Friday, May 30, 2014

Regime Air Activity in Hama: 1,800 Sorties in 50 Days

by Valerie Szybala with Chris Harmer

According to data collected between 30 March and 20 May, the Syrian regime flew at least 1,864 air sorties in the northern Hama region. Although attention has focused recently on helicopter-borne barrel bombs, it is significant that 42% of these sorties have been fixed-wing jets with the remaining 58% being helicopters. The fact that the regime is able to maintain a sustained air campaign in this region certainly indicates a high-level of resupply and logistical resources. And as the ongoing airstrikes and increasing use of chlorine-filled barrel bombs demonstrate, rebels have yet to overcome the asymmetric advantage created by Assad’s air force. There are several options available to address the regime’s air superiority, all of which have been debated and none of which have been implemented. These options include implementation of a No Fly Zone, grounding the Syrian air force, and providing certain opposition groups with a ground-to-air capability in the form of MANPADs (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems).

Jets are significantly more labor-intensive and resources-draining to maintain and fly. Helicopters have been used more heavily by the regime in recent months than fixed-wing aircraft because they are easier to maintain, are ideal for dropping barrel bombs, and can land at a steeper angle and therefore at besieged airbases where it has become too dangerous for jets. Several of these sorties likely carried barrel bombs containing chlorine, since most of the recently reported chlorine chemical attacks have been in northern Hama (especially the town of Kfar Zeita) and nearby southern Idlib. 

The data above indicates that Hama Military airport is the most critical airbase in the central eastern corridor for Syria. Abu Duhur and Shayrat are both used heavily as well. Abu Duhur has been heavily besieged by rebels for well over a year, and was at one point at least partially under their control in April 2013. It has since reverted to full regime control and although it is no longer used for fixed-wing aircraft (likely too difficult to land safely with the rebels’ continued presence near the airbase), it is used heavily for helicopter sorties. The clear area around Shayrat airbase in Homs makes it easier for the regime to hold a large enough perimeter to safely run fixed-wing sorties, and accordingly the regime has come to rely on Shayrat heavily for launching fixed-wing sorties. 

The data on regime air sorties shows that even while the regime has focused its main efforts on urban centers such as Aleppo, it is able to keep up pressure on rebels elsewhere with a steady stream of air attacks. Rebels have been pushing hard recently to take regime military positions in the area, with notable successes. We can expect that these rebel advances on the ground will be accompanied by an increase in airstrikes in the coming weeks. And with Russia continuing to resupply the Syrian air force, there are few indications that this will change anytime soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Grim Spectacle of Syrian Faux-lections

By Valerie Szybala

The world has dismissed the Syrian presidential elections as “a parody of democracy,” “a mockery, a tragedy,” and “a farce, they’re an insult; they are a fraud.” The United Nations has warned that the elections will “damage the political process,” and the fact that the Syrian regime has pushed forward with elections is one of the primary reasons for the recent resignation of veteran UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi. The Syrian Opposition Coalition has called for a boycott of the process (which they refuse to even call elections), while activists online have started a #BloodElections movement. In light of this backlash it is important to take a critical look at how these elections are being run, and how they fit into the larger strategy of the Assad regime.
A graphic from Syrian activists' online #BloodElections campaign


Syria has never held democratic elections. Presidential referendums in Syria have served to reinforce the power of the Assad family since the late Hafez al-Assad won his first uncontested referendum in 1971 with more than 99% of the vote. Under the 1973 constitution the Syrian Ba’ath Party formally entrenched its role as sole leader of the state. A handful of regime-tolerated parties were allowed to exist under an umbrella movement called the National Progressive Front, in order to present a thin veneer of pluralism. Their existence has had no impact on Syrian presidential elections, as they have never been allowed to field a candidate. This system of single-party dictatorial rule was passed on from father to son when Bashar al-Assad assumed power in 2000 following his father’s death. Presidential referendums in Syria are still held every seven years, and continue to be rubber stamps for the regime. Bashar al-Assad received over 97% of the vote in unopposed referendums held in 2000 and 2007.

