Abadi seeks alliance with Popular Mobilization Units based on his terms

Updated 13 January 2018
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Abadi seeks alliance with Popular Mobilization Units based on his terms

BAGHDAD: Negotiations between Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi and leaders of Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops to form an electoral alliance in the parliamentary and provincial election scheduled for May had not produced a final agreement on Friday, leaders involved in the talks told Arab News.
Gaining the support of the armed factions who fought Daesh alongside the government during the past three years is crucial for Abadi to gain a comfortable parliamentary majority to form the next government.
The negotiations, which started on Thursday, have been taking place in Baghdad between representatives of Abadi and leaders of the “Al-Fattah Alliance,” which includes the most powerful Shiite armed factions such as Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, Kataib Huzballah and Jund Al-Imam in addition to the leaders of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the independents.
Abadi has been seeking to form the biggest electoral alliance along with “Al-Fattah,” which is headed by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, while the leaders of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have been looking for protection.
“An alliance with Abadi is in the interest of both parties (Abadi and the PMU),” a senior PMU commander said on condition of anonymity to Arab News.
“The prime minister is the only one who can threaten the existence of us (the PMU). Legally he (the prime minister) is authorized to go after any of us and represents a source of concern.
“If he will be with us, this means we will be protected,” the commander said.
The negotiation teams of both sides on Friday had agreed on several issues, but who will head the final coalition and who will lead the electoral list in Baghdad are topics “still under negotiation,” leaders involved in the talks told Arab News.
“We are looking to form the biggest bloc in the next parliament, so Abadi is the best choice to achieve this,” Yazin Al-Joubori, one of the PMU commanders, told Arab News.
“The problem is that Abadi insists on being the head of the (final) coalition and the leader of the electoral list in Baghdad while (Hadi) Al-Amiri insists on giving him just one of them,” Al-Joubori said.
The guarantees which Abadi has to present to the PMU leaders also was one of the biggest obstacles as his negotiation team insists on “not giving any promises or concessions.” By the end of Friday’s meetings, no final agreement was made, leaders involved in the talks said.
“Abadi is well aware that he has a very strong card now and knows that the PMU factions need him, so he is negotiating from a position of strength,” a Shiite politician involved in the talks told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“In all cases, this alliance will be made, but (looks like) it will be according to Abadi’s conditions.
“We have presented so many concessions, while he has refused to give us anything (in return).
“There is no other strong alternative (than Abadi). We need him so we have to go with him,” the leader said.


Saudi film industry heralds new dawn with opening of first arthouse cinema

Updated 11 min 49 sec ago
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Saudi film industry heralds new dawn with opening of first arthouse cinema

  • Cinema El-Housh is the brainchild of Saudi film director, producer and screenwriter Mahmoud Sabbagh and the event will continue until July 25 as part of the Jeddah Season festival
  • Mahmoud Sabbagh: We chose old Jeddah because the phenomena existed here, and the idea of an arthouse film isn’t new

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s blossoming film industry on Tuesday heralded a new dawn with the launch of the Kingdom’s first arthouse cinema.

The outdoor Cinema El-Housh opened in the historic city of Jeddah with the screening of director Stanley Kubrick’s celebrated “2001: A Space Odyssey” to mark the movie’s 51st anniversary.

The project is the brainchild of Saudi film director, producer and screenwriter Mahmoud Sabbagh and the event will continue until July 25 as part of the Jeddah Season festival.

“Cinema El-Housh is one of the first proper arthouses for film theater initiatives in Saudi Arabia and in Jeddah,” Sabbagh told Arab News.

“The idea of the cinema comes from outdoor cinemas, which was a phenomenon that existed in old Jeddah from the 1940s until the end of the 1970s, where people gathered in courtyards where they would screen a film and enjoy it.

“We are bringing that back to the community with all its minimalism and gestures for bringing people together and bringing the communal experience of watching films again,” he said.

“We chose old Jeddah because the phenomena existed here, and the idea of an arthouse film isn’t new. It really strikes a balance between a commercial cinema and non-commercial cinemas.

“With the opening of cinemas, we are witnessing a burst of commercial-driven cinema multiplexes. However, there was a void someone had to fill by introducing this idea of arthouse cinemas,” added Sabbagh.

“We are free to screen films that are of non-commercial value, non-mainstream, more independent films that are film festival frequent and classics, and Saudi films. We want to be a platform for all the emerging Saudi voices.”

 

Tuesday’s private screening of “2001: A Space Odyssey” was also attended by Saudi actor Khaled Yeslam who said the film’s message conveyed the dawning of a new era in the Kingdom.

“From my perspective, choosing “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it started with the new dawn of mankind. And the music played was the music we listened to in the 1980s and 1990s,” Yeslam told Arab News.

“So, seeing such an entry as a film in Al-Balad, it’s a metaphor itself; here in Al-Balad, in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia itself. I thought it was planned and that he meant to do that. And I think Mahmoud is such a genius for choosing such a film.”

On the Kingdom’s booming film industry, Yeslam said: “Through movies, it’s finally our (Saudis) time to tell our stories. We’re fed up with the stereotypes and double standards by Western media and it’s time to reveal our reality.

“In the end, we’re just human, we’re just like everyone else, and I believe that art is a way to connect with others as humans.”

FACTOID

Outdoor cinemas existed in Jeddah from the 1940s until the late 1970s.