AMMAN, Jordan — Though Iraqis complained that the November 30 meeting here between President Bush and Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to provide any real results, it didn’t stop people here from holding out hope. Even talks between Iraqi insurgent representatives and members of the US-backed government were postponed to see whether Bush would announce a change of course, as some had expected.
“There were supposed to be negotiations on November 9 after the US elections but they were postponed after the failure of the Republicans,” said Moayed Abu Subieh, a local journalist who has written about ongoing meetings between Iraqi factions and US representatives. “People were waiting for Bush’s visit to clarify his positions of the Iraqi situation his support for Maliki’s government.”
But even as Bush renewed his support for Maliki’s government and met December 4 in Washington with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a US-backed party with close links to Tehran, other Iraqis are actively planning the demise of the current administration through the creation of a political front intended to help stem sectarian violence while mainstreaming some of the demands being made by militants.
Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the Iraqi Dialogue Front, a secular political party whose critics accuse him of links to the insurgency and former government, recently announced the creation of the National Salvation Front, a grouping of parties that spans sects and is calling for regional and international meetings to reach an agreement between Iraqis.
On December 6, as headlines in the US were dominated by the Iraq Study Group’s suggestions about how the Bush administration should proceed in Iraq, Maliki made his own headlines, by reversing his initial opposition to holding such meetings.
The new front includes the Tayyera Sadriyyin, the political party led by anti-occupation cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia, number of seats in parliament rival and cabinet posts rival those of Hakim’s party.
Sadr’s party allied with Hakim’s and other Shiite parties in elections in late 2005, but has since broken with Hakim over power-sharing and Hakim’s continued calls to partition Iraq. If the new front holds, it would be a serious challenge to the current government, as Sadr has already withdrawn his support for Maliki over the latter’s meeting with Bush and refusal to allow the Iraqi parliament to discuss the issue of allowing US troops to remain in the country, an issue Sadriyyin members of parliament have spearheaded.
In 2004, before widespread sectarian violence broke out, Sadr’s militia coordinated to some extent with Sunni guerillas to battle US troops before Sadr was convinced to participate in the political process and a government that is now seen as a joke.
A Sadr spokesman said that he was hopeful Sadr’s supporters would move away from sectarian politics and ally with Sunnis.
“We need to have an alliance with secular and religious Sunnis,” said Ghaith al-Tamimi, a member of the Sadriyyin media department in Baghdad. “The Sadriyyin should stand up because we are running out of time on this issue.”
Mustafa al-Hiti, a member of Mutlaq’s party who spends much of his time in Amman, said the only parties not participating were Maliki’s Dawa, the country’s two main Kurdish parties, and Hakim’s SCIRI–essentially, the Bush administration’s only allies in Iraq.