2014 Election

Assad’s current seven-year term ends on July 17, 2014, and by law, elections must be held between 60-90 days before term ends. The presidential election date has been set for June 3. Two opposing candidates, out of the 24 who applied, have been approved to run by Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court. The Supreme Constitutional Court was created in 2012 and all members are selected by Assad. Both of the approved competing candidates – Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar and Hassan bin Abdullah al-Nouri – are associated with the regime-tolerated internal opposition.

In 2012, with the regime under increasing pressure as the uprising turned into full-fledged civil war, a new constitution was enacted which allowed the existence of weak opposition parties that could field presidential candidates for the first time. Accordingly, the coming vote will technically be Syria’s first multi-candidate presidential elections in history. Under normal circumstances a change like this – superficial though it may be – would be considered a baby step in the right direction. In the current situation of ongoing war and continuing massive human rights violations, staging elections is a strategic move designed to allow the Assad regime to continue to wage its war without threat of foreign intervention.

Bashar al-Assad has no intention of ceding power. Despite the fact that voting will be supervised by the Syrian security services, will only take place in regime-controlled parts of the country (estimated at around 40%), and both the internal and external opposition have called for Syrians to boycott the polls, Assad is leaving nothing to chance. For months the Syrian government has been making a number of little-noticed legal and procedural changes designed to disenfranchise Syrians who might vote against Assad and ensure that no serious challenger can participate. Some of these changes include:

1. Restricting Passports - In July 2013, Assad issued a directive to its embassies abroad to stop granting or renewing passports to Syrians living outside of the country. Instead, all requests must be sent to Syria for security clearance prior to approval. Many have interpreted this as a way to further clamp down on Syrian dissidents, most of whom are either in exile abroad or in Syrian prison. Since the directive was issued, reports suggest that the regime has indeed refused to issue passports to Syrians who fled the country, and by some accounts the Interior Ministry stopped issuing passports to expats altogether. One example came to light publicly when the Syrian embassy in the UAE refused to renew the passport for Syrian actor Samer al-Masri, due to unconfirmed allegations that he supported the Syrian opposition. In February Saudi Arabia already had around 100,000 Syrians who were unable to renew their passports because they oppose the Syrian regime. “Syrian missions in all countries have blacklists with the names of Syrian residents who are involved in activities against the regime,” claimed one Syrian who was denied a renewal in Jeddah.

2. Removing Embassy Access - In March of 2014, a suspiciously-timed spate of Syrian embassy closures in countries that host large numbers of Syrian dissenters was likely aimed at preventing likely anti-Assad voters from registering and voting. Syrian Embassies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and The United States were closed. This has disenfranchised an estimated 150,000 Syrians in Kuwait, nearly 1 million in Saudi Arabia, and around 150,000 in the U.S. 

