As the speaker of Iran’s parliament Ali Larijani came to Baghdad for a four-day visit beginning on November 4, 2009, rumors swirled in the Iraqi press that one of his main priorities was to get Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to join the major Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance. Iran was instrumental in putting the list together. Even after the National Alliance was announced in August 2009, talks continued with Maliki’s State of Law List. The sticking points were Maliki’s demand to get 50% of the alliance’s seats and be their only candidate for prime minister. The latest story to emerge of on-going negotiations was from Aswat al-Iraq who reported on November 8, 2009 that the Sadrists, members of the National Alliance, were demanding that the government release all of their followers from jail and death row in order for the State of Law to join. Members of the State of Law in parliament also said that talks were underway. This is all happening after Larijani denied that the point of his trip was to mediate between Maliki and the National Alliance, and Dawa lawmakers said they would not join the list or give into Iranian pressure.
One of Iran’s main priorities is to maintain Shiite power in Iraq. They do not favor one specific group, and have in fact, backed all of the major parties that are rivals with each other. Those divisions actually allow Tehran to maintain its influence as Shiite politicians go to them for assistance and mediation with the others. On the Iraqi side it seems unlikely that Maliki would agree to join the National Alliance. Its two major players, the Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council have both been opponents of the prime minister in the past, and would like to replace him. On the other hand, the division of the Iraqi parties means that no list is likely to even get a plurality in the 2010 election. If the State of Law were to join with the National Alliance however, they would be assure of at least that many votes, which would give Maliki a greater chance of returning to the leadership. With the Byzantine nature of Iraqi politics, anything is possible.
Aswat al-Iraq, “Sadr says detainees’ release precondition for coalition,” 11/8/09
Al Jazeera, “Iraqi Shias form new alliance,” 8/24/09
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Larijani Denies Mediation Role In Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 11/6/09