Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Iraq's political crisis continues, or `What we have here is a failure to communicate'

The Iraqi parliament, is spite of threats of aid cutoff, bribes and direct appeals by people as high up in the food chain as Condi Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw remain unwilling or unable to come up with a formulae for a unified Iraqi government.

Straw and Rice were in Iraq yesterday to deliver an urgent message to Iraqi politicians to agree on a candidate who can obtain the two-thirds parliamentary vote required to become prime minister and form a national unity government before the country breaks apart. Rice warned the Iraqis in very plain terms when she said: ''A lot of human treasure has been put on the line to give Iraq the chance to have a democratic future."

With the implied meaning, of course, that such largesse could come to an end very quickly if the Iraqis fail to put together a government.

In my opinion, the problem all along is that Iraq is an artificial construction that was never meant to be one country..and its history under Saddam only exacerbated the differences.

Many of Iraq's political leaders are upset at the US anyway, something that need not have happened. It started when US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, began interfering in Iraqi politics by hectoring them to settle on a prime minister but also insisting that they give increased power in the new government to Sunni Arab parties.

Another huge mistake was allowing the pro-Iranian Ibrahim al-Jaafari to become prime minister in the new government.
Jaafari spent the Saddam years cuddled up with the mullahs in Iran, has been an extremely weak leader and is now allied with Iran's man in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, head of one of the militias the Bush administration wants disarmed-the Mehdi Army. Just as a contrast, remember that the American occupations in Japan and Germany made sure that pro-American, pro-Democracy leaders with no connections to the previous tyranical regimes or to the Communists were chosen when the first elections were held.

Nor was Jaafari the only one. Instead of banning anyone from competing in the elections with ties to our enemies in Iran, we allowed them to run freely in the election, with the result that a number of questionable politicos under Teheran's influence and/or direct orders are in the Iranian parliament in positions of influence. Almost 130 of the 275 candidates the Shiite Alliance posted for the December election were connected in some way or other with or on the payroll of Iran. They include Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of an entire pro-Iranian party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Republic in Iraq, Abu Muchtabi Sari, former secretary general of the Iraqi Hizballah, Abu Hassan Al Amari, the last commander of the Badr Force at its base in Iran, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, former Badr Force officer,Rajah Alwan, another former Badr Force officer, Dager Moussawi, Head of the Lord of the Martyrs Movement, which Iran’s military intelligence established in the Shiite regions of central and southern Iraq, and Tahsin Aboudi, a high-ranking Iraqi interior ministry official, who is rumoured to be an undercover member of Iran’s external intelligence service, which is operated by the foreign ministry in Tehran.

This of course in in addition to al-Sadr, who is under Iran's orders and who's mehdi Army provides the muscle in Shiite politics.

Unfortunately, President Bush idealistically assumed that the Iraqis wouild be able to toss away both the horrific past under Saddam and their ethic/religious allegiances. And he made no allowances for Iran having a finger in the iraqi Shiite pie.

Looks like he was mistaken, on both counts.

The influence of Iran is the joker in the deck of Iraqi politics. And will prevent a settlement on anything but Teheran's terms, unless the US and Britain essentially revamp the entire parliament....or allow the country to fragmewnt into its natural divisions. Given the subversive, pro-Iran nature of Shiite politics, the problem runs a lot deeper than sectarian disagreement over a prime minister. Most of non-Shia players in Iraqi politics realize that behind the Shiite Iraqi politicians and officials stands Iran. Their resistance is not just focused on prime minister Jaafari, but aimed at stopping the rise in Baghdad of a government that is a stooge of Iran.

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