3. Preventing Voter Registration - Also in March, Syrian expatriates were called upon to register to vote, and according to the Syrian official news agency SANA, “there is no legal reason preventing them from voting,” as long as they register and “can present a valid passport stamped with a departure stamp from any Syrian border departure point.”
  • Due to the termination of consular services, hundreds of thousands of Syrians abroad will not have a valid passport to present.
  •  In order to have a departure stamp on their passport, the person must have left the country through an official border crossing, which means that only a fraction of the more than 2.5 million UN-registered Syrian refugees could have one (since not all refugees register with the UN, 2.5 million is an underestimate of the total refugee population). The Syrian regime has not had control of the majority of its border crossings for a long time, meaning there are few official crossings through which an exit stamp could be hypothetically received. As of September 2013, all Iraqi border crossings had been closed for two years, the Syrian regime controlled one of the eight crossings with Turkey and it was closed, and there was restricted access to the two Jordanian border crossings. Many refugees fled Syria without passports and used unofficial border crossings. Decree No.2 of 2014 issued by Assad also prohibits these Syrians who fled without an official stamp from returning to the country. (Note: this would not be the first time that Syria has stripped unwanted people of their Syrian citizenship)
  •  Due to the closure of embassies in countries with high dissident populations hundreds of thousands of Syrians abroad have had nowhere to register or to vote. But a critical point that should not be forgotten is that fear of their government is an overwhelming fact of life for most Syrians. After living under decades of repression and close monitoring by Syrian intelligence services, many Syrian refugees are afraid even to register personal data with the UNHCR for fear that it will fall into the hands of pro-regime operatives and they will be hunted down by Syrian intelligence. And their fears are not completely unfounded. Refugees in Lebanon, where the regime’s ally Hezbollah wields significant control, report that Lebanese men allied with Assad have gone around asking about their vote and recording names. In this context the idea that Syrian refugees – many of whom fled to escape persecution from the Assad regime – would willingly register to vote becomes almost a non sequitur.
4. Fixing the Presidential Candidate Field - On March 11, 2014, a new law was passed detailing the requirements for a candidate to run for president. While some of the clauses present moderate barriers to any serious challenger running against Assad, others have made it impossible by effectively excluding all members of the Syrian opposition:
  • Candidates must have been a resident of Syria for at least the last ten consecutive years. This excludes opposition figures because those who have not been arrested have been forced to flee the country.
  • Never having been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor cuts out any opposition figures who have remained in the country (and many who have fled), as the Syrian regime has a history of arresting political dissidents, and of arbitrary detentions (according to the regime’s own reporting it has tried around 30,000 Syrians on terrorism charges alone in the past two years). Most members of the opposition’s political leadership spent time in regime prisoners long before the war started for their work on democratic reforms and human rights. Current head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, has been arrested twice.
  • The two regime-vetted challengers running against Assad are little-known quantities that few are taking seriously. Many Syrian voters in Lebanon could not even remember their names. In a recent interview, one of the challengers described the Syrian conflict as the product of a “global conspiracy.” A description remarkably similar to the regime’s standard line.

With all of these changes, more than half of all Syrians will be prevented from voting even if they want to. These de jure attempts at election-fixing and disenfranchisement sit on top of a mountain of de facto changes that alone would be enough to earn the elections the title of farce. 

Around 40% of all Syrians have been displaced from their homes, with at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons in Syria, and an additional 2.8 million registered with the UN as refugees in neighboring countries. Heavy fighting continues across the country, with the regime continuing its attacks on civilian centers, and there are large parts of Syria that are no longer under government control. The shifting demographics mean that few Syrians who are openly anti-Assad are left in areas under regime control. Urban areas considered friendly to the opposition have been purposefully demolished. Opposition areas like central Aleppo, that the regime has had trouble reaching by land, have been subjected to unending air campaigns of barrel bombing and ballistic missiles, forcing most residents to flee. Worse still, the regime has made it difficult for the displaced to resettle in regime-held areas, preventing them from renting homes in Damascus. There are also reports that the regime is seizing property and land in depopulated areas to prevent those with pro-opposition sympathies from returning, suggesting that a sort of demographic re-engineering is taking place.

Syria has invited “friendly nations” to send observers to further legitimize its elections. The list of invitees for the most part reads as a “who’s who” of quasi-authoritarian governments with lackluster democratic credentials, including Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. It has also reportedly refused permits to foreign journalists to cover the “historic” event. And as the voting for some Syrian expats started on May 28 in friendly countries, the reasons for preventing independent international coverage becomes apparent. In a Twitter discussion, a group of credentialed journalists from outlets including the New York Times and Reuters describe the irregular voting in Lebanon: anyone who wanted could cast one or more ballots (even non-Syrians), voters had to write their name on their ballots, and there was a widespread belief that those who did not vote, or who did not vote for Assad, would face negative consequences when they return to Syria, if they were allowed to return at all.


