Monday, March 29, 2010

US military is hopefully expecting a western-leaning secular nationalist (Allawi) victory in Iraq

I'm not sure what to say. We saw what happened in Lebanon. Every fundamental reality on the ground favored Hezbollah and its affiliates, but in a colossal waste of effort the US and its regional subordinates pressured their allied parties in Lebanon to hold out for an arrangement that would limit Hezbollah's political stature. In the end, of course, Hezbollah kept its veto and the delay served no purpose at all except increasing the anxiety of those uninvolved in the process.

Here we go with Iraq:
By Col. Gary Anderson (USMC, ret.)
Best Defense west Baghdad bureau chief

What is happening in Iraq is far from American style horse-trading. Nor is this about simple sectarianism. What we will see in Iraq in the immediate future will be a naked power struggle among the three main elements in the Shiite community:

  • Secular nationalists [note: he means Allawi's faction]
  • Islamic nationalists [he means Sadr's faction]
  • Islamic pro-Iranians [he means Maliki's faction in which he includes Chalabi]

I'm betting that one of the nationalist groups will eventually win, but that it will not be without a good deal of bloodshed. The winning party will likely be the one that the army backs, which will be the secular side, as the Iraqi army doesn't like Sadr, who is the leading Islamic nationalist. I would also bet that Chalabi ends up in exile or worse.

The result will be a regime that is more authoritarian than we will like, but it is to be hoped, western leaning.
A western-leaning regime that is "more authoritarian than we'd like", in other words an Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia-like regime for Iraq. One worrying aspect is Anderson's expectation of bloodshed. Assuming Anderson's perceptions match those of the US foreign policy corps in Iraq there is an intention, and likely plans to impose Allawi on the country by force.

Where the US expectation likely fails is that Sadr and Maliki fight each other, but not to a degree or in a way that would allow Allawi and the Americans to walk into power after they've defeated each other. But the expectation of violence is the type of prophecy that, if made by the Americans in Iraq, fulfills itself.

The United States is not a neutral or indifferent party in Iraq today. The United States is willing to expend substantial resources to add Iraq to the colonial structure that currently holds Egypt, Jordan and many other Middle East countries. If the United States had the means to report more votes for its favorite, Allawi, than he actually got from Iraq's people, it is not plausible that the US refused to do so. And given the long and opaque period between when the votes were cast and when they were reported, as well as the election commission's refusal to recount any of the ballots, it is very likely that the US did have the means to fabricate votes to give Allawi the "slim lead" that was reported.

I expect a coalition of what Anderson calls Islamists to retain power in Iraq, but the stubborn US insistence in attempting to install an authoritarian regime that is western-leaning will cause unnecessary time, resources and lives to be wasted.


Lysander said...

Iran enjoyed very substantial influence in Lebanon during the elections and government forming process. But it is dwarfed by Iran's influence in Iraq. After all, Hezbollah is in essence the opposition or junior partner in a coalition government. Saad Hariri is in essence a Lebanese Allawi. But he was co-opted by Iran and Syria, even though he had accused the latter of killing his father. Same with Walid Jumblatt. In Lebanon, most government institutions were run by an anti Hezbollah government in Sanyurah's day. The Saudis spent enormous money on his government. The US openly sided with him and made numerous veiled threats about what would happen if a Hezbollah led coalition won. And in fact the March 14 forces did 'win' the election (given their confessional system) and Hezbollah acknowledged their victory.

And still it worked out in Iran's favor.

Now look at Iraq. Shiites are the undisputed majority. They control nearly every government institution whether civilian, military, paramilitary or police/security. The two main parties together control nearly half of the parliament. All these institutions are penetrated head to toe with Iranian sympathizers or actual agents. It almost wouldn't matter if Allawi did become PM. He would in short order do what Saad Hariri did.

The Iraqi and Iranian leadership without doubt anticipated an attempt by the US to reorder things like the previous status quo. Why do you think they spent so much time and effort on debaathification?

Also, unlike Lebanon, the US government cannot openly back Allawi (the media of course can and will) It has to maintain the pretence of neutrality. If Allawi is outmaneuvered, it will be hard for the US to cry foul.

Bottom line, the US is at an insurmountable disadvantage vis a vis Iran in Iraq.

Lysander said...

One other thing. When this game was played, in Lebanon in 1982 it seemed Israel and the US held all the cards. There was no Hezbollah. The Syrian army was badly defeated and had to withdraw. Iran was pressed by a war with Iraq. The Israelis were able to march into Beirut and appoint their hand picked phalangist puppet.

And still it turned out in Iran's and Syria's favor. The US has learned no lessons at all since then. The only way the US can put a western friendly government in power is to re-invade Iraq and keep an army of 250-300 k troops there indefinitely. Fighting a much broader and more potent insurgency than before.