Friday, March 13, 2009

Iraqi electoral politics and American strategy

AlHayat this morning summarizes statements about the "Maliki to talk to Baathists" story, as follows:
  • A spokesman for the De-Baathification Commission said as far as his agency is concerned, it has received no new instructions from Cabinet in connection with the recent reports about a supposed new attitude of the government to former Baathists, and the spokesman said the issue as far as his commission is concerned "remains obscure".
  • Ali Al-Adeeb, a Maliki henchman, issued a statement stressing that the recent announcements by Maliki, about willingness to talk, refer only to "those who were forced to join the [Baath] Party", adding that "those with the blood of Iraqis on their hands, or who participated in decisions that led to death and destruction, can only be referred to the courts."
  • The Baath Party, Izzat Al-Douri section, issued a statement on its website yesterday dismissing the recent Maliki invitations: These statements, the party said, "and what they included by way of deception and distorsions do not amount to anything, and their aim is to create a clamor respecting what is going on on the ground in Iraq by way of jihadi interaction between the people and their resistance, and the Baathist vanguard".
These are not the honeyed words, or even the words of basic accomodation, you would expect to hear if this was a genuine reconciliation movement.

In fact there is another part of this AlHayat report that suggests that on the Iraqi government side this probably has more to do with electoral politics. There was an earlier report about Adel AbdulMahdi of the Supreme Council being in contact with an individual described as an important Baathist, obviously suggesting the Supreme Council is trying to let some of the "reconciliation" odor rub off on them. The above-mentioned Baath party statement said this:
There is a person called Muhamed Rashad Al-Sheikh Radhi claiming to be a Baath Party leader, and that he met with Adel AbdulMahdi and discussed with him participation by the Party in the current political process in occupied Iraq. We would like to explain to everyone in Iraq and the Arab collective that this is a lie and a fraud, that the person claiming to be a party leader is a liar, and that this play-acting is part of a disgraceful attempt to sow uncertainty and confusion".

Together with what was suggested in the prior post about the American aims and objectives in this, I would like to suggest the following working hypothesis:
  • What is driving this for Maliki and his cohorts is a combination of conciliatory image-making for electoral purposes, combined with pressure from the Americans
  • And for the Americans, the aim is to maximize potentially anti-Iranian, exBaathist participation in the political process in the Green Zone before they leave, in order to create what you could call a balance of sectarian powers within the Iraqi political process itself, or what the AlArabOnline journalist called "dual containment". The opposite, in other words, of reconciliation.
And if, on first blush, you find it difficult to understand how an electoral platform of "reconciliation" can co-exist in this way with a strategy leading to sectarian infighting and weakness, then I recommend studying the election of Obama and the Chas Freeman episode, just as an example.


Blogger annie said...

obama/freeman, interesting parallel

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

De-Baath on the way in, Re-Baath on the way out. Sounds about right to me, if for no other reason than to say in the aftermath "see we told you there would be a bloodbath if we left".

Hyper Bremmerization, indeed.

2:46 AM  

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