With all of the effort towards manipulating the election, the question then becomes: why bother with an election at all? The answer is that this election is an important component of the regime’s ongoing propaganda and disinformation strategy, which has thus far paid off handsomely. Assad’s insistence that this war is about terrorism (echoed by Iran and Russia) has helped introduce enough doubt into the debate about who the regime is fighting to avoid direct foreign intervention on behalf of the opposition. The elections – like Geneva II and chemical disarmament – is another bullet in the regime’s rhetorical arsenal, giving Assad the chance to throw the language of democracy and freedom back in the face of the international community and Syrian opposition.
Syrians in Kafranbel, Idlib, voice their opinion about the presidential election

But the election charade is a thinly veiled one, with Assad telling his Russian backers that he has no intention of stepping down even while inviting them to send election observers. Predictably, Iran supports the elections and has stated that those who oppose them also support terrorism in Syria. After Assad is “reelected” we can expect to see the theme that Assad as the legitimately elected choice of the Syrian people become the central pillar upon which Assad will justify his rule moving forward. But if there is any true belief behind the Russian and Iranian rhetoric that the upcoming elections are a path to peace in Syria, or the regime’s propaganda that Syria is on the right path despite the international community’s “plots and schemes,” then the only ones they are fooling are themselves. The Syrian presidential faux-election is galvanizing Syrian activists and coincides with increasing foreign military support to the rebels. Ironically as Assad’s campaign theme of Sawa [together] blankets the land, Syria has never been more torn apart.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Prime Minister Maliki Seeks to Create Momentum as Opponents Regroup

By ISW Iraq Team 

Several notable political developments took place over the last week. For the Iraqi Shi’a political groups, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA) formally nominated Maliki for a third term. The SLA’s primary strategy has also consisted of increasing its momentum by enlisting the support of political groups that in most cases have historically supported Maliki. This is intended to bolster Maliki’s chances for a third term. The Sadrists continue with their anti-Maliki stance while offering an alternative form to Maliki’s “majority government” approach. Instead of a majority government, the Sadrists are offering a “national unity” model. The Sadrists’ success is certainly not guaranteed and will depend on their capability to cobble together a consistent anti-Maliki front. Meanwhile, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) is maintaining a neutral posture while building influence through high-level engagements led by its leader, Ammar al-Hakim. 

For the Iraqi Sunni political groups, there are consistent complaints with regards to the accuracy of the results of the elections in the crucial provinces of Anbar and Kirkuk. The most prominent Iraqi Sunni group, Mutahidun, continues to reject a third term for Maliki while indicating that another candidate from the pan-Shi’a National Alliance (NA) would be acceptable. 

For the Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi Kurdistan President and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, stated that the Iraqi Kurds still have strong objections to a third Maliki term and that they will seek to find a “real partner” in the upcoming government in Baghdad. This statement underlines Barzani’s continued tensions with Maliki and may become a consistent negotiating position for the Iraqi Kurds especially in light of last week’s sale of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to international buyers. Barzani also raised the possibility of a public referendum to determine a “new pattern” of relations with Baghdad if Maliki becomes Prime Minister. This escalating rhetoric is meant to raise the level of demands by the Iraqi Kurds prior to the commencement of full-fledged government-formation negotiations. 

It is too early to tell if Maliki can secure a third term as his opponents are regrouping after the announcement of the results. At any rate, these dynamics indicate that government-formation will likely be a protracted process after the final results are certified.

Iraqi Shi’a Political Groups:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the State of Law Alliance (SLA)

Theme: Formally nominate Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a third term while attempting to maintain Iraqi Shi’a unity. Importantly, the SLA seeks to amplify momentum by announcing alliances with long-standing SLA-leaning groups.     


