According to sources, the Maliki premiership is now a certainty and should be confirmed within the week or next at the latest. The reality is that it was always going to be a Maliki premiership, America wants continuity, it has dealt with Maliki, enjoys dealing with Maliki and wants this to continue. Nor will Iran be complaining for the obvious and usual reasons. There was never any alternative from the outset. Allawi may have won the elections, but he was never going to get the backing from across the ethnic and sectarian spectrum. The inclusion of numerous, widely detested ultra-nationalists in his coalition didn’t exactly help. What we have seen over the past 6 months (the so-called alliance between SOL and INA, the Sadrist referendum, the umpteen visits by the various parties to different parts of the country and so on) has been a “will he, won’t he” facade, a game of bluffs and strategic manoeuvring.
Having said this, whilst Maliki will become prime minister, what isn’t clear is the exact role Allawi will play. There are plans to make him head of a national security council which Allawi wants to control the army. However, Allawi doesn’t want this to be some political initiative that can be swiftly repealed at a later date, he wants it incorporated into the Iraqi constitution or turned into a legitimate/constitutional entity. Yet, this would effectively render Maliki a token prime minister – and he knows it. What will be interesting, therefore, is how this aspect of the ongoing process will materialise and I wouldn’t be surprised if Allawi is dropped altogether and other elements (Hashimi, Issawi) are brought in to appease Iraq’s Sunni constituency. The uninteresting part is, of course, the issue of the next premier since it’s been known for some time – at least privately – that Maliki will stay in office.
Also important to note is that Allawi’s colleagues in the INA would rather see Allawi NOT get the premiership or any major role, for this would deprive them of the numerous ministries they would be entitled to – and that’s what they really want.