Friday, July 04, 2008

The elections that are going on right now

AlHayat outlines conflicting explanations for the delay in handover of the security file in Anbar from the American to the Iraqi authorities. The reporter leads off with the views of a leader of the Dulaim tribal group, who said the Anbari tribes convinced both Maliki and the Americans that it would be dangerous to transfer authority to the Iraqi forces at a time when the Islamic Party of Iraq controls the local council. He said the IPI is penetrated by all kinds of armed groups; and he also said the following: (which is a remark I would like to underline): At the present time, the Anbar provincial council controls the movements of the police and army in Anbar.

Hamid alHayess, leader of the pro-American Anbar Salvation Council, said the only reason for the delay was the sandstorm. He too denounced Islamic Party control of the local council, focusing on the issue of corruption, and he stressed that the Awakenings have formed alliances aimed at throwing them out at the coming elections.

An Islamic Party spokesperson said the party has strong and always-improving relationships with the tribal groups, Hayess is just being silly, but he too thought the reason for the delay was the sandstorms.

The journalist concludes by reasserting that there is in fact escalating tension between the Awakenings and the tribal leaders on the one side, and the Islamic Party on the other, based on charges of corruption and failure by the local council to provide basic services. (What the journalist doesn't mention is any supposed "secret deal" between Maliki and the IP to help crush the Awakenings).

We shouldn't lose sight of the context.

In Sadr City, the American forces (and embassy staff) took a very direct role in trying to engineer a takeover of the local (in that case advisory) council by anti-Sadr forces. This was disclosed in the wake of a bombing on Tuesday June 24:

Steven Farley, a State Department official working to build up the local government in the Baghdad enclave of Sadr City, knew he and his colleagues had taken a bold step, his son Brett recalled Tuesday.

Farley and other U.S. officials had learned that the Sadr City District Council's acting chairman was loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and had urged other members of the local advisory group to force the man to resign.

That was last week. On Tuesday, Farley, 57, and three other Americans were killed after a bomb exploded in the District Council building, just minutes before the selection of a new chairman was to begin.

Capitalizing on recent security gains in Iraq, U.S. soldiers and diplomats have waded deeply into Iraqi politics in an effort to build moderate and responsive government bodies that they hope will erode the appeal of extremists.

In Amara, the news yesterday of the arrest of the Governor and members of the provincial council made it clear that the military campaign there has local-council takeover as one of its main objectives too.

In those two cases the objective, shared by Maliki and the Americans, is de-Sadrification by military means.

It stands to reason that the Americans and Maliki have comparable objectives in Anbar, relating to control of the local government, and for that reason I highlighted the above remark by the Dulaim leader to the effect that currently, the local council has a big say in police and military operations in the province. But which side is trying to oust which group?

The theory being promulgated by the two Abu's is that there is a split between Maliki and the Americans over this, complete with a "secret agreement" between Maliki and the Sunni parliamentary parties to support the existing provincial council and put an end to the Awakenings. This theory had its first public exposure in an anonymously-sourced story in the Haq News Agency (Iraqi) and the same story in the UAE paper Al-Khaleej.

So first of all we have the disgraceful spectacle of US forces cooperating with Iraqi forces to engineer the takeover of local governments by anti-Sadr forces, even where they have a relatively good record of governance, in order to oust elected governments. (At least one other person, I am pleased to note, has called attention to the parallel here with the US campaign in Palestine in support of Dahlan for the discrediting of the elected government of Hamas).

So what are we to make of the theory that in Anbar the Americans and Maliki have an disagreement about which of two competing groups to oust, and which to support? These are military campaigns to shape a political outcome. Is it not like a debate about which prisoner to torture?


Blogger Eric Martin said...

What are your thoughts on the "secret deal"? Do you think it's plausible?

I'll add this: if such a deal has been struck between Maliki and the IP, I wouldn't assume that the Bush administration is against it necessarily.

1:01 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I guess it's plausible, in the context of some kind of an overall GreenZone concordat. (See "Iraq: love it or leave it") but this is all just guesswork.

3:20 PM  

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