MAY 23: The components of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Alliance held a meeting and nominated PM Maliki for the premiership in the coming government. (Al Mada Press)

MAY 23: Member of the State of Law Alliance (SLA) of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Mohammed al-Saihud, stated that the alliance sent its program pertaining to the next government to the political blocs. Regarding current SLA efforts in government-formation, he stated that the alliance is working on restructuring the pan-Shi’a National Alliance (NA) and “being [open]” to other political groups to form a “majority government.” (Shafaq News)

MAY 25: A delegation from the Efficiencies and Masses bloc that won 3 seats in the parliamentary elections visited Prime Minister Maliki and announced their joining the SLA in addition to supporting a third Maliki term. The delegation included Haitham al-Juburi, Ihsan al-Awadi, and former Minister of Interior Jawad al-Bolani. (Al-Sumaria News)
MAY 25-26: The Maliki-leaning Solidarity bloc- which has one seat- in Dhi Qar province joined the SLA and agreed to nominate PM Maliki for a third term. Furthermore, governor of Najaf and leader of the Loyalty to Iraq bloc, Adnan al-Zurfi, announced that his bloc joined the SLA and supports PM Maliki for a third term. Loyalty to Iraq won two seats in Najaf. (Al-Sumaria News, Al-Sumaria News)
MAY 26: Member of Salah ad-Din National Alliance and Maliki supporter Minister of Sports and Youth Jassim Mohammed Jaafar announced that four incoming members of the Council of Representatives from Ninewa and Salah ad-Din have joined the SLA and will support a third term for Prime Minister Maliki. All four members have established ties with the SLA. (Al-Sumaria News)

Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)

Theme: Exhibit neutrality while aiming to build influence through high-level engagements.    


MAY 24-26: Leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) Ammar al-Hakim met in his office in Baghdad with the leader of the Arabiyya Alliance, Saleh al-Mutlaq. On May 24, Hakim met with the leader of Mutahidun Alliance and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Osama al-Nujaifi. According to statements released by Hakim’s office, the discussions focused on political developments and elections results, in addition to “regional and global” issues. (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq)

The Sadrist Trend

Theme: Continued anti-Maliki position and countering SLA majoritarian approach by proposing national unity government.  


MAY 25: Hakim al-Zamili, a member in the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, stated that the bloc will enter the opposition should PM Maliki be given a third term, because it does not want to participate in another “weak government.” Zamili continued by stating that the bloc is negotiating with other political formations in order to form a “partnership government.” He stated that the bloc is waiting until the ratification of election results to announce its alliances. (Al-Sumaria News)
MAY 26: According to Jawad al-Juburi, a member in the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, the bloc will not accept a third term for Prime Minister Maliki due to the performance of the government during his tenure. Juburi stated that the bloc will negotiate with all blocs, parties, and alliances in order to form a government. (Al-Sumaria News)

Iraqi Sunni Political Groups:

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s Mutahidun Alliance

Theme: Accepting Prime Minister from Iraqi Shi’a National Alliance but rejecting third Maliki term.    

26 MAY: Leader in the Mutahidun Alliance Mohammed al-Khalidi stated that Mutahidun has been conducting ongoing talks with political blocs in order to form a government.  Khalidi added that discussions have taken place to form an alliance between the Wataniyya List, the Arabiyya Alliance, the Kurdistani Alliance, the Mowatin bloc (ISCI), and the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, as well as others, excluding the SLA. He added that the alliance will be announced once election results are ratified and the alliance reaches 200 CoR members. Khalidi added that Mutahidun refuses a third term for PM Maliki and expressed willingness to accept “any” other nominee from the NA. (Al-Sumaria News)

The Iraqi Kurds:

Theme: Anti-Maliki in light of recent Iraqi Kurdistan oil sales to international buyers. 

MAY 27: President of Iraqi Kurdistan and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barazani stated that the Iraqi Kurds will conduct a popular poll in Iraqi Kurdistan in order to determine the relationship with the central government if PM Maliki won a third term. (Sharq al-Awsat Newspaper

Provincial Complaints:

Theme: Iraqi Sunni groups in crucial provinces question the accuracy of the results.

