Saturday, December 09, 2006

The 2003 generation seems to be planning a comeback

For some reason, the Allawi-Chalabi era US-allied would-be political leaders are again running themselves up the flagpole, or whatever that expression is.

Yesterday there was the Elaph report on Faisal al-Kaoud, supposedly the leading candidate for new Defence Minister. He was in exile from 1971 to 2003.

As for Allawi himself, Marc Lynch notes that he has been burnishing a nationalist anti-US image lately, giving interviews, and appearing frequently on Arab TV, suggestive of a candidacy for something, in the context of the decline of general confidence in the Maliki administration.

Then there's another name, this one almost as unfamiliar as al-Kaoud's, that surfaced yesterday. And since it is a small world, this additional name belongs to an Allawi-ally/Chalabi rival.

We all remember Chalabi, but there was Janabi too. Saad Assim Abboud al-Janabi, scion of an Iraqi tribal and business family, exiled in California for eight years, returning to Iraq with the Americans. US News printed a profile of Janabi in June 2003, noting he was setting up a political party, and suggesting he could be a rival to Chalabi for top spot in the new political order under the Defence Department's Iraq coordinator Jay Garner. But Chalabi was given control of the de-Baathification process, and that apparently disqualified Janabi, who had ties to Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamel. (Janabi was also outed by Judy Miller as someone who had worked with the CIA, but that is another story). The point is that the two, Chalabi and Janabi were rivals then.

And it appears they are coming out of the woodwork to fight again. Janabi, it seems, has been using a pair of offices in Zawiyya district of Baghdad that actually belong to the Iraqi Finance Ministry. His occupancy was authorized for a year back in 2003 by Paul Bremer, but the authorization has long expired, and apparently Janabi is still there.

Yesterday the office of the Presidency of the Republic (Talabani's office) issued a statement to the effect it is planning to move into those offices soon, and reciting the history of its unsuccessful attempts to evict Janabi. Apparently former president Iyad Allawi (with whom Janabi is close) had complained about last-resort police attempts to evict Janabi, and Talabani replied with a recital of all of his efforts to do this legally. This is obviously a potential embarassment to Janabi.

Here's where it gets kind of interesting. Chalabi's former research director, Nibras Kazimi (see the thumbnail bio under "scholars" on the Hudson Institute website, not only draws attention to this squabble on his web-site, (Dec 9, "Would-be Iraqi Intelligence Chief...") but suggests this could harm Janabi in some specific ways, citing in a very Chalibi-esque way a supposedly lucrative contract between a California-based firm with which Janabi is associated and the government of Iraq, and suggesting that this dust-up over the eviction proceedings could harm Janabi's and this company's credibility. And there is this:

Janabi, says Kazimi, has been going around saying he will be next director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. This eviction-scuffle could hurt that ambition too, Kazimi says.

Recall the exciting story last month of the current director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, al-Shehwani, being airlifted to Amman by the Americans for his own safety, following an assassination threat. At about that same time, there was a report in the Baghdad newspaper Azzaman that said US intelligence chief Negroponte suggested to Maliki the creation of a whole new intelligence service, and suggested also there would be no objection to including officers from the Saddam-era intelligence service in the new outfit. The reporter says people in the Shiite UIA opposed that idea. So this might or might not just be a Chalabi-Janabi personal squabble.

There you have it. At least four candidates so far for high position in an Iraqi government of some description, all of them US-allied 2003-returnees: Al-Kaoud, Allawi, Janabi--and Chalabi himself.

Because here we have the answer to another puzzle. I complained when the NYT printed its Chalabi profile last month that the paper forgot to mention anything about Chalabi's lead role in de-Baathification, or about his plans (reported in Al-Quds al-Arabi), to start up a new "liberal-type" political party. He's keeping a low profile.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

For months now there has been a great deal of talk in US media and, according to Badger and others, Arab media about changes in high places. The US defense sec. is a done deal, and talk of generals, ambassadors, etc is common. All of this talk and facts of personnel change indicates that the problems in Iraq are viewed essentially as management problems. Similar to corporations that change CEO’s when profits are down.

Interestingly, there is no, dare I say, sociological talk; and, for good reasons. Americans don’t study sociology. For example, why do the Shia and Sunni’s hate each other with passion so great that they inflict such pain on one another? Is it just because of the mistakes that those managing the Iraq situation (Americans and Iraqi) have made? Clearly, such hatred is rooted is some issues more profound than management decisions such as dismantling the Iraqi army or the Baath party, etc. Seemingly, there was a seething hate that the Baath government kept in check; which argues against scholarly bloggers who say that Iraq is and has been a unified country and those who posit partition are uninformed.

4:58 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I think you could try James Fearon at Stanford or O'Hanlon at Brookings if you really want arguments for "ethnic de-mixing".

But the thing is, this post is about a completely different issue.

5:35 AM  

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