Iraqi vice presidents Tareq al-Hashemi (L) and Adel Abdel Mahdi (R) arrive to attend a one-day forum meeting that brought together US Senator Joseph Biden, tribal leaders and Iraqi Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi, on September 06.
Several Iraqi parties expressed their tentative support for the document presented by Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi which he calls a “National Contract” for Iraq, according to the VP’s remarks on Thursday after receiving a delegation representing various blocs to discuss the project. The group of supporters for Hashemi’s proposal, which can be read here, adds to a growing list of tentative endorsements for the “National Contract.” However, the statement has also received harsh criticism from two major armed groups that oppose the post-2003 political process in Iraq, and who question the VP’s direction in statements.
Hashemi told reporters on Thursday that he had hosted a delegation containing representatives of the Fadhila Party, the Sadrist Current, the National Dialogue Front, led by MP Salih al-Mutlak, as well as members of the Independent Arab List (a four-seat Sunni Arab bloc of MPs originally elected to the two other Sunni Arab lists), and “other political personalities,” al-Jazeera writes in Arabic.
Hashemi told reporters that he believed that the Tawafuq Front, the largest Sunni Arab bloc in Parliament, to which his Islamic Party belongs, and a number of other Iraqi parties were approaching agreement on the text of the “National Pact.”
The 15-seat Fadhila Party, a Shi'a bloc that seceded earlier in the year from the governing United Iraqi Alliance, announced its support of the project, as did the Independent Arab Bloc.
“We looked at the National Contract and we found that its principals, if were similar, if not identical, to our party’s project,” said Hasan al-Shamari, the Fadhila party spokesman.
Salih al-Mutlak, head of the National Dialogue Front, said that the political parties were beginning to converge on a new project of national unity, but was not reported to have explicitly endorsed Hashemi’s document.
Nasir al-Ruba'i, the official spokesman for the 30-seat Sadrist bloc in Parliament said that in the press conference at Hashemi’s residence that the document of the “National Contract” has the support of most of the Parliamentry blocs, al-Jazeera adds in Arabic.
Earlier, the Sadrist Current welcomed the “National Contract” offered by the Islamic Party despite “reservations” over some points. The head of the political committee of the Office of the Martyr Sadr, the official Sadrist organization, Liwa al-Sumaysim, said in a press conference over the weekend that the Current had some questions on the project, including over the issues of federalism and the distribution of oil wealth among others, that needed to be clarified, according to a report in Arabic on an official Sadrist website.
The parties who expressed tentative support for the Hashemi project on Thursday join a growing list of groups inside the post-2003 “political process” that have lent support to the project, at least in principle.
Over the weekend, Iyad Allawi, the former Iraqi interim prime minister and leader of the Iraqi National List bloc in parliament pledged his support to Hashemi’s project, the VP said on Sunday, according to media reports in Arabic.
Another big player, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), a Shi'a-led party that holds the most seats in the Iraqi parliament, expressed a tentatively positive reaction, according to media reports. In an interview with Radio Sawa in Arabic last week, Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the party’s leader, expressed general “welcome” for the project but also expressed unspecified “reservations” over the draft. However, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, the leader of Baghdad’s Buratha mosque and a powerful MP within the SIIC, told the al-Mu’tamar newspaper that the “National Contract” project “did not bring anything new on the political level,” adding that his party had “reservations on more than one point.”
According to Hashemi’s remarks last week after a trip to Najaf, the document also enjoys the blessing of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
However, Hashemi’s project, which embraces the principle of federalism, affirms the Iraqi constitution, and nods towards Kurdish demands in Kirkuk, could face back-bench opposition from within his own Sunni Arab bloc.
Also unclear is what the project, if it were agreed by Iraq’s major political blocs, would mean in reality for the country’s log-jammed political scene.
Resistance groups slam Hashemi
Moreover, if Hashemi’s project is gathering support from those parties within the post-2003 “political process,” it has received scathing opposition in statements issued by armed groups that have remained outside of it.
Two important fronts representing armed factions in the Iraqi resistance have issued statements rejecting the project completely.
The Jihad and Reform Front, representing several of Iraq’s major armed resistance factions, including the Islamic Army in Iraq, believed to be among the largest, issued a statement last week in Arabic listing a long series of grievances against the Islamic Party, including its support of the Iraqi constitution, its support for the formation of a police force in Falluja, which it accuses of committing crimes against innocents in the area, including against Mujahadin, as well opposing the Islamic Party’s support for the US policy of arming the Iraqi tribes.
The Jihad and Reform Front statement, obtained by IraqSlogger, denies Hashemi’s claim to represent the Sunnis of Iraq, and lashes out at the VP for “going to beg the favor of Sistani, who consolidated the ranks of the occupation in Iraq and did not decree anything about the resistance other than to decree that resistance to the occupation is forbidden and is terrorism!”
The statement then accuses the VP of indifference to the fate of the Sunnis of Iraq, and of selling out to “deliver Iraq and its destiny to the Iranian sayyid” (i.e. to Sistani). The statement then addresses Hashemi directly: “So where are you, the ‘Vice President of the Republic’ going, with the people who entrusted you . . . . Indeed, history is being written, and the witnesses are recording.”
For its part, a recently formed front known as the Jihad and Transformation Front, which includes eight armed factions, including the 1920 Revolution Brigades, another of the largest armed groups in the Iraqi resistance, also issues a statement in Arabic last week, which begins by saying that “Jihad in Iraq was facing its darkest and most difficult days, not because the enemy that occupied us has ever gathered its forces and regained control over its project, and not because the sectarian Safavid hatred that advances from the east has spread . . . but because of the most painful and saddening . . . humiliation and perfidiousness, and the sowing of intrigues and conspiracies in the jihadist project.”
The statement continues:
A few days ago the one called Tariq al-Hashemi who represents (those who undermine the jihadist project) appeared with those who are responsible for the bloodshed of Iraqis and the destruction o fthe country and its submission to the Americans and Isral and Iran, and they published a five-party statement demanding that the restrictions be lifted on the so-called Iraqi Army, not to liberate the country but to fight the resistance . . . the statement “praising” the “sacrifices” of the occupation forces in Iraq.
“And after this departure from the most basic of principles,” the statement continues, “we took to waiting for his party or the Iraqi Tawafuq Front to absolve itself of what he had signed.”
The group expresses its outrage at Sistani’s turning to Sistani for a blessing of the “National Contract,” “as though (the cleric) burned with pain over what is happening in Iraq. Is there anything lower than this step into the abyss?”
“So where are you going?” the statement also asks, accusing Hashemi and his political allies of facilitating tinthe “Iranian and American” project in Iraq. “Is Sistani not that Iranian that issued the religious decrees that enabled them and their American masters?”