Saturday, July 14, 2007

Talk of Arab Mukhabarat involvement hurts Iraqi opposition plans

A couple of passages in weekend Iraqi papers point to what you might call a complicating factor in the emerging confrontation between an opposition coalition (involving Allawi), and the new, smaller but supposedly more solid, governing coalition.

First the more or less clear elements of the story so far: The new so-called "moderate alliance" is essentially the same as the coalition that supported Maliki in the first place only smaller, including ((1) the two big Kurdish parties, (2) the Shiite coalition United Iraqi Alliance, but importantly without the Sadrists, and instead with the possibility of additional membership by the Islamic Party of Tareq al-Hashemi, and finally (3) non-participation by any of the other Sunni Arab parties. In other words, the new "moderate alliance" excludes the parties associated with the major anti-occupation forces, namely the Sadrists (Mahdi Army) and the Arab Sunni parties. From this point of view, not surprisingly, the development appears to be in the opposite direction from that supposedly promoted by the Americans, namely government reconciliation with the "reconciliable" elements of the resistance, because it appears the only symbol of "reconciliation" would be the questionable figure of Tareq al-Hashemi.

An op-ed writer in the Iraqi paper Al-Sabah al-Jadida puts it this way: The new "moderate" grouping has a distinctly "defensive" feel to it, the main idea being to be able to beat off any parliamentary challenge to the status quo, more than to actually effect major changes. (The minor changes they are proposing would include the so-called "three-plus-one" proposal for giving Talabani and Hashemi more say in government decision-making, by forcing Maliki (the "one") to meet periodically with the Talabani and his two vice-presidents Hashemi and Mahdi (the "three"). For some reason he doesn't mention what the exclusion of the Sadrist current from the governing coalition means in terms of US military strategy. See the prior post here).

This op-ed writer adds: It was a series of ill-considered moves by Allawi that woke up the Shiites and the Kurds to a sense of imminent danger, and made them determined to close ranks in the way that they have done, closing off to Allawi the possibility of allying with any elements of either the Kurdish of the SIIC/Dawa blocs. He says Allawi's activities had the effect of alerting them
to the serious possibility of a wave of involvements by regional Mukhabarat agencies in the affairs of [Iraqi] national [or nationalist] alliances. It was this wake-up that was embodied in the speed and urgency with which the four (two Shiite and two Kurdish) concluded their discussions, and the speed with which they dissociated themselves from any groups or persons associated with [Allawi's] "Iraqi List".
And the weekend Azzaman, in its Iraqi edition, includes something about this alleged involvement by the regional Mukhabarat agencies (but without explicitly naming Allawi in connection with this). First, SIIC head Hakim tells the Azzaman reporter about the fine support the Maliki government enjoys domestically, then there is this:
And [Hakim] said in an interview with an Iranian newspaper in Tehran (doesn't say what paper) that there are big challenges and opposition movements facing the Iraqi government on many levels, adding: "We have found on the international level there has been a joining-together of Mukhabarat agencies of countries in the region, that have laid down a plan to topple the Malaki government, and they have been trying to form a common front with certain Iraqis to this end..."
And the journalist says others close to SIIC said
It has been able to observe from up close the movements of some of the parliamentary bloc leaders going from one Arab to the other and their efforts to obtain moral and financial support for a project of constitutional coup against the Maliki government.
Notice the difference in treatment of this theme. The Sabah al-Jadida writer says Allawi's talks with the regional agencies in fact had the effect of waking up the governing coalition to the danger involved in this, enabling them to close off any chance he might have had of picking off any of the major parties; by contrast, the more partisan Azzaman treats this strictly as a Supreme Council allegation against the proponents of a "coup".


Blogger The Rational said...

3 questions Badger:

What kind of feeling do you get from the papers about the popular strength of the Allawi alliance?

And where will they come down on the Mahdi Army vs governing coalition split? I know they haven't included the Sadrists and that the 3+1 scheme is expected to give "some support" for Maliki, but what does that mean?

How organized do the Sadrist seem to be? Is their street presence very controllable if it came to a fight with the government?

Keep up the work! Another perspective is always welcome (and needed).

9:46 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I wish I could offer any real enlightenment. On your first and second questions: One problem is I don't think anyone knows just what this *Allawi* alliance is supposed to consist of. If it's the parties that have been most likely to walk out on Maliki, then you have the main Sunni parties and the Sadrists, but as you know the Sadr-Baath hatred is traditionally very deep, so any alliance there would take a lot of work. And then you have the question whether the CIA-Mukhabarat oriented Allawi is the right person to lead a nationalist coalition ! Which may be why the news is about deterioration in the governing camp, and never about any positive developments in the opposition.

Maybe the Sadrists and the Sunnis both, having explored the ramifications of a no-confidence motion and a new government, could well decide that they would still rather try and carry on under Maliki as a figurehead, than under Allawi.

And what would that mean as far as the US military strategy is concerned? All of which is a round-about way of saying the more I read the more I get the feeling people are avoiding those questions you're asking because nobody is sure... Everyone's looking for someone else to ask...

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

The following article, published in the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman on June 25th, sheds a bit more light on Allawi's contacts with regional intelligence agencies in co-ordination with the US and the UK:

Zebari suggests Turkey involved in al-Maliki plot

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari backed allegations that there is a conspiracy against the government with the help of "foreign intelligence" and said Turkey was part of a group that was working to boost Sunni participation in Iraqi politics.
Rumors of coup plots abound in Baghdad, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has fueled by accusing political rivals, apparently former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, of "conspiring" against the government with the help of "foreign intelligence." "There was a serious conspiracy before this government was formed, which feeds the government's imagination; the Six Plus Two Group of intelligence chiefs of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, plus the United States and Britain," Zebari told Newsweek for its latest issue. "Their goal was to keep encouraging Sunnis to participate in the Iraqi elections and to contain Iran. They put intelligence capability and financial muscle [into the effort]. It was not seen as a positive move by the prime minister, but we dealt with it quietly, without much fuss," he went on.

Zebari said the Six Plus Two Group continued without Iraqi participation after the election and said he had complained about this because they were discussing Iraq without Iraq being present at the discussions. "It created bad feelings," he said. "Shiites and others took this as an anti-Shiite move. Kurds also felt 'What the hell does Turkey have to do with this? There must be something fishy.'"

According to Zebari, the group would meet every two or three months, and Allawi met them in May or "he had a wishy-washy guy, a Kurd who collaborated with the former government, do it." Asked whether Irshad Zebari was the person he meant, Zebari, a Kurd, said: "He is my cousin. He was minister of state under Saddam. Allawi wanted to bring Kurdish faces to show that his new bloc represents all Iraqis, but [Kurdish leader Masoud] Barzani, [Iraqi President Jalal] Talabani and Maliki were really upset. It had the elements of something sinister against the government. Their criticism was a big blow to Allawi. I suggested the government check with the United States and Britain to see if they are part of it. They can't have it both ways. They can't support this government and also work with these people. I don't think Washington will support Allawi or give him any encouragement."

5:19 AM  

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