Sunday, August 26, 2007

The resurrection of Allawi: Rove's new gig?

News Item: "Former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is stepping forward to present himself as the ideal candidate" to replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister of Iraq.

The article in question notes that the Maliki coalition government is reeling, yet again, with "the defection of the Iraqi National List, an umbrella faction headed by Allawi's Iraqi National Accord..." This defection "coincided with a lobbying campaign promoting the former prime minister as an alternative to al-Maliki."

Not surprisingly, the Allawi PR offensive is based in Washington rather than Iraq:
Allawi has given several high-profile TV interviews and penned op-ed pieces highly critical of al-Maliki. Allawi also hired the Washington company of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers on a six-month lobbying contract for $300,000, according to papers filed with the U.S. Justice Department.

The company includes Robert Blackwill, President Bush's former envoy to Iraq who helped form the Allawi-led interim government in 2004, and Philip Zelikow, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

So now, after a couple weeks of speculation, we know what Karl Rove's next project might be: the resurrection of Allawi as the latest U.S. surrogate in Baghdad. The outlines of Allawi's career are painfully familiar to many in the U.S., so there's no need to go into all the particulars [see here and here for details]. With two exceptions that are often overlooked: in July 2004, Allawi summarily executed six (or seven by some accounts) insurgents in a Baghdad police station "to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents." (Maliki, not surprisingly, denies the accusation.) Four U.S. "security men" were alleged to have been present. Then, later that year, he claimed that angry Shi'ites in a Najaf mosque attempted to "assassinate" him by pelting him with shoes.

Allawi's misrule, beginning in the summer of 2004, was so egregious, brutal and corrupt that his political party received only 14% of the vote in the elections of January 2005. As Maliki's support seems to be rapidly eroding, especially in Washington, the resuscitation of Allawi can only be interpreted as a truly desperate attempt to prevent political collapse in Baghdad.

Yet it's difficult to imagine that Allawi, with his long associations with the CIA, would be any more acceptable to Iraqis than he was in 2004-05. Two years before his first regime began, secret British government documents described Allawi (as well as neocon favorite Ahmad Chalabi) as a "western stooge" who "lacked domestic credibility" in Iraq. Surely, at best, his standing in Iraq hasn't gotten any stronger.

So the challenge for Rove, if in fact he's somehow involved in Allawi's resurrection, may be even greater than it was in 2000, when he helped to steal an election that elevated a notorious buffoon to the presidency.

PHOTO: Ayad Allawi (Wikepedia Commons)

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