Arab leaders now see the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as an obstacle on the path of reconciliation and return of security, officials say.
The officials who refused to be named, said that these Arab leaders may be unable to form a unified front regarding Iraq unless Maliki drastically changes tact and his policies. A summit with this goal in mind is planned in Saudi Arabia on March 28-29.
The prime minister, who apparently still enjoys the backing of Washington and U.S. leaders, seems rather pleased with the progress of military operations to subdue Baghdad.
But the sources said that the Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia and Jordan, were keen to alter the current balance of power in Baghdad – which tilts toward Shiite factions.
The Shiite coalition has the largest bloc in Parliament but can’t rule on its own, since it lacks a two-thirds majority.
The fate of the Maliki government depends on its alliance with the Kurds, who enjoy substantial autonomy in northern Iraq.
But the Kurds are reported to be furious with Maliki’s policies and fear that uncertainty and high levels of violence in most parts of the country could destabilize their relatively quiet enclave.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan, two key players in Iraq, are cozying up to the Kurds, in a move designed to persuade them to give up their alliance with Maliki.
The Kurds joined Maliki’s government hoping it would normalize conditions in oil-rich Kirkuk by holding a referendum and forcing Arabs who were brought there under Saddam to leave. But Maliki is reluctant to take such measures, which has angered his Kurdish allies.
The officials said the recent visit to Saudi Arabia by president of the Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani was part of a Saudi campaign to further weaken Maliki. Barzani also visited Amman where he met King Abdullah of Jordan. Both countries are predominantly Sunni, as are the majority of Kurds.
Kurds would reportedly by ready to change alliances if they were guaranteed that Kirkuk would be added to their semi-independent territory.
But the mainly Sunni opposition bloc in Iraq’s Parliament strongly opposes relinquishing Kirkuk and its prolific oil fields to the Kurds.
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