Iraq's New Government
"It's being widely reported that a deal has finally been reached among the major Iraqi political blocs on the outlines of a new power-sharing agreement which would produce -- finally -- a new Iraqi government. There's still plenty of ways for this to go off the tracks, of course, but if the deal holds then it looks an awful lot like the outcome will be pretty much exactly the government which I and most everyone else expected before the elections... and an awful lot like the old government. The deal as reported has Nuri al-Maliki staying on as Prime Minister, Jalal Talabani staying on as President, Tareq al-Hashemi and Rafi Issawi staying on as Deputy Prime Ministers, and Usama Nujaifi taking over as Speaker of the Parliament. Ayad Allawi would be offered the position of head of a new National Council for Strategic Policies. The name being circulated for Foreign Minister -- Saleh al-Mutlak -- is intriguing and sure to be controversial, but that's the exception. Try not to remember that the March 2010 election had been touted as a triumph for 'change.'
"Despite the inevitable arguments here in Washington, this outcome really shouldn't be seen as a victory for either Iran or the U.S. It is hardly a show of strength for Tehran that it was unable to impose its will on Baghdad's politics for 8 long months, and that the final composition of the government reflects most of Washington's key interests. Both Iran and the U.S. were backing Maliki by the end, but he wasn't either's first choice -- Iran would have preferred a more pliable candidate from the Shia list rather than the pugnacious Maliki, while the U.S. probably would have originally preferred Allawi. Neither got their first choice, neither will be terribly disappointed. Washington had clearly signaled that it wanted a broadly inclusive government, and that's what it seems to have gotten."