Maliki by my former colleague Ali Khedery in Outlook (“Why we stuck with Maliki and lost Iraq”), not least of which is the title the editors selected for it.

First, Khedery’s account of Maliki’s selection as prime minister in 2010 does not track fully with my recollection. No party or coalition “won” the March 2010 vote. A largely Sunni coalition led by a secular Shiite Arab, Ayad Allawi, finished first with 91 out of the 325 parliamentary seats, while Maliki’s coalition won just two fewer. However, before the parliament convened, Maliki’s coalition allied with the other major Shiite group, thus controlling about 150 seats.

The Constitutional Court, as Khedery notes, decided that this new alliance, not Allawi’s coalition, would have the right to try first to form a government. Was the court influenced by Maliki, as Khedery suggests? Probably. But the relevant constitutional language, while vague (referring to the “bloc with the largest number”), can certainly support the court’s finding.

(More here.)

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