Friday, March 02, 2007

Bush's man turns up the heat

Please take a moment and think back to the end of November and the run-up to the Bush meeting with Maliki in Amman. Al-Hayat and Azzaman both said the demands that were being made by Bush included a number of measures to try and placate the Sunnis in the interests of a broader-based government, including (in addition to fighting the Shiite militias) de-DeBaathification, and a decision on national distribution of oil revenues. And these Arab-language papers said in the event the Maliki administration didn't measure up, there was the threat of a coup to install a government of technocrats. (See posts here from Nov 29 2006 and the following days).

The highly-touted approval by Maliki's cabinet of a draft Oil and Gas Law included an extra-highly-touted measure respecting national distribution of oil revenues (although what it will mean in practice is a completely different matter), and today Al-Hayat says parliament is getting ready to consider the next of these national-unity-type measures, namely de-DeBaathification. The discussion of this just as confusing as the discussion of the Oil Law, possibly even more confusing. In a nutshell, as reported earlier, this particular issue appears to pit Ahmad Chalabi, head of the De-Baathification council, who wants to continue its existence, against Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi List, who wants in effect to abolish that council. (Allawi's group seems to be for a broad opening to former members of the Baath party, and the turning over of high-level or contested cases to the courts; while Chalabi wants to continue the existence of his DeBaathification council, and is proposing amendments to its enabling legislation, although it still isn't clear what those amendments would do in practice).

But my point doesn't have to do with the details of either oil-revenue or de-DeBaathification. The point is that the schedule of events fits in with what the Arab-language press was saying at the time of the Amman meeting of Bush and Maliki: Bush made demands respecting these hopefully national-unity issues; legislation is being prepared that supposedly fills the bill; and Allawi (acting for the Bush administration) dissents and says the procedure is still dominated by sectarianism, threatening to exit the political process (and if Bush's man exits the political process, that can mean only one thing).

The statements yesterday by representatives of Allawi's parliamentary bloc, threatening to exit the political process if "sectarianism" continues to be "dominant", are reported today by Al-Quds al-Arabi as its lead item on the front page, and by Asharq al-Awsat inside the paper. Neither account mentions the issue of de-DeBaathification, but it seems clear from the language about sectarianism and the need for a "broader based national front" government, that the question of de-DeBaathification legislation is in some way the trigger for this very open warning. To put the matter another way, the statements refer repeatedly to the continuing dominance of sectarianism under Maliki, but don't refer to any specific issues, except to note that although Allawi's group has reprresentatives in Cabinet, they aren't allowed to really participate in decision-making. Rather than referring to specific issues, the statements instead focus on the general idea of an alarming and "accelerating deterioration" in national security, something that could be said at any time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger writes: “Rather than referring to specific issues, the statements instead focus on the general idea of an alarming and "accelerating deterioration" in national security, something that could be said at any time.”

This suggests that the issue is not really “national security”. That other issues such as “sectarianism” are the ‘real’ issues. Perhaps. But, this posting coupled with the previous one on “security”, the assassination attempts on high government and other political figures in recent days, the American military failure to get insurgence under control let alone defeated, powerful American senators calling for withdrawal, etc.; one could go on with examples suggesting that the security situation in Iraq is the REAL issue; indeed, the only issue, and there is a growing realization that the Green Zone is not reality and may be coming to an end.

Sometimes people, even politicians, really do say what they mean. Perhaps “security” really is the issue that most concerns people in high Iraqi places. Mao said: “Revolution flows out of the barrel of a gun.” The gun barrels in Iraq are flowing at an ever increasing rate. Revolution is stalking the Green Zoners and they are getting increasingly shrill about “security.”

7:16 PM  
Blogger badger said...

That's very convincing. I'd like to come at the Allawi timing another way: Bush made Maliki promise him a package, including better security, and (as part and parcel of that) measures to placate the Sunnis including oil and Baathification. The key to the timing is that the package isn't being delivered on time, in fact the security part of it is deteriorating. And you could well be right, as security deteriorates past a certain point, those other issues become little more than window-dressing.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Nell said...

OT: Badger, do you know of any listing of the major Iraqi newspapers? I've gathered references from Abu Aardvark's posts over the last few years, and occasional mentions (sadly, often of kidnaped or murdered journalists) at IraqSlogger. Any pointers welcome.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is chalabu still alive

10:02 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Nell, Maybe you're aware of the list that keeps, but it's a mixed bag. Naturally there's (Sunni establishment) and the voice of the Green Zone govermment, and Al-Mada (, which I always thought was sometimes useful, but which now seems to have been taken over by Talabani. And there's, the other still-struggling general-readership paper. As the folks over at keep pointing out, the best one-stop place for basic latest news is, which has an English language section where they translate a lot of their items, so if you're working on your Arabic, it could be a good study aid.) So much for general-interest. Then there is the whole other level of party publications, for instance if you read the footnotes to Visser's most recent piece on the Oil Law, you'll see he made use of two newspapers that represent the SCIRI and Fadhila parties respectively. I don't think either of them is available on the net, but there they are, if someone wanted to do a serious job keeping track. More accessible are the party and sect websites. Moharer (see the onlinenewspapers list) is the Baath party. Nahrainnet is the Sadrists. is SCIRI. The Najaf establishment is reflected in and The resistance, or part(s) of it, puts out their war news and a lot of other stuff on And so it goes. There's a lot out there, and its a lot of work plowing through it. Maybe you have some tips...

2:55 PM  
Blogger Nell said...

Badger, thanks very much.

In my googling efforts I ran across onlinenewspapapers, but was unable to get any of the links to load. I'll try on another machine.

My initial interest in this was to have some way of putting in context the attacks on journalists that I see regularly relayed at IraqSlogger. There's almost never any additional information on the affiliation or orientation of the paper or radio station the journalists work with (sometimes not even the name of the media outlet).

I have no Arabic facility at all, sadly. My father was the head of the foreign language department at a military college. Late in his career, and after his retirement, in the mid-1980s, he tried hard to get the college to offer Arabic, but didn't live to see it happen.

You'd think some of the writers who've spent long stretches in Iraq could or would write a useful guide to the papers, radio, and TV Iraqis follow.

Until your helpful comments, just about everything I understood about Iraqi media was from Abu Aardvark's rundown of the satellite TV stations there.

And from his post last August highlighting an officer's 'lessons learned' paper that openly admitted the U.S. military had secretly created Iraqi papers and broadcast stations in 2003 after the fall of Baghdad. That little tidbit has certainly not been widely noted. I'm assuming that a lot of those media dried up and blew away as the occupation continued, but...

1:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home