Saturday, March 27, 2010

How did the US oust Jaafari in 2006? Because that is how the US hopes to install Allawi today

In 2006 after the previous election, the US decided that Ibrahim Jaafari was not acceptable as Iraq's Prime Minister, announced that publicly and set about having his name withdrawn.

Condoleeza Rice flew into Iraq along with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and they were able to convince Iraq's parliament to remove Jaafari from consideration, despite the fact that Jaafari had the votes in his coalition necessary to win the seat. The question of how that was done was never answered.

The primary means by which the US could, in theory, influence individual votes of Iraqi parliamentarians is suitcases of money, but the Western press has not shown any curiosity about the methods by which the US exerts influence on Iraqi politics. What we do know is that Iraq was headed toward awarding the premiership to Jaafari and somehow Condoleeza Rice prevented that.

Will the US be able to achieve a greater feat in the aftermath of this election? Actually putting substantial power into the hands of its asset Iyad Allawi? The safest answer is clearly no. Allawi's opponents have at least three advantages: 1) They are in power today. 2) Together they have more votes than Allawi's allies 3) The shock of the Allawi showing allows them to tap into the emotions of anger and indignation that will help them hold firm lines in the negotiating process.

Allawi has the advantage of whatever process occurred behind the scenes that the US used to oust Jaafari - and it is not known but plausible that there is a greater commitment of resources on the part of the Obama administration than there was under the Bush administration.

Will the US attempt to flood Iraq's political system with money in order to produce an Allawi victory? The point has been made that a similar process was attempted by the US and its Saudi colony in Lebanon after Lebanon's 2009 election, and that ultimately the effort failed. I consider that good point and a good indication of what will happen in Iraq, which is that someone more like Maliki than Allawi will ultimately take the seat, just as Maliki was more like Jaafari than the US favorite Mehdi in 2006.

But a counter point is that the fundamentals in Lebanon favor Hezbollah so strongly that it seems to be madness for anyone to even make an effort to marginalize that group. It has more guns, it has a bigger population, it won a greater overall number of votes, it has the advantage of being opposed to the country that bombed Lebanese civilian targets three years ago.

If the US made an attempt in Lebanon to influence the political system, it is not imaginable that the US will not attempt the same in Iraq. I think the US attempt likely extended to a fraudulent vote report. Maliki has named specific regions he would like to see recounted, it would be trivial in any honest electoral system to do so and Iraq's election commission is suspiciously adamant in insisting that there be no recount at all.

The safest bet is that the United States is headed toward another Lebanon-style defeat. The Shiites have tremendous resources today in Iraq. But because we do not know the extent of US efforts to interfere in Iraq's political system, only that such efforts have been made with some success in the past, I cannot discount the possibility that the US will pour enough money in, make enough bribes and threats, to actually have Allawi assume a position of substantial power in Iraq, possibly even as Prime Minister.

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