Just thought I’d fill you in on what I’m hearing from Baghdad. The following is not necessarily set in stone, and some of it is hearsay, but there’s hearsay and then there’s hearsay, and it doesn’t hurt to share this sort of gossip.
-Maliki will not join the new UIA. He’s taken to calling the UIA the “al-khatt al-irani” (‘The Iranian Line [Faction]’) in recent weeks. UIA is putting out that they have a sex scandal on Maliki.
-Maliki and Saleh al-Mutlag had their final exploratory meeting over forming a coalition on Monday, and decided that such an alliance, with Ayad Allawi on board, would be politically unfeasible and hurt them with their constituents.
-Right now it is Maliki plus Ahmad Abu Risha plus Abid Mutlag al-Juburi plus Mahmoud al-Mashhadani’s group. The latter also consists of Nadim al-Jaberi (formerly of the Fadhila Party). Also in the Maliki mix: Nawaf al-Jarba and Qaiser Witwit. Mithal al-Alusi is also supposed to be in there too, but hasn’t been confirmed to me. Maliki had a meeting with Ali al-Hatem, and chewed him out over supposed mismanagement of funds. Ahmed Ghaffour al-Samara’i, Tareq al-Hashemi and Abdullah Hmeidi might join too.
-Saleh al-Mutlag plus Ayad Allawi. This can be called the neo-Ba’athist list. Jawad al-Bolani was supposed to join but he is having second thoughts and might join the UIA; the Sadrists supposedly demanded that Bolani becomes the next PM at the most recent UIA meeting.
-Many liberals are coalescing around Dhia al-Shakarchi.
-The Islamic Party folks, even after the change of leadership, are being treated like lepers. No one wants to play with them.
-The Kurds have signaled that they are not interested in interethnic coalitions, although Noshirvan Mustafa has stated that his slate will compete in the national election.