Thursday, December 18, 2008

Another fine piece of reporting

A UAE paper reported earlier this month that Maliki was getting ready to ban Iraqi officers from visiting Syria, because of his concern that they might link up with, or be influenced by, former-regime officers living in Syria--and more generally because of his anxiety about political activity under the banner of the Awda party. So there seems to be no question that Maliki was becoming concerned about the Awda, for whatever specific reason. And this was no doubt part of the motivation for the recent arrests, as the reporting suggests. But the connection with Syria has gotten lost in the shuffle.

Similarly, the reporting hints in general at Maliki doing another of his pre-election purges to make sure his party does well and competitors are disabled in various ways. But the NYT and other English-language reporting doesn't say anything about what electoral challenges were involved here. The report yesterday in AlMashriq spoke about a rivalry between Dawa party member Shirwan Waili who is the Minister of National Security--and who was described as behind the purge--and "independent" UIA member Jawad Bolani, who is Minister of the Interior. The reporting merely says Bolani is "out of the country" without saying where. (AlQawat alThalitha says he is in Dubai looking after his holdings and his real estate). But the point is that Bolani is working to expand his secular Constitutional Party, and when AlMashriq referred to the arrests as being a reflection of election-related struggle between Waili and Bolani, this is probably what they were referring to.

While AlMashriq stressed the election-planning aspect of this (thinking Waili was probably behind it), AlQuwat alThalitha stresses the Syria connection (and says the instigator of this was Mowaffaq alRubaie, with a lot of help from Saudia Arabia, aiming to break up Syrian influence in Iraq and poison the Iraqi-Syrian relationship).

So whether this reflects competitive election-planning by members of Maliki's cabinet, or regional Saudi/Syrian rivalry, the point is that Maliki's dictatorial inclinations are being played out against a political background that the NYT and other reporting leaves out of the picture.

Not to mention the fact that the entire NYT coup-plot story was based on accounts by anonymous sources, with not a single attribution, and of course nothing says "we are being manipulated" like the lack of any attribution. Needless to say, the no-background character of this goes hand-in-hand with the no-attribution technique, all-in-all a fine example of the kind of reporting that got us into these situations in the first place.