Monday, March 05, 2007

Deconstructing the Allawi scheme

Al-Quds al-Arabi devotes its top news story this morning to breaking down the Allawi-threat into its component parts. First, as for Allawi's own motives, the journalist cites "Iraqi observers" who prefer not to be named, to the effect that
[T]he escalation by former prime minister Ayad Allawi of his critical language vis-a-vis the government, and his threat to withdraw from it, are explainable by his [prior] knowledge of the approach of ministerial changes by Maliki, and [this is an] attempt by Allawi to get a bigger slice of the government pie, considering that he didn't obtain much of anything at the time of the formation of the current government.
The Bush administration, according to this way of looking at things, has its own fish to fry:
Washington, for its part [the journalist writes], is trying to use Allawi as an element of pressure against Maliki, to intimidate him and bring him into line so that he continues the fight against the Mahdi Army [even though it is] his ally. And the fact that US ambassador Khalilzad accompanied [Allawi] in visiting Barzani was a way of suggesting to Maliki that Allawi could be [Maliki's] replacement in the event that Maliki fails in carrying out the American orders with respect to fighting the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.
According to this way of looking at things, the writer says, Allawi's calculation is that at least he should end up with a bigger share of ministerial appointments. But the writer also notes that while Maliki promised a shakeup, he didn't actually say which ministries will be involved, or whether or not the shakeup will involve the all-important security-related portfolios.

Moreover, says the journalist, there are a lot of flies in the ointment as far as Allawi's coalition-building aims are concerned. The discussion quickly gets complicated: The journalist starts by saying flatly that Maliki isn't going to be have the capability to impose his views in the coming cabinet shuffle, first because his Sadrist allies are suspicious of him and think he plans to push them aside and to arrest their leaders, which would, in that case, make him [Maliki] closer to a possible alliance with the Fadhila party (Shiite, Basra-based, related to the Sadr movement) which he angered in forming his government by not giving them the oil portfolio.
And that [Fadhila party being in play] could be the reason why Allawi is exerting such efforts to cozy up to the Fadhila party, which doesn't conceal its anxiety about current government policies, and which hasn't rejected the idea of joining in a new coalition [provided it was] not based on sectarian-allocations. But [Fadhila people] stress they haven't agreed yet with Allawi on anything, even though Allawi's people have been leaking [wrong] information about an agreement with Fadhila.
Same thing with the Sunni coalitions. The journalist notes the Islamic Party led by Tareq al-Hashemi hasn't announced any agreement to join in any new coalition; and as for Saleh al-Mutlak, leader of the Dialogue Front, he told the journalist that while he understands Allawi's scheme is supposed to be non-sectarian in nature, and his group is studying the idea, his group has not made a decision, and reports about his group's agreement to join with Allawi are "nothing but media [manipulation]".

In other news, Maliki made a rousing speech to former-regime military people and others, stressing the government's openness to their re-joining the system either via employment or pensions, and at the same time threatening dire consequences for those who stay with the resistance. The reports don't make this clear, but this was in fact the fourth in the series of National Reconciliation meetings, held over the last year or so, the first three of which were for tribal groups, NGOs, and political groups respectively. Despite the long history of this, actual details of the proposed deDeBaathification procedures seem to be still lacking. This speech, along with start of the Sadr City sweep, are part of Maliki's "non-sectarian" push, which will include the promised cabinet-shuffle (see above), in "a week or two".


Blogger Reidar Visser said...

The idea of Wifaq and Fadila finding common ground in a coalition is to my mind not quite as far-fetched as the journalist quoted seems to think. Indeed, if a truly non-sectarian centre is to be found in Iraqi party politics, Wifaq and Fadila may be better cornerstones than the Washington-sponsored “coalition of moderates” built around SCIRI and the Iraqi Islamic Party.

7:54 AM  
Blogger badger said...

footnote: For those who, like myself, are still getting familiar with what the less-publicized Fadhila party represents, I recommend re-reading pp 8-12 of Visser's recent essay here

He describes Fadhila and SCIRI as arch-rivals, with opposing views on how to approach federalism, on Iran (SCIRI pro, Fadhila generally contra), and presumably on other political issues as well.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Nell said...

The news from Iraq gets more and more opaque. The NYT report about a British (and Iraqi) raid on "an Iraqi government intelligence office" where prisoners and indications of torture were found gives no information on: the name of the agency, which ministry controls it, or the names of any officers there.

The reader is left to assume that the personnel at the office are Shiites and that it's under a ministry run by a member of one of the governing coalition because of the way in which Maliki protested the raid (and made no reference to the evidence of torture).

But... WTF? Is there any more specificity in the Arabic press? Any clue from the text on items in the picture that accompanies the NYT article?

And another paper to add to my sad collection, from the same article:

In Baghdad, ... an editor for the Iraqi newspaper Al Mashriq was shot and killed by gunmen while he waited to catch a bus to go to work, an official at the Interior Ministry and a colleague said.

Only faint hint as to tilt of Al Mashriq is that it's an Interior Ministry announcement. Most of the ones noted at IraqSlogger have been reports directly by colleagues of the attacked, killed or kidnaped journalists.

12:06 PM  
Blogger badger said...

The latest coalition announcement talked about this as a pursuit and arrest of a well-known death-squad leader (in addition to repeating the points about torture and bomb materials), and pointedly notes that Maliki has been clear on the idea of no one being exempt from the security-mesures. It was an Interior Ministry establishment. YOu're right, that and the Maliki protest seem to put this in the context of recent crackdowns on abuses among Maliki's allies (including SCIRI, presumably). But I don't think anyone is in a position to really pin this down. (It's one of the results of the decline in media-reporting, for the reasons you have been noting. Btw, I noticed that Al-Mashriq item too; you're probably right, but I'm not familiar with it).

(The thing in the picture just says "security officer", no clues there...)

1:48 PM  
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