Thursday, December 11, 2008

Let me tell you about my dreams

Azzaman tells us the purpose of Maliki sidekick Ali Dabbagh's current visit to Washington is to work out with US officials implementation priorities for the security agreement, adding "Dabbagh said Wednesday he has had discussions with a number of officials in the new administration, aimed at arranging priorities for the coming period of time, following the signing of the agreement for th withdrawal of forces and the strategic agreement between Washington and Baghdad..." and that the round of talks started with Mark Kimmett, assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs. So it appears he is having talks with a mix of people from the permanent bureaucracy and the incoming administration. However, the Azzaman reporter wasn't able to tell us anything about the content of these talks.

Meanwhile, the "progressive" watchdogs in Washington focus on a speech Dabbagh made to the United States Institute of Peace, in which he talked about an entirely different project, namely the dream of an alliance of Iraq with its neighbors something like the European Union. This met with the approval in principle of Cobban and Lynch because in theory it presupposes some kind of regional structure for dialogue including Iran and some of the Arab states. But they didn't show any curiosity about the more practical questions, including the relationship of this to the main purpose of Dabbagh's visit, namely working out details of the US-Iraq security agreement, or about the relationship of this proposal to Iraqi domestic politics. While the former might have taken some digging, the latter connection seems quite clear. To wit:

Reportedly, Dabbagh included in his remarks a hint about the domestic purport of his EU-imitation proposal. He described his proposal as a manifestation of a "self-initiated democracy", which is something "much better than an imposed formula, and we noticed for the last five years there is an objection...against that imposed formula." Dabbagh to USIP: See, we are snubbing you America, with your imposed formulas." As a rhetorical or election-oriented talking point, this is entirely in keeping with recent remarks by Maliki indicating that to some extent he intends to run in the coming provincial elections on a platform opposing the 2003 sectarian-allocation system that he himself symbolizes and heads. For instance, according to IraqAlaan a couple of days ago:
Speaking to a group of tribal Sheikhs in Karbala on Wednesday at the start of Eid al Adha on the Shiite calendar, Maliki criticized the political system because of its "failure to distribute jobs and appointments on the basis of qualifications". He said "qualifications are not valued, as long as this reality persists," adding: "We have been forced to adopt this system, and I will not say any more than that."
Naturally, in the mouth of Maliki and Dabbagh this is entirely rhetorical, but it is worth remembering that in recent years, this kind of radical talk about the evil that was introduced as a "political process" in 2003, and the need for a fresh start, was something of a trademark of the armed resistance. Of course the Maliki/Dabbagh rhetoric doesn't mean anything in practice, and certainly nobody knows how successful Maliki's bizarre adoption of this theme will be for him in the coming elections, but at least you'd think it is something the "progressive" folk would want to be paying as much attention as they are paying to his "dreams".


Blogger rmwarnick said...

At the Pentagon, Dabbagh let slip that he thinks Iraq might need the American military to stay for another ten years, despite the "withdrawal agreement." Oops.

10:53 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Right. This is the guy hailed by our Washington progressives as a forward thinker. LB over at RoadstoIraq thinks the game might be that he is actually promoting himself to the Americans as a suitable successor to Maliki. (She also notes remarks by Maliki's finance minister in effect telling Dabbagh to shut up). If she's right, we might be hearing a lot less from him in the coming period of time...

11:34 AM  
Blogger badger said...

In fact, Maliki's office has now (Friday Dec 13) issued a statement (Aswat alIraq) that says the Iraqi government has no such regional-participation plan as Dabbagh was talking about. And that moreover his remarks about needing US troops in Iraq for 10 years were his own personal opinion, not that of the government.

It does seem that what Dabbagh was doing was promoting himself as a future leader to the Washington folks, both the doves (regional dialogue!) and the hawks (10 more years!) and he seems to have reeled in at least a couple of marks.

Here's the link.

4:57 PM  

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