Adam L. Silverman, PhD
With the recent reporting that Iraq’s long electoral impasse is coming to a close it is important to keep several things in mind and to watch for a number of potential outcomes. The first thing to keep in mind is the role played by Iran and what, exactly, Iran gets out of not only being the broker to the resolution, but the resolution itself. If the reporting is indeed accurate, then the clerics who run Iran have asserted their authority over both the Iraqi Shi’a movements that returned from exile (largely spent in Iran) and the most powerful of the non-exile and Iraqi nationalist Shi’a movements – the Sadrists. This is a major accomplishment as just three years ago the Sadrists and PM Maliki were at each other’s throats over control of Basra, the right of the Sadrists to have a militia like ISCI’s Badr Brigades, and what seemed to be an unbridgeable gulf between the diasporan Shi’a and those who remained behind. Additionally, by bringing Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbullah into the negotiations, the Iranian leadership has just demonstrated that it has the ability to shape events from the Levant to Central Asia, which seemingly makes Iran the regional hegemon. This is one of the end states that was supposed to be prevented by a successful American intervention into Iraq.
There are several important things to look for going forward. The first is what, exactly, will a government, should one actually emerge, look like. If it is a Shi’a coalition that also includes the Kurdistan Alliance (representing both the Barzani and Talibani factions), then look for some form of accommodation on the areas of contention in the northern provinces. It is essential for any new Iraqi government to bring the disputes over Kirkuk and other areas to a quick resolution as failure to do so is one of the few things that will unite the vast majority of Iraqi Arabs regardless of sect against the Kurds. A number of the Iraqis I interviewed from sheikhs to former military personnel to IDPs fleeing from the problems in the northern portions of Diyala Province all made it clear, regardless of their own sectarian identification, that the areas that the Kurds are claiming and/or encroaching on are Arab lands, always have been, and that the Kurds are stealing them to get oil wealth. Should this grievance flare up it is likely to split portions of the Iraqi Army – large chunks of which are divided between former Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Arabs (largely Shi’a with a significant portion being former Badr Corps members).
Another major issue to focus on is which coalition partners get which ministries. The Sadrists, going back to the 2005 parliamentary elections, have consistently argued that they’ve been cut out of key ministries. This was also a huge bone of contention for the Sadrists in the Basra dispute (they didn’t want to give up control of the province), as well as the 1999 provincial elections. It is being suggested that the Sadrists will get a security ministry, as well as oil and/or finance in exchange for their support in forming a coalition. If this does happen then the Sadrists come out ahead not only in obtaining these ministries, but in doing it at the expense of their rivals, the Supreme Islamic Council for Iraq (ISCI or SIIC), which received control of Basra after Operation Charge of the Knights.
Finally, the last thing to look for is what happens with the Sons of Iraq/Awakenings. If a newly formed Iraqi government, with a majority Shi’a coalition, moves against the SOI, then a large increase in violence should be expected. While the SOI can’t win, because they simply don’t have the numbers, they will make things as difficult as possible for the new government. It is important to keep in mind that many SOIs who have transitioned into the Iraqi Security Forces still identify as SOI. My team mates and I were repeatedly told that if the Government of Iraq moved against the SOI, that they would go AWOL, return home, and fight with the SOI against the ISF. A potential GOI round up of the SOI raises a huge issue of how we respond to our erstwhile non-governmental allies. With ever fewer troops as we continue to draw down, a government that we’ve helped establish, and civilian allies we’ve made promises to that we can no longer keep, the real outcome of the Iraqi elections of 2010 is likely to be much more violence, much less reconciliation, and Iran achieving its desired position as the regional hegemon.
 Adam. L. Silverman is the Culture & Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed herein are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and/or the US Army.
 As opposed to President Ahmedinijad who is façade, with little actual power who screens Iran’s actual leaders from attention.
 It is for this reason that both Dr. Parker of the USIP and Professor Lynch of George Washington University, when blogging at abu muqawama and abu aardvark respectively, listed the Sadrists with the powers that weren’t – those who had lost in the payout and spoils system that is Iraqi politics.