Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bizarre: Mithal ‘Peace with Israel’ Alusi Being Trumpeted by Iranian Agents?

Iraqis want Jaafari to remain PM - newspaper poll
19 Nov 2005 10:53:15 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Mussab al-Khairalla
BAGHDAD, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A newspaper poll of nearly 40,000 Iraqis showed half want Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, an Islamist Shi'ite, to retain his position after elections in December for Iraq's first full-term postwar government.
The poll, conducted by al-Bayyna newspaper, which is run by the Shi'ite party Hezbollah Iraq, surveