Monday, May 05, 2008

Pinocchio comes to life: "We will not be railroaded"

The corporate media have settled on an explanation for the contradictory statements from Baghdad on the "Iranian intervention" theme: Namely that Iraq is vacillating between Iranian and American influence.

It is an explanation that is so superficial as to be almost meaningless. More important is the evidence of a developing split between Hakim-led Supreme Council on one side, and Maliki and his circle on the other.

(1) First, key elements have been left out of the corporate-media account of the recent events (links provided in recent posts): The idea for the recent delegation to Tehran clearly resulted from a phone call from Bush to Hakim on Wednesday. And Maliki's close associate Sami al-Askari quickly pointed out that the idea for this did not come from Maliki. It was a first indication that Maliki wanted to distance himself from this initiative.

(2) Second, the corporate media account doesn't have an explanation why the delegation was arranged via Hakim and not via Maliki: The hawkish statements about Iranian arming and training of Iraqi militias have come mainly from American officials, and were echoed in the hoopla surrounding the the Hakim delegation. It is not as if the enthusiastic support for Washington's blame-Iraq campaign emanated from Maliki's circle. And that no doubt explains why the delegation was arranged via Hakim and not via Maliki (something that is otherwise unexplainable).

(3) So when Ali Dabbagh, in his statements on Sunday, expressed reservations about the quality of the evidence that was being talked about, he wasn't so much altering the Maliki position: he was merely pointing up once again the difference between what the Hakim group have been saying (at the instigation of Washington) and Maliki's position.

Here's part of what Ali Dabbagh said (according to the AlHayat account this morning, Monday May 5). First he said the Maliki administration will set up a commission to study whatever evidence may or may not exist. And the AlHayat reporter elaborates:
Dabbagh added in press-conference remarks in Baghdad [on Sunday] that the purpose behind this commission [to sift the evidence] is "to be able to stand on firm evidence, and not on intelligence based on the estimates of individuals". He stressed: "We do not want to be pushed by some push into entering into a fight with any of our neighbors, and certainly not with Iran". He was referring to the war between 1980 and 1988, in which an estimated one million people died. "It is enough what we have already had by way of tensions for which a horrible price has been paid, as a result of outsiders pushing Iraq into an position of enmity with Iran or with any other country. What we want is to form relationships with neighboring countries in a way that will serve the interests of Iraq."

I think the best way to understand these recent events is by analogy from what has already happened: The Sunni parties were alienated from the Washington-supported Maliki government starting with the execution of Saddam and the passage of the federalism-procedures law in the fall of 2006; the Sadrists were finally alienated from the Washington-supported Maliki administration via the American military attacks in the "surge" era. In both cases those who were alienated were those who didn't toe the American line (federalism procedures etcetera; dissolving the Mahdi Army). What has now happened, it seems, is that the Maliki group has come awake to the fact that Washington's support actually centers on Hakim's group, and that they (Maliki's circle) are now the ones that are expected to toe the Washington line. The Sunni parties, in their way, rebelled and left the Maliki cabinet, in the interests of a unitary Iraq; the Sadrists are on their way to becoming a full-blown resistance; and now, in his pitiful way, Ali Dabbagh on behalf of Maliki is purporting to stand up and say: "No, we too will defend the interests of Iraq, and not allow ourselves to be pushed around by outsiders".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems kind of surprising that Hakim and his people are the main people playing up this affair about Iranian funding for militias, given that Hakim's Badr Brigades fought against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. But then again, Hakim's primary goal seems to be just to consolidate power for himself and outmaneuver Sadr as well as any other Shiite opposed to him. Could this whole affair (about "Iranian intervention") be just a reflection of the fact that Hakim is extremely opportunistic and willing to take whatever steps are necessary to ingratiate himself in American eyes?

(You can read Hakim playing the role of lap-dog to his friend Cheney at the White House here: )

10:01 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I think you're on the right track.

Is would definitely be strange to see Hakim/Badr cast in the apparent role of pressuring and threatening Iran.

But I think what Dabbagh/Maliki are upset about has little to do with Iran. The drama here has to do with the fact the initiative (in the common effort to pressure Sadr) was taken away from them by Hakim, at Bush's behest, and they sense that they shouldn't just roll over for that. That's why Dabbagh is talking about "not being pushed"; he and Maliki are trying to re-assert that tiny bit of autonomy they think they still have.

(It's a little different issue, but we might have to re-open the question of why the Basra campaign was started the way it was, and pay a little more attention to what Reidar Visser said at the time about Maliki possibly asserting himself vis-a-vis the SupremeCouncil).

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger, thank you for this! While everyone from left to right equates the name Hakim with Iran, I have always felt sure that the current Hakim is US' man quite thoroughly. It was the Grand Ayatollah, Muhammed Baqir, who was Iran's not so secret ace. And very conveniently, Baqir got himself assasinated only three months after he returned to Iraq. I think while Abdelaziz will try to keep Iran on his side as long as he can, he in fact is not on Iran's side. (Whether Iran realizes this is the critical question.)

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does this interview with Hakim's son in Teheran fit in?

LAT: Does SIIC think that these accusations against Iran are merited?

HAKIM: Look, as I said before, the government of Iraq is responsible for maintaining security. The government is authorized to give its opinion or assessment about these allegations. In fact, you should ask the official spokesman of the Iraqi government. Yes, some officials have said about Iran's involvement, but the prime minister's office has not confirmed them. So only what prime minister or the chief of army in Iraq says are valid. Other officials may express their own personal views.

LAT: Do you think Mr. Maliki believes these accusations are baseless?

HAKIM: No comment. You must ask him personally.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You made a mistake in your article, Qabbani is the top Sunni mufti in Lebanon, not the top Shiite Mufti...

10:52 AM  

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