Meanwhile, in the Forgotten War:
Major Shiite groups have formed a new alliance that will exclude the Iraqi prime minister, lawmakers said Monday, a move likely to stoke fears of increasing Iranian influence and shake up the political landscape ahead of January parliamentary elections.
The coalition will include the largest Shiite party, the Iranian-backed Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc, which could give Tehran deeper influence in Iraq just as U.S. forces begin to withdraw.
Prime Minister al-Sadr?
During the spring there was a lot of cross-sectarian cooperation in the Iraqi parliament, but while this resulted in victories like the provincial elections law, nothing durable came out of all the promises of a monster national alliance. Maliki, for his part, will also need to go beyond what he accomplished in the local elections, which was more of a shift in rhetoric than a real integration of new political forces outside the Shiite Islamist core. So far there has been talk about an alliance between Maliki and the awakening forces of Anbar. As for the nationalists, there are signs of growing cooperation between forces like Iraqiyya, the Constitutional Party of Jawad al-Bulani, Tariq al-Hashimi, Salih al-Mutlak, Nadim al-Jabiri (from Fadila, which early on rejected the UIA makeover as political theatre but which now is reported as a last-minute convert to the project) and Mahmud al-Mashhadani (the former speaker of parliament, associated with the 22 July movement) – a trend that seems particularly significant in that it could potentially reverse a tendency of Iraqiyya to sometimes support ISCI in parliament even in cases where this runs counter to its own declared ideological principles (in early August there was even a visit by an Iraqiyya delegation to Iran). If two such grand cross-sectarian coalitions should emerge then the next elections could indeed become a step forward for Iraq.