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Kurds Open to Coalition with Allawi, Fadhila

Al-Hayat is reporting that Iraqi Kurds are considering abandoning their alliance with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shia-dominated coalition and instead forming a new coalition led by former prime minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi List and recently including the Shia Fadhila Party ("Inclusion of the Kurds in Allawi's Coalition Depends on Its Success"). Prominent Kurdish leader Mahmud Uthman told news agencies that the Kurds were interested "if it is confirmed that the coalition that Iyad Allawi is trying to form can bring together diverse parties capable of bringing about change in Iraq." The article also noted that there was speculation that the new coalition was being supported by the United States, as U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Allawi together visited Kurdistan recently just as Fadhila was withdrawing from the United Iraqi Alliance.

The same article also reports on a separate incident of special note regarding Iran. Kurdish authorities have declared martial law in the border area around Najwin and closed the border with Iran due to the infiltration of Iraqi territory by members of the terrorist Ansar al-Sunna Army (jaish ansar al-sunna). The article notes that members of the Kurdish border patrol have reported repeated attacks from Sunni terrorists coming from Iranian territory.

ThreatsWatch has reported on the formation of this new coaltion twice in the past two weeks (see Fadhila Announces Departure from UIA and Fadhila Joins New Coalition). While I downplayed the significance of Fadhila's actions in these previous reports because of its limited influence outside its base in Basra, the potential addition of the Kurds is much more important. The Kurdish parties have been Maliki's only reliable non-Shia partners, and the defection of both Fadhila and the Kurds would deprive the government of its majority in parliament. This is all still somewhat speculative since the Kurds seem to be conditioning their inclusion on Allawi forming the rest of the coalition first, but an Allawi-led Sunni-Kurd-Fadhila coalition would force the prime minister to make radical changes in order to maintain any kind of governing coalition at all.

The association of Khalilzad with the formation of this new coalition, whether accurate or not, could have a negative affect on U.S. relations with the Maliki government if Maliki comes to believe that the U.S. is conspiring against him. There are potential positives that come from this news, but for the U.S. to be associated with attempts to form a new ruling coalition will backlash by reinforcing rampant accusations that the Iraqi government is an American puppet. This is even more true because Allawi was once funded by the CIA.