Iraq’s Al-Fattah leaders deep in coalition talks with Muqtada Al-Sadr

Muqtada Al-Sadr, left, greets Shiite leader Ammar Al-Hakim on his arrival for their meeting in Baghdad. (AP Photo)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Iraq’s Al-Fattah leaders deep in coalition talks with Muqtada Al-Sadr

  • Negotiations between the leading Iraqi political forces to form the biggest parliamentary bloc started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday.
  • The backing of Al-Fattah leaders is essential to nominate the next prime minister and form a strong and stable government.

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Al-Fattah, the Iranian-backed parliamentary bloc that won the second-highest vote in the parliamentary elections, are in deep negotiations with the powerful Shiite leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr to form a coalition.

While it is too early to talk about ministerial posts, Al-Fattah has no veto over Haider Al-Abadi, the current prime minister, from taking a second term, the alliance’s senior leaders told Arab News on Tuesday.

Negotiations between the leading Iraqi political forces to form the biggest parliamentary bloc started immediately after the official results were announced late on Friday. The biggest coalition has the exclusive right to nominate the prime minister and form a government.

The backing of Al-Fattah leaders is essential to nominate the next prime minister and form a strong and stable government.

Ahmed Assadi, the spokesman of Fattah and one of its leaders, said negotiations were continuing with Sairoon, the alliance which came first in the election with 54 seats and is led by Al-Sadr.

“There is no way to form a government without either of them,” Al-Assidi said.

“Both (Fattah and Sairoon) represent the biggest alliances among the winning forces and enjoy great support in the street and the region, so there is no way to ignore one of them.”

The Fattah alliance, which is openly funded and supported by Iran, won 47 seats, which includes 22 seats won by Badr Organization, one of the most prominent Shiite armed groups and 17 seats won by Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, the second most powerful Shiite paramilitary group.
The relationship between Al-Sadr and Fattah leaders is tense as the cleric has accused Fattah factions of carrying out an Iranian agenda in Iraq.

Al-Sadr has said on several occasions in the last two weeks that he is ready to negotiate with all political forces except Fattah and the State of Law — led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

But Al-Sadr’s tone has changed in recent days and he has come back to say that the coalition he is working on, is open to everyone.

Assadi and two other Al-Fattah leaders said talks have focussed on forming the biggest parliamentary bloc so far not the nomination of the prime minister.

“Our vision is to form a big parliamentary bloc first within the Shiite winning blocs, and then go to the Kurdish and Sunni (winning) blocs,” Assadi said.

Along with Sairoon and Al-Fattah, the talks involving prime minster Al-Abadi’s Al-Nassir alliance, Hikma, led by the prominent cleric Ammar Al-Hakim, Al-Wattiniya, led by Vice President Ayad Allawi, and Maliki’s State of Law.

The only thing that has been agreed upon so far is the formation of a national majority government, not a political power sharing administration. Also, the negotiators have agreed to postpone talking about positions, including the post of prime minister, leaders said.

“It is still too early to announce any coalition,” a senior leader of Fattah involved in the talks and talked told Arab News. “Talks are still focusing on the government program and the details are too many.

“Al-Sadr, Nassir and Hikma are insisting to nominate Al-Abadi but we clearly said that we have no veto against him, but that there would be no discussions over the names until we agree on all the other details.”


Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza following rocket fire

Updated 5 min 30 sec ago
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Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza following rocket fire

  • Six sites were hit in the Gaza Strip, Hamas said in a statement
  • he UN says Israel’s 11-year blockade has resulted in a ‘catastrophic’ humanitarian situation
JERUSALEM: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the closure of both of Israel’s border crossings with Gaza on Wednesday after a Palestinian rocket attack hit a southern city prompting retaliatory air strikes.
Lieberman ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom goods crossing and the Erez crossing for people, and the reduction of the permitted fishing zone along the Gaza coast to three nautical miles, the defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.
“Israeli jets started to attack terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli army said.
Six sites were hit in the Gaza Strip, its rulers Hamas said in a statement. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
A few hours earlier, a rocket hit the city of Beersheba — one of the first fired in recent weeks from the Palestinian territory.
“At 4 am (0100 GMT), Israelis in the city of Beersheba were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel,” the Israeli army tweeted.
“We will defend Israeli civilians,” it added, suggesting there would be a military response.
Israeli police said: “A rocket struck the city of Beersheva a few moments ago causing damage.” There were no reports of casualties.
The rocket struck the garden of a house occupied by a family with three children who were being treated for shock, Israeli media reported.
The army reported another rocket was fired toward the sea.
It was unclear who fired the rockets but the Israeli army holds Hamas accountable for all rocket fire from the territory and commonly retaliates against its positions, regardless of who launched the weapons.
It comes after months of Palestinian protests along the Gaza border that have drawn a deadly response from Israeli troops and raised fears of a new war between Israel and Hamas, who have fought three since 2008.
At least 205 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began on March 30. One Israeli soldiers has been killed by Palestinian sniper fire over the same period.
The protesters have been demanding the right of return to land now inside Israel, from which their families were expelled or fled during the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the Jewish state.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that the protests could not be allowed to go on.
“We are not prepared to accept the level of violence we see week after week,” he told troops and commanders at an army base near the Gaza border.
He also suspended deliveries of fuel that had been trucked daily into Gaza over the previous week under a deal brokered by the United Nations.
It had seen thousands of liters (gallons) of fuel paid for by gas-rich Gulf state Qatar delivered to boost power generation in the impoverished territory.
The UN says Israel’s 11-year blockade has resulted in a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.
Gaza’s two million residents endure routine power cuts and a chronic shortage of safe drinking water, and more than two-thirds are dependent on international aid.