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Monday, April 24, 2006

About that new Iraqi government


The Boss of Bosses

Swopa has this nice breakdown of our new Iraqi allies

Iraqi politicians come and go, but the Baathist wedge remains

Juan Cole this morning, in his close reading of the Arabic-language press, may have caught the most revealing tidbit about the United Iraqi Alliance's naming of Jawad al-Maliki as the new prospective prime minister:

Informed sources in Baghdad told al-Zaman that the decision was taken quickly in an atmosphere of American pressure, as part of a deal among Abdul Aziz al-Hakim (head of the UIA), Jalal Talabani of the Kurdistan Alliance and Tariq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party.

Among their goals was to deny a prominent role in the new government to Iyad Allawi (ex-Baathist leader of the Iraqi National List) and Salih Mutlak (Sunni ex-Baathist and leader of the National Dialogue Council).

Sure enough, neither Allawi nor Mutlak's factions were represented in the group of top officials and deputies named today, and Agence France Presse has their reaction:

Sunni MP Salah Mutlak, whose coalition holds 11 parliament seats, criticised the proceedings. "This is not a team for national unity, this is a sectarian arrangement," he warned.

. . . Former premier Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List of 25 seats were among those who did not vote for any post.

But what of the religious Sunni parties, their erstwhile partners (along with the Kurds) in the anti-Shiite coalition?

"We welcome the choice of Mr Maliki and believe that we can now form a national unity government in Iraq which will be non-sectarian," said Zhafer al-Ani, spokesman of the National Concord Front, the main bloc representing Iraq's Sunni Arab former elite.

Ooooops, looks like somebody got cut in on the deal, and some other folks didn't.

A result like this is not entirely a surprise; the religious Sunnis were always seen as the most likely third faction to join the Shiite and Kurdish parties in a governing coalition. The point is that the exclusion of the Baathist-friendly parties would prove the failure of the overall U.S. political strategy, which was to force Allawi into a prominent role in the new government.

But wait -- didn't the U.S. scheme implemented by ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad succeed in forcing out Jaafari? Well, yes, but that's all it accomplished, as the Los Angeles Times explained this morning:

In terms of ideology and personal history, Maliki and Jafari appear to be carbon copies. Both men are in their 50s and hail from the Shiite shrine city of Karbala. Both were idealistic and devout Shiite opponents of Iraq's Sunni Arab rulers and the Baath Party. They became underground members of the Islamic Dawa Party. Both fled into exile in Iran after Hussein came to power.

. . . Jafari, a physician and theologian, agreed to step down only after he was confronted with intense domestic and international pressure. Among several preconditions, he demanded that his successor be a member of the Dawa Party.

"Jafari's agreement wasn't without a price," said the aide to one high-level Shiite legislator. "Otherwise the floor might have been opened and another candidate might have been chosen."

. . . After a U.S.-backed raid last month on a Shiite house of worship allegedly used to torture and hold kidnapping victims in northern Baghdad, Maliki condemned the U.S. and called for an investigation. In an interview with The Times in February, he accused those who opposed Jafari of acting as dupes for Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador.

Keep that in mind as you read the feigned gloating from Dubya, Khalilzad, Condoliezza Rice, et al. about political progress and the coming "government of national unity."

The real proof either way, though, will come in the next stage of the obstacle course, as the LA Times story also notes:

Relieved U.S. and Iraqi officials, exhausted after weeks of negotiations over the government, hailed Maliki's expected elevation as a significant breakthrough, even though fractious discussions over the leadership of the security services remained.

"A major step has been taken with regard to the formation of a government of national unity, which already has a program agreement on a process for decision-making and new institutions," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in an interview. "It's a significant step … in the right direction, but there will be difficult days ahead."


What Zalmay is referring to is a complicated oversight mechanism intended to give all parties a voice in running the army and police, rather than just the ruling Shiite alliance. (Diluting Team Shiite's control of the defense and interior ministries has been the central goal of the U.S. in the post-election jockeying.) It's not clear yet, though, whether this so-called security council will actually have decision-making authority or be powerless merely advisory -- the latter being the Shiites' preference, and perhaps how they'll interpret the "program agreement" regardless of its actual language.

A true unity government would give the Allawi and Mutlak factions an opportunity to partially re-Baathify the Iraqi security institutions, opposition to which I've repeatedly proclaimed as the defining wedge that kept Allawi out of the previous government... so I suppose I'd have to eat my Swopadamus hat if that happened. Based on the developments of the past few days, though, I may not have much to worry about.


Team US is on crack if they think the Wolf Brigade won't continue to kill Sunni. I wonder if CENTCOM has a loyalty chart of the Iraqi Army. I wonder how many battalions the Madhi Army owns. They certainly own most of the police of the South.

The Iraqis are not stupid. They will let the Americans serve their delusions as long as it serves them. Allawi is lucky to be among the living, a situtation the guerrillas may solve sooner rather than later.

posted by Steve @ 2:31:00 PM

2:31:00 PM

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