19 MAY: The head of the Coalition of Kirkuk Arabs, Omar al-Juburi, stated in an interview that the coalition will challenge the election results because the coalition believes that the results are inaccurate. Juburi continued by saying that election monitors in the south and west of Kirkuk noticed high turnout and were surprised that the coalition did not receive more seats in the Council of Representatives (CoR). (Al Mada Press)

25 MAY: A number of political groups in Anbar questioned the turnout rates in the province citing it as a sign of fraud. According to the head of the Loyalty to Anbar bloc, Qassim al-Fahdawi, the province had a 20% voter turnout and reports giving other numbers are untrue. He continued by stating that voter turnout did not exceed 10% in precincts for displaced persons. Member of the Arabiyya Alliance Rafi Abdul Karim also stated that voter turnout was not greater than 22% in the province. He stated that there was a 9% voter turnout rate in voting centers for displaced persons and that the votes in these centers were rigged by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Anbar in favor of an “influential bloc” in the province. A member of Unity of Iraq’s Sons, Taha Abdul Ghani, also stated that widespread fraud occurred and that IHEC favored one particular bloc in the province. (Al-Sumaria News)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Initial Negotiating Positions of Iraqi Political Parties: Pre- and Post-Elections Results

By Iraq Team

The dominant reaction to the results is expression of dissatisfaction by the various groups with some alleging “fraud” but without presenting strong evidence. Even Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) is complaining about results and falls within that fold. Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA) and the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are very satisfied with the results, having performed well. 

In most cases, groups say they expected more seats but show indications that they are ready to move on. For example, the Sadrists initiated what they described as talks with other political groups to form the government. This development, however, will likely change and is only part of the negotiations. Various groups have registered appeals, but that process will likely not change the results a great deal. In total, discrediting the elections results can lead to damaging the legitimacy of the elections. 

A notable development to highlight is that a new political alliance was formed by the Iraqi Sunnis groups that is titled Etihad (Union). The alliance is possibly game-changing because it shows major Iraqi Sunni groups unifying and is composed of Mutahidun, Arabiyya, Iraq List, Unity of Iraq’s Sons, and Loyalty to Anbar. 

In conclusion, there is discontentment with the results for some blocs, but no major negotiating position changes yet since prior to the results. 

Iraqi Shi’a Political Groups:

National Alliance:
Theme: The office of the Prime Minister should go to the National Alliance



12 MAY: The leader of the National Alliance (NA), Ibrahim al-Jafari, stated that a meeting took place between the components of the alliance and was attended by Prime Minister Maliki. According to the statement, the political commission of the alliance formed a commission of eight members to “reevaluate” the structure of the NA. Also, the attendees discussed the budget and the importance of its approval by the Council of Representatives (CoR). Maliki briefed the attendees on the security situation. Member of the Sadrist Ahrar bloc Jawad al-Juburi stated that the attendees agreed that the office of the Prime Minister  should go to the National Alliance, without discussing who would fill that role. (Shafaq News, Al Mada Press, Al-Sumaria News)

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the State of Law Alliance (SLA)
Theme: Satisifed with the results, stating that the National Alliance will nominate the Prime Minister candidate from the “biggest component” of the NA.



19 MAY: PM Maliki held a press conference in Baghdad after the results were announced and stated that the National Alliance (NA) will form the government adding that the “biggest component” of the NA will nominate the PM. (Al Mada Press)


12 MAY: Prime Minister Maliki attended the National Alliance meeting described above.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH):
Theme: Critical of IHEC, citing inaccurate results and that Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) was influenced to minimize AAH votes.



20 MAY: Director of the political office of AAH Adnan Faihan held a press conference at AAH headquarters in Jadiriyha, central Baghdad. Faihan criticized IHEC stating that the results were not accurate and that IHEC was influenced by domestic and external bodies to minimize AAH votes and prevent “Sadiqun, the political representation of the Islamic Resistance from being in the CoR.” (All Iraq News)

Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)
Theme: Alleged election fraud that was meant to maximize the votes for the SLA and minimize those of ISCI.



