5 years ago
Amir Taheri recently had a commentary in the New York Post which shouldn’t be passed over.
The next general election is three months away, but Iraq is already in high gear for what promises to be a hard-fought campaign over the future of the newly liberated nation. The outcome could determine the course of politics in the Middle East and the future US role in that turbulent region.
Three camps are emerging.
The first is a bloc of 40 groups led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Known as The State of the Law, the coalition promises a modern democracy transcending ethnic and sectarian divides.
Maliki quit his Islamist party, Dawa (The Call), precisely because of its Shiite sectarian nature. His new coalition includes both Arab Sunni and ethnic Kurdish groups. Yet he hopes to still attract many Shiites — who, after all, are the majority of the population.
The second camp is known as “the party of Iran.” Its hard core consists of the remnants of the Mahdi Army (Jaish Al-Mahdi) of the maverick mullah Muqtada Sadr and splinter groups from Dawa led by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. A third Shiite group, the Supreme Islamic Assembly of Iraq — led by Ammar al-Hakim, a junior mullah — provides the remaining leg of the pro-Iranian triangle.
Jaafari is emerging as Iran’s candidate for prime minister — if his bloc, known as the Iraqi National Alliance, wins control of the National Assembly (parliament). Last week, Jaafari visited Iran to be feted by “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“The American era is ending,” Iran’s official news agency quoted Jaafari as saying. “We must prepare for a new era in which Islamic forces set the agenda.”
The third camp is formed by secular Shiite groups, led by ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, plus Arab Sunni parties led by Saleh Mutlak and the remnants of the Ba’ath party.
This camp enjoys support from such Arab states as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Its principal theme: With the US embarked on a strategic retreat under President Obama, Arab states must do all they can to prevent Iran from dominating Iraq and emerging as the regional “superpower.”
Iraq’s Kurdish community, some 20 percent of the population, is also split. Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party has indicated it might support Maliki’s bloc in a common bid to preserve Iraq’s independence from Iran and Arab states. The new Change (Goran) bloc, which made spectacular gains in the last Kurdish local elections, also opposes Iranian domination.
Yet the other longtime Kurdish party — the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by President Jalal Talabani — argues that, with the US unwilling to provide leadership, Kurds must look to Iran as their protector against Arab nationalism. The Kurdish branch of the Hezbollah also supports the Iranian option.
Behind all this are Obama’s hints that he might speed up the withdrawal of US forces before 2011, short-circuiting the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the Bush administration. The American president’s obvious attitude has hurt Iraqi politicians who advocate strategic alliance with Washington.
“Obama is not interested in Iraq,” says analyst Ma’ad Fayyad. “This is because, if Iraq succeeds as the first Arab democracy, it might look as if Bush was right after all.”
Obama’s tepid, not to say hostile, attitude toward Iraq’s new democracy has some Iraqi politicians recasting themselves as anti-Americans …
“If Obama wants to run away, no Iraqi can afford to appear more pro-American than the US president,” says a political advisor to Maliki.
Meanwhile, Iran is throwing in everything to defeat Maliki and seize control of Iraq’s government …
Commentary & Analysis
Taheri’s analysis is cogent and well formulated until it goes off track into considerations of the Status of Forces Agreement. Confined to a training role, and with no patrols allowed, much less kinetic operations, and also having to inform the Iraqi Security Forces upon troop movement of any sort for any reason whatsoever, the SOFA has left the U.S. forces powerless and ineffectual in their role. There is no reason for them to be in Iraq. This is not Obama’s fault. The blame lies at the feet of both Bush and the Iraqis.
But if the SOFA is in Bush’s court, the lack of interest in Iraq lies with Obama, and the current regional empowering of Iran has continued from the Bush to the Obama administration. The Obama administration, however, took a giant leap into morally dubious (and also stupid) territory when they released Iranian Quds members expecting to get anything in return. They have also shamefully abandoned the MEK.
Given the situation as it exists, the war now is both covert and political. We are losing on the political front, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Omar at Iraq the Model has information about a significant escalation in the covert war.
Unknown gunmen assassinated 30 Mahdi Army commanders in the Syrian capital Damascus. The killings, made in the past few weeks, were all made “quietly, inside the victims apartments”, said an unnamed source in the Sadr movement. The source added that among those assassinated was Laith al-Ka’bi, who commanded the Mahdi Army in the Palestine Street neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The report adds that large numbers of Mahdi Army operatives left to Iran out of fear the assassinations wave could expand to target them.
This is a positive move, but given one view of things (from one Army intelligence officer) in the war on the CIA conducted by the Obama administration, it’s doubtful that the CIA was involved.
I would never compare my few years as an Army Intelligence Special Agent to the careers of committed CIA operatives, but I harbor no doubt that if I were one of them, I would be looking for a way out. My immediate focus would be on protecting myself, my family and the identities of the foreign nationals with whom I worked. I would be operating as if secrets no longer exist. Risk taking would cease. My reports would be gleaned from newspaper articles.
Indeed. Much less would targeted killings be conducted by the CIA. As both an intelligence-gathering and covert warfare organization, the CIA is effectively finished until and unless a framework is put into place that protects their agents and until an administration which is intelligence-friendly is elected. Whomever is responsible for this (Mossad, Ba’athists in Syria?) did both America and Iraq a favor. Obama would do well to pay Iraq a visit and express the urgent need for Iraq to abandon hopes of ties with Iran. The war in Iraq has now taken a different turn, and we will adjust and adapt or lose to the Iranians.