Monday, May 31, 2004

The man with a mustache is here 

This LA Times story Some Find Ties to CIA, Baath Party Worrisome provides some background on Iraq's newest leader, Iyad Allawi, who is described as "worrisome" for people who want a democratic Iraq. So why pick him at all?
. . . one Western diplomat said that Allawi's Baathist past, his prominence as an Iraqi exile leader and his ties to the CIA had all kept him from being the preferred candidate of either the Bush administration or Brahimi. Appointing Allawi to the premiership, the diplomat said, 'hardly communicates the message of a clean break with the past,' that the international community has been pushing for as a sign that the planned U.S. return of sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30 is more than symbolic. 'He's probably not much more popular inside Iraq than Chalabi,' said Judith Yaphe, a specialist on Iraq. 'There are going to be charges that he's corrupt because he has been supported by the CIA for a long time. But nobody's going to be pure.' In the end, she said, the U.S. agreed because 'there was a potential for the Iraqi Governing Council to try to stiff us.' And the U.S., with the clock ticking toward its self-imposed deadline, needed to find a candidate that the council would back. In the end, Baram said, 'any politician who would take this job of prime minister will be on parole and be under scrutiny to make sure he is not using the job to secure his political future.'
And if it turned out that he WAS using the job to secure his own future, then what is the US or even the UN going to do? Another 'regime change'? Another invasion? Forget about it.
Here's the strong man with a mustache, and the US is agreeable because they don't have any other choices anymore, and this guy appears to be a tiny bit more pro-American than Al Sadr. As I have said before, Iraq will never have actual free elections -- Allawi's top priority is going to be to resurrect the army and maintain oil production -- he's not going to be worrying about setting up a commission to draft a constitution, or establishing a voter registration system, or developing a legislative assembly.
Here are my predictions for how it will go -- I think its likely that he will first work out a deal with the religious and tribal and Kurdish leaders to use their militias for security, basically turning over to them the troublesome and problematic cities while he gains control over the money and oil production revenue -- why would he want to be running the cities now anyway, considering how chaotic they are? He will demand that US troops leave the country, and the US will be happy to comply. Then as the city militias collapse from overwork and underfunding, while Allawi's new Iraqi army grows and rearms, he will be able to reassert his authority in the cities too -- and work out some kind of federal relationship with the Kurds. The end result, in about a year or two, and provided he doesn't get assassinated along the way, will be a new dictatorship for Iraq.
And I predict that Abu Gharib will never be torn down -- its too useful both as a symbol for Allawi and as a facility for anyone who dares to ask why there is no democracy in Iraq.

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