Tuesday, June 08, 2004

cynical realists triumphant

Stratfor responds to the Iraqi transitional government as follows:

The United States has clearly entered a new phase of the Iraq campaign in which its relationship with the Iraqi Shia has been de-emphasized while relationships with Sunnis have been elevated. This has an international effect as well. It obviously affects Iranian ambitions. It also helps strengthen the weakening hand of the Saudi government by reducing the threat of a Shiite rising in strategic parts of the kingdom that could threaten the flow of oil. The United States is creating a much more dynamic and fluid situation, but it is also enormously more complicated and difficult to manage.

It’s a good enough place to end up. But let’s start with Iyad Allwai, transitional Prime Minister and head of the Iraqi National Accord, the main rival amongst exile groups to the now discredited Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.

According to Andrew and Patrick Cockburn’s Saddam Hussein, an American Obsession, as of the early 1990’s Allawi “was a charming and articulate individual who had the gift of impressing intelligence officials.” In the early seventies, Allawi was head of the Iraqi Student’s Union in Europe, which sounds very much like an intelligence posting. He broke with the Ba’ath party in 1975 and was the survivor of an assassination attempt three years later, which left him short of a leg.

According to Middle East Reference, the INA itself was...

...created in December 1990, on the initiative of Saudi Prince Turki ibn Faysal, with the support of the CIA, and Jordanian and British agencies. Largely made up of Ba‘thists and former military officers who oppose Saddam Hussein's leadership; main constituency is Sunni Arabs in central Iraq…. Originally under Saudi sponsorship, who promoted the INA to participate in the first congress of the JAC (see INM below); and helped the INA to establish radio station, Voice of Free Iraq. Arranged bomb blasts in Iraq from 1994 to demonstrate its credibility: included the bombing of a Baghdad cinema, which killed civilians; and outside Ba‘th newspaper offices. Abu Amneh al-Khadami, who claims to have organised the bombings, stated in January 1996 that these bombings were carried out to impress the CIA. Also reportedly bombed INC headquarters in Salahuddin in October 1995; the CIA investigated, but did not release results. Counselled the US against supporting the INC / Samarra‘i coup attempt of Mar95, in favour of its own military scheme, which was scheduled to take place on 26Jun96. This had emerged out of a plan from Retd Gen. Muhammad Abdullah al-Shahwani, an ethnic Turkoman with 3 sons in the Revolutionary Guard, who had contacted the INA in Aug94. The INA in turn contacted MI6, and details were passed onto the CIA, whose operatives within UNSCOM helped coordinate the coup attempt: the Iraqi government became aware of the plot in advance, and 120 coup plotters were arrested (& mostly executed) by the Iraqi regime.

The Cockburns take up the story:

“When they sped out of Jordan, the CIA took with them General Shawani and lodged him in a safe house in London, the location of which was kept a closely guarded secret. A few weeks later, the safe-house phone rang. It was Anmar, his eldest son, calling from Baghdad.
“If you are not in Baghdad in a week, father, “ he said, “I and [brothers] Ayead and Atheer will be killed.”
The old man broke down in tears. “What have I done, what have I done?” he reportedly cried. “I have killed my sons.”

Chalabi apparently warned the CIA three months in advance that the plot had been penetrated by Iraqi intelligence. According to some, it was Chalabi himself who tipped off Saddam’s people, not wanting the INA to take credit for the overthrow of Saddam, or presumably take power afterwards. Also, the INA were supposed to be responsible for the bombing of the INC headquarters in northern Iraq a couple of years earlier in which 28 people were killed.

Exile politics was ever fraught. Maybe what makes the ‘96 coup attempt significant is the fact that it was both a CIA failure and a failure for the traditional foreign policy realist point of view, in which inconvenient dictators need to be removed with as little trauma to their countries power structure as possible. Enter the era of “Blair’s wars” and humanitarian liberalism. Leave the field free for the grandiloquent Ahmed Chalabi and his eager backers in the Republican Pentagon and, latterly, the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Despite these reverses, Allawi stayed on the CIA payroll, making himself unobtrusively useful both during

The efforts to court Iraqi commanders, and the subsequent dissolution of the Iraqi Army, offers a partial explanation - along with the sheer brutality of the bombardment that the Iraqi Army suffered - for the light resistance that the advancing Americans often faced.

"Many officers in the Iraqi Army sold out," said Iyad Alawi, an important participant in the advance operation and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. "There were hundreds of them. Our effort was quite widespread. We sent in hundreds of messages."

and after the invasion.

The Bush administration has authorized creation of an Iraqi intelligence service to spy on groups and individuals inside Iraq that are targeting U.S. troops and civilians working to form a new government, according to U.S. government officials.

The new service will be trained, financed and equipped largely by the CIA with help from Jordan. Initially the agency will be headed by Iraqi Interior Minister Nouri Badran, a secular Shiite and activist in the Jordan-based Iraqi National Accord, a former exile group that includes former Baath Party military and intelligence officials.

Badran and Ayad Alawi, leader of the INA, are spending much of this week at CIA headquarters in Langley to work out the details of the new program. Both men have worked closely with the CIA over the past decade in unsuccessful efforts to incite coups against Saddam Hussein. The agency and the two men believe they can effectively screen former government officials to find agents for the service and weed out those who are unreliable or unsavory, officials said.

All this gives us a useful insight into the power struggle that matters – the one in Washington. Both Alawi and interim President Ghazi al-Yawer resigned over the attempted storming of Fallujah. I suspect that this is the point at which the State Department/CIA axis of cynical realists launched their successful counter-coup against the Pentagon and the Department of defense, which even now sees the eager proponents of middle eastern transformation wired to polygraphs and sweating, though for their sakes hopefully not too much.

So where are we now? Both Allawi and al-Yawer (profile here) are aligned with the traditional Iraqi power structure, based around the Sunni heartland and are aligned with Saudi Arabia. Opposing them we have an axis consisting of religious Shi’ite parties, Iranian affiliations and support from the Pentagon/Department of Defense faction in Washington, assuming that this isn’t completely purged.

Ideally, this puts the US in the role of a swing player, able to switch to either axis in Iraqi politics as local or regional priorities dictate, essentially a divide and rule strategy. The problem with this is that it tends to organize politics around Iraq’s confessional divide. And it’s going to be hard to maintain stability in this context without resorting to repression. Maybe it’s time to declare the insurgency over and prepare for the civil war.

Or maybe more than just a civil war. Stratfor again:

The future at this moment is in the hands of Tehran and An Najaf. This is the point at which the degree of control the Iranians have over the Iraqi Shiite leadership will become clear. The Iranians obviously are not happy with the trends that have emerged over the past month. Their best lever is in Iraq. The Iraqi Shia are aware that the United States is increasingly limber and unpredictable -- and that it has more options than it had two months ago. The Iraqi Shia are in danger of being trapped between Washington and Tehran. It is extremely important to note that al-Sistani today tentatively endorsed the new government, clearly uneasy at the path events were taking. Therefore there are two questions: First, will the Iranians become more aggressive, abandoning their traditional caution? Second, can they get the Iraqi Shiite leaders to play their game, or will the old rift between Qom and An Najaf (the Iranian and Iraqi Shiite holy cities) emerge once again as the Shia scramble to get back into the American game.