August 18, 2007

Allawi On The Stump

Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister of Iraq during the transitional government period, calls his nation a "failing state" and puts most of the blame on his successor, Nouri al-Maliki. Allawi insists that the Iraqis need a multinational force in place to secure the country, along with better international cooperation, and underscores the need for firm American commitment over the next two years:

Next month, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will report to Congress on the situation in my country. I expect that the testimony of these two good men will be qualified and nuanced, as politics requires. I also expect that their assessment will not capture the totality of the tragedy -- that more than four years after its liberation from Saddam Hussein, Iraq is a failing state, not providing the most basic security and services to its people and contributing to an expanding crisis in the Middle East.

Let me be clear. Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people's desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations. The expected "crisis summit" in Baghdad is further evidence of the near-complete collapse of the Iraqi government. The best outcome of the summit is perhaps a renewed effort or commitment for the participants to work together, which may buy a few more weeks or months of cosmetic political activity. But there will be no lasting political reconciliation under Maliki's sectarian regime.

Who could have imagined that Iraq would be in such crisis more than four years after Saddam Hussein? Each month 2,000 to 3,000 Iraqi civilians are killed by terrorists and sectarian death squads. Electricity and water are available, at best, for only five to six hours a day. Baghdad, once evidence of Iraq's cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, is now a city of armed sectarian enclaves -- much like Beirut of the 1980s.

This reads more like a campaign speech than a serious analysis. Allawi, who couldn't get enough support to retain his post in 2005, claims that Maliki is incapable of moving Iraq towards reconciliation -- and he certainly has been proven correct thus far. However, the article appears to be a little out of date, as Maliki has now started to engage the Sunnis and the Kurds in hopes of building those political alliances, and has sidelined Moqtada al-Sadr by allying with his enemies in the South. Whether or not he can be successful remains to be seen, but Maliki has certainly taken the first steps, albeit at least a year late.

The six points Allawi proposes are a blend of reality and fantasy, as most political broadsides tend to be. He correctly states that Iraq has to be a full partner in Iraqi reconstruction and security. On the latter point, Iraq appears to be moving in that direction. Their army, at least, has improved greatly since the last time Allawi was in office. Their police have performed less adequately, with sectarian impulses far more prevalent.

Allawi also insists that Iraq has to remain a single federal state, answering back to Joe Biden and Sam Brownback on splitting the nation into three regions. He wants Iran to stop interfering in Iraq, a welcome call, and wants a stronger tack taken with Syria. His vision of a single, strong, and independent Iraq should meet with approval from all sides, excepting Syria and Iran.

However, in his call for greater international participation, Allawi is fooling himself more than anyone else. The United Nations, which bugged out in August 2003, has no interest in returning to Iraq. They can barely stir themselves to intervene in Darfur, a much more politically-correct endeavor in international circles. By calling for intervention from other Arab nations, he weakens his insistence on independence -- and since the nations referenced are primarily Sunni, such an intervention would rip Iraq into the very sectarian divide he decries. Besides, no one wants to join the US in its mission, or especially to follow it after an American withdrawal.

He has a reasonable take on the latter point. He foresees a gradual reduction in American forces over the next two years, at which point the "majority" of forces will have left. The combat role would get reduced more quickly. Once the Iraqis have the forces to fight the terrorists and insurgents on their own, that is what we all want. However, they're not quite up to it on their own yet. The British followed Allawi's advice in the south, and it's been a mess. The American strategy of aggressive engagement in the West has not just reduced the terrorist threat, but also helped build the kind of unity Allawi wants.

Allawi certainly has a case to make, but he should be focusing on making it to the Iraqi people through the electoral process. Maybe they will agree with his intention of declaring emergency rule in Baghdad and other areas of sectarian strife, and absorbing militias into the Iraqi national forces. Perhaps they may think that would be akin to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. At least Allawi should leave that to the Iraqis.


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Comments (7)

Posted by Rose | August 18, 2007 1:23 PM

It's imposible to engage with those who refuse to be engageable.

America has discovered that with the Dims, Israel has discovered that with the Arabs.

As long as those who see a political advantage to seeing the current regime fail miserably, continue declaring defeat, WHO HAS REALLY CAUSED THE DEFEAT!

Lay it at the door where it belongs.
And let them pay the bill, and the freight for it.

Posted by Carol Herman | August 18, 2007 1:49 PM

Allawi is the CIA-guy. And, Chalabi belongs to our State Dept. So far, neither one of them has been embraced by the Iraqis. And, probably never will be.

That there are plenty of goons around? Sure.

Reminds me that Las Vegas (also a money pit), was largely run by goons, until BIG BUSINESS stepped in, and tossed those mafia monkeys back to Chicago.

The pot's worth it.

We blew it with the Saud's. Who are earning something like a few million dollars every minute. Which lets them live high off the hog. And, fund madresses, around the world, among mostly poor people. Filling their heads with grandure and garbage. Once, the province of other religions. But the furvor in the West has "died down."

Well, what about places like Iran and Irak? You think the dinner-jacket fellow is secure? I doubt it. But it's fear writ large ona media screen; and here those despots gets lots of support from American and British elites. Who think they own the turf.

I think their microphones are busted. Even and including those in academia.

Expose people to poisons, and sooner or later, they develop the antibodies they need to survive.

The things that lend "hope" in Afghanistan and Irak, is that we're not everywhere. We're not taking over. We've got operations that help. But it's skinny, in comparison to the "whole." And, it's among the people where these things will count the most.

