If you watched Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show last night, you probably caught this segment, Richard Engel’s sunny assessment of Iraqi election results.
In Maddow’s words, the Allawi victory could be a “recipe for more stability” as it draws in a diverse coalition of Sunni, Shiite, Kurd and secular interests. Engel adds that “it is much more American leaning” due to Allawi’s past work with the C.I.A. Allawi is “Washington-leaning” while Maliki is “Iran-leaning” — which, in Corporate NewSpeak means “good for U.S.” and “we win.” Or as Engel concluded, “potentially the best news for U.S. troops who are looking to leave.”
This made me scratch my head. How is a close election result rejected by the candidate who holds real political power in a country under military occupation and experiencing almost daily violence possibly a “game changer”?
The Nation‘s Robert Dreyfuss arrives as a diametrically opposed set of concerns.
If it does get ugly, Allawi will be at a disadvantage. Unlike Maliki, who controls the security and intelligence forces — nicely funded by the American taxpayer, thank you very much — and unlike the Kurds, the Sadrists, and the Badr Brigade of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which maintain militias, Allawi has none. The former resistance has disarmed, and the Sons of Iraq (Awakening, or sahwa) are badly disorganized.
Allawi’s path to power involves a deal with the Kurds, who won 50-odd seats, but that won’t be easy to get, since the Kurds are fiercely opposed to some of Allawi’s more Arab nationalist allies, especially in Mosul. And Allawi will have to peel off some elements of the INA, probably the Sadrists, but they are strongly anti-Baathist and they’ve shifted to a great degree into the Iranian camp since 2007, so a deal with them, too, would be difficult for Allawi. (Sadr, who lives in Iran, won the majority of seats in the INA bloc, a massive defeat for ISCI.)
Iran will move mountains — and assassins — to stop Allawi. Tehran will put a lot of pressure on Maliki, the INA, and the Kurds to block Allawi and to reform the pro-Iranian bloc that has ruled Iran since 2005-2006. On the other hand, if politics and power conspire to deny Allawi what he has won, expect the Sunnis to move into armed opposition to the re-established powers-that-be.
Engel and Dreyfuss are both aware of the complexities of the ethnic and regional rivalries that make Iraq a difficult and unstable place to analyze; yet I don’t get why Engel comes away so giddy about the prospects. Is it simply a matter of proximity to the corporate news sun? Engel orbits closer to its glowing warmth, where American power is ever threatened yet always triumphant, while Dreyfuss hovers around Pluto, a cold place lacking access to the centers of Washington decision-making. However, I suspect Dreyfuss is closer to the truth: regardless of American prospects for leaving, Iraq’s political troubles are far from over.
UPDATE: Here’s a good sign that Dreyfuss may be closer to truth, if not Corporate NewsTruth — Malaki has deployed security forces against candidates who may have won on the Allawi ticket. (via)
The government’s action, coupled with appeals by Maliki’s bloc for the votes to be thrown out in these cases, appeared to be a long shot maneuver to strip Allawi of his margin of victory. In the end, Iraq’s high court will have to settle this and other disputes and certify the final results, a process that could take another two weeks
One of the fugitive candidates said security forces had staged two raids on his home this week, including one Saturday morning. “I’m confused as to how I can make it to parliament to be sworn in when I can’t even go home,” said Raad Dahlaki, the chairman of the Baqouba City Council. McClatchy reached him by telephone at an undisclosed location.
“Will I be stripped of my right to fill the seat I won through hard work? Will I be able to keep the promises I made to people, to improve their lives? I have no clue why there are all these attempts to arrest me,” he said.