19 MAY: Spokesperson of the Mowatin Citizens Alliance of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), Baligh Abu Galal along with other leaders in Mowatin held a press conference and presented “evidence” of fraud that took place in the elections that was meant to maximize the votes for the SLA and minimize those of ISCI. Abu Galal highlighted: alleged vote buying by distributing real estate and by promising IHEC staff permanent employment; discarded ballots marked in favor of ISCI; manipulation of voter turnout figures; and locks from ballots boxes that were allegedly found discarded in the streets showing tampering with ballot boxes. (Al-Mada Press)


13 MAY: The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) released a statement indicating that its leader, Ammar al-Hakim, and a delegation from ISCI composed of Mowatin Speaker Baligh Abu Galal, Humam Hamudi, Ahmed al-Chalabi, and Mohammed al-Assadi visited PM Maliki at his residence. The statement added that the meeting was also attended by PM Maliki’s advisor, Abdul-Halim al-Zuhairi; a leader in the Da‘wa Party, Tariq Najim; and a leader in the State of Law Alliance (SLA), Yassin Majid. The attendees agreed on continuing the dialogue between ISCI and the SLA and to “activate the role of the NA.” Hakim stressed the need for a [partnership between the strong sides] in forming a “strong team” from within the NA to lead the country. (Al-Sumaria News, Shafaq News)
15 MAY: Abd al-Hussein al-Abtan, a leader  in the Mowatin Alliance of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) commented on the “threat” of a “decisive response” issued on May 14 by the leader of ISCI, Ammar al-Hakim, if the results of the elections are “illogical.” According to Abtan, the statement reflects ISCI’s concern regarding the delay in announcing the results. He added that IHEC answered many “legitimate complaints” submitted by ISCI after it found a group of discarded ballots in the street that had been marked for the Mowatin Alliance. (Al Mada Press)

The Sadrist Trend
Theme: Alleged electoral fraud and voting irregularities in favor of the SLA.



20 MAY: Kinani held a press conference and stated that the Sadrist Ahrar bloc initiated talks with other political groups to form the government.  He added that the next Prime Minister (PM) should be from the National Alliance while being accepted by other political actors noting that the process of selecting the PM will be “very long.”  (Shafaq News)


13 MAY: A spokesperson of the Sadrist Ahrar bloc Jawad al-Juburi stated that the eight-member committee that was formed as a result of the National Alliance (NA) meeting that took place on 12 May will serve to restructure the NA. He added that the NA will be “the fundamental power” that the prime minister would consult instead of a unilateral policy. (Al-Sumaria News)
18 MAY: Member of the Sadrist Ahrar bloc, Amir al-Kinani held a press conference at the Council of Representatives (CoR) and presented documents described as evidence of fraud and violation in the national elections that benefited the State of Law Alliance (SLA) of Prime Minster (PM) Nouri al-Maliki.  Among other charges, Kinani cited: alleged coercion against IHEC staff members to ensure they voted for the SLA; votes improperly given to the SLA as well as votes taken away from smaller parties; questionable turnout figures in areas around Baghdad; and alleged data manipulation by IHEC staff loyal to the SLA. Kinani stated that the above complaints will be submitted to the judiciary if IHEC’s Board of Commissioners does not address them. (Assafir News)

Iraqi Sunni Political Groups:

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Arabiyya Alliance
Theme: Alleged electoral violations and called on investigations by external organizations.


19 MAY:  Saleh al-Mutlaq stated that a meeting took place with the political representation of the six (representation of Iraqi Sunnis in Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, Salah ad-Din, Ninewa, and Kirkuk) provinces and that the attendees agreed that the electoral process was violated “on purpose” by a major political party. The statement called for the “immediate intervention” of the U.N and other external bodies to launch an investigation on the “purposeful violations” of the elections. (Assafir News)


15 MAY: Deputy PM and the leader of the Arabiyya Alliance, Salih al-Mutlaq met with the leader of ISCI, Ammar al-Hakim and a delegation from ISCI. Mutlaq stated that both sides agree on forming a government that serves that Iraqi people. Hakim described the meeting as one of national motives that aim to make positive changes. Also, Hakim stated that the ISCI has strong relations with the Arabiyya Alliance, and that this relationship with the alliance along with other parties will answer the will of the people. (Al-Sumaria News)

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s Mutahidun Alliance
Theme: Not “satisfied” with election results and claimed that military operations and other destabilizing factors contributed to low voter turnout, particularly in Anbar.



20 MAY: Member of the Mutahidun Alliance Mohammed Iqbal stated that the alliance is not “satisfied” with the results of the elections citing the military operations in Anbar and other destabilizing factors in the Baghdad belts as obstacles that prevented voters from voting. He added that the Alliance will appeal the results. (All Iraq News)


12 MAY: The Office of the Speaker of the Council of Representatives (CoR) released a statement indicating that Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi met with the Commander of U.S Central Command (CENTCOM), General Lloyd Austin. Speaker Nujaifi is the leader of the Mutahidun Alliance. According to the statement, Nujaifi stressed the need for political solutions over the “overt” use of force in combating ISIS and al-Qaeda. Regarding the elections, Nujaifi highlighted the negative effects the floods had on turnout in areas around Baghdad in addition to similar effects created by military operations in Anbar in preventing voters from participating in the elections. (Al-Sumaria News)
14 MAY: The Mutahidun Alliance released a statement indicating that its leader, Osama al-Nujaifi, met with the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), Ammar al-Hakim. The statement added that the two sides agreed on an expeditious release of elections results and government formation. According to the statement, both sides also agreed that the next prime minister should be approved “internally, regionally, and globally.” Also, a committee was formed in order to follow up and craft policies for the “next level.” The leaders further agreed that the current strategy based on force used in Anbar will negatively affect the Iraqi society. They discussed reforms and ways to mitigate the negative effects of some of the problems that faced the elections.  (Al-Sumaria News)

The Iraqi Kurds:

Themes - PUK: Cited an increase in seats won by the PUK and reiterated that the presidency should come from the PUK.

KDP: Expressed concern that they did not win more seats, calling for an investigation of votes cast in Erbil.



20 MAY: According to an official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Khosro Goran, the KDP believes that the final vote tally “betrayed the votes of the party’s electors and it is an injustice to them.” The KDP believed that it would receive more seats in Ninewa; eight seats in Erbil, rather than seven; and that it would get one seat in Diyala. The KDP expected to receive 28 seats, but received 25 seats. He added that we “demand a comparison of the forms that have been counted in Erbil and those sent to Baghdad.” (Shafaq News)
20 MAY: Member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Ala al-Talabani described the number of seats won by the PUK in the elections as a significant increase from the last elections. Talabani added that the “Kurdistani blocs” formed a commission in order to conduct talks with other winning blocs.  She also reiterated the demand for the position of the presidency in the coming government without nominating a candidate. (All Iraq News)


13 MAY: Iraqi Kurdistan President and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barazani expressed his discontent regarding the relationship between Baghdad and Erbil stating that he is not willing to “go through the same experience again,” and describing the rule of PM Maliki as “totalitarian” and stating that Maliki has “changed” since he became the Prime Minister.  Barazani denied that a partnership took place with Baghdad during the rule of Maliki. He added that all options are possible to include boycotting “everything” that has to do with the federal government. Regarding the demands of Iraqi Kurdish representation in the next government and ways to ensure that they are met, Barazani stated that he “would be seeking more than paper guarantees.”  President Barazani stressed that a decision was made to “sell oil independently” and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will continue to “produce, pump, and sell oil.” Barazani described the way the government acted in Anbar as one meant to achieve political gains. (Reuters via