Maliki is also smart enough to know how to survive in these treacherous waters. He's done it before. And, he came out "on top." In spite of our State Department, and CIA's efforts.

I'd hate to see the Iraqis going under the thumb of another despot. (Which is what's happened to Iran. And, the iranians KNOW IT!)

Afgahnistan? All they export is OPIUM. To fight the Russians, we built roadways 3rd world countries never see. And, we gave access through mountain passes that are used by the drug lords. If I had to bet, now? Some of those roadways are being bombed. Making road access LESS accessible.

There's no other way when you're working with drug lords and their "cultures." You gotta hit them in their pocketbooks.

You probably don't see this, but Israel, when it went in looking for its kidnapped soldiers, did do a "messing around" with the Southern Lebanese hash-hish business. Supposedly? They grow the best in the world. Access, however, is on roads now scattered with unexploded bomblets. Ordinance.

Me? I measure the successes on how you can stop the stuff we don't even speak of. DRUGS. And, how some countries depend on this business to the exclusion of all else.

Iraq? That was a Saudi dream; to capture even more Mideast real estate. I don't think even with "lotion boy's" help in the White House, that they've made any steps forward. And, soon Bush will be gone. A new administration will come in.

And, if we're very lucky? Voters will scare the pants off congress-critters, who may find they need to "adjust" to the realities of the Internet. And, not the garbage they thought the MSM could give them. Similar trips. When you get nowhere.

Posted by Steven Donegal | August 18, 2007 1:52 PM

"The American strategy of aggressive engagement in the West has not just reduced the terrorist threat, but also helped build the kind of unity Allawi wants."

As far as I can tell, the only unity in Anbar is that the Sunnis have decided two things: Al Qaeda is more trouble than it's worth; and their only hope against the Shia is the American Army. As for an interest in being ruled by a Shia dominated government, not so much.

Posted by skeptical | August 18, 2007 7:03 PM

I like your read on this guy, Ed. He seems, though, like about an inch better than Maliki, and except for Maliki's last moment conversion to being a national instead of a tribal figure. Hard to believe he's going to make people get to work.

Also, I wouldn't count out Sadr as he seems to speak for a lot of people people in the south as well, although Sadr always looks like he just wants to go home to his mother and argue politics over dinner while she wipes his chin.

Posted by daytrader | August 18, 2007 8:01 PM

Allawi is the secular voice in Iraq.

Our MSM has always played it like everyone there is on one side or the other of a pure religious divide.

Just tell me how many burkas you saw in the days of Saddam.

Shut up and count.

Posted by ajacksonian | August 19, 2007 6:31 AM

One of the things that Allawi does not address is the change in western Iraq and the outreach of what has worked there on a tribal basis now extending into Diyala, Suleiman and other provinces. The change of Anbar was firstly inter-tribal cooperation and then a change to become the new Anbar and now Iraq Awakening political movement. Reading on that stand-up over at Bill Roggio's before the surge started, that this localized, 'bottom-up' movement is secular and flexible in nature. This is not a 'top-down' National party or government concept, but a concept to get good control of local affairs run by locals and then putting pressure upwards to hold National government accountable for its actions and inactions.

Michael Yon's work in Baqubah shows this in action as the local mayor joins up with US forces to go with a truck convoy to Sadr City and the food distribution center there and the video shot is compelling. A mixture of old Saddam era bureaucrat, Shia local administration, Sunni mayor and US leadership via LTC Johnson holds the bureaucrats, who are stonewalling, accountable for their activities. With the camera running. Plus US and IA forces outside.

Once it is made clear that no one is leaving until the food, rightly belonging to Baqubah citizens via government distribution, the message does get through. By the end of it, while waiting for paperwork to shuffle along, Sunni and Shia talk about the strange things that al Qaeda impose by force. From that now comes the point made during the aftermath of that success: Baqubah is the breadbasket of Iraq and is now standing up its flour mills and such resuming food production to the rest of Iraq.

The concept is that more local forms of government hold higher forms accountable for their activities. National governing parties are now coming to realize that their local basis for popularity is being undermined by local systems standing up. Allawi and Maliki both come from the transition period's start, where broad consensus government was needed. Fine grain consensus is now becoming the need and the National parties either must adapt or the next round of elections, the provincial ones which parliament has been unable to come to conclusion on, must be done. Maliki is bowing to that pressure for his new coalition to get to work. Or else face tens if not hundreds of mayors descending upon Baghdad who will demand accountability directly. Mayors from Baqubah, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Mosul... folks doing their jobs for their residents. Provincial government suddenly looks very, very good as an intermediary and necessary for governing the Nation. Let someone *else* handle the mayors who are used to getting things *done*.

A note on Chalabi - he actually does have a seat in Parliament and is now doing work to demonstrate he is there to work for his people. Just as the surge was starting off, he was there to get to a town that had been isolated and, while he did bring a camera crew, the place was still under long-range mortar fire and observation by insurgents. I am always heartened by a politician willing to put their skin on the line for television time. Might get them killed, but it least it demonstrates some fortitude to make sure the right thing gets done for one's constituents. Iraq appears to be starting a generation of such folks, getting 'government under fire' to mean something other than just partisan attacks by words and then snivel at verbal sniping. Showboating? Yes. Sudden lead poisoning makes it something a bit more than that, however.

Perhaps America can learn something from Iraq on that score.

Posted by Chris | August 19, 2007 7:56 AM

My first thought on reading this was that it sounds a lot like our political environment. I like the sound of that.

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