Maliki’s Life Just Got A Lot Harder
The Sunnis have named their price for supporting SOFA: doing away with the watered down version of De-Ba’athification that they acquiesced to a short while back, as well as annulling the tribunal that is looking into the crimes committed against the Iraqi people by the Saddam’s regime.
The Sunnis even floated the idea of releasing the ex-insurgents currently being held by the Americans, for they are “freedom fighters”—but the American embassy drew the line at this idea even though they tacitly encouraged the two demands above by not balking at them.
Earlier Sunni demands, such as integrating Awakening groups and putting SOFA to a national referendum next year, were reasonable and doable, but these late additions are far off the reservation.
In other words, the Sunnis don’t intend to vote for SOFA. Their demands are too ludicrous, and they know it: the Shias and Kurds won’t accept them.
The Sunnis know that their votes are not necessary for SOFA to pass, but they are making full use of Sistani’s call of a “broad consensus on SOFA”—which many interpreted as the necessity of getting the Sunnis on board—to score all sorts of political points with their constituencies.
The idea was apparently proposed by Saleh al-Mutlag at a closed meeting today among the three main Sunni blocs at the Constitutional Hall of the Iraqi parliament.
This leaves Maliki in the unenviable position of being unable to satisfy the demands of either the Sunnis or Sistani. So effectively, he’s screwed.
Maliki can’t very well convince his own Da’awa Party to scrap the court even before the culprits responsible for the crime of murdering Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister Bint al-Huda (they were killed in 1980, he’s the spiritual founder of the Da’awa Party) go on trial. Imagine telling the Israeli public that the government decided not to put Eichmann to account after capturing him in Argentina, and you’ll get a sense of how much of a non-starter the Sunni proposal is.
And if anyone thought the Sadrists were noisy, imagine their howls at being told that Iraq’s new official policy towards Ba’athists shall be “bygones are bygones” as a condition of SOFA. (On a related note, a source told me that the Sadrists had prepared to throw water bottles at Maliki had he spoken at parliament today. I don’t think they would stoop that low, but thought I should relate it anyway just in case such a melee happens tomorrow.)
If the Sunnis don’t vote for SOFA, then they lose nothing. They don’t risk alienating the Americans (who’ve put up with all sorts of crazy Sunni tantrums before) because SOFA will pass anyway. They also don’t risk spending political capital among their constituency for swallowing a bitter political pill, at the same time letting ex-regime supporters know that they have had their best interests at heart all along. The added benefit would be Maliki having egg on his face for not meeting Sistani’s stipulation, exposing him to a no-confidence vote for bungling SOFA.
There’s a meeting in President Talabani’s house this evening (Baghdad time), but I’d be surprised if an accommodation can be reached. Clearly, the Sunnis made these demands knowing full well that they won’t be met, and if they are willing to play this way, then no amount of bargaining can sway them at this late stage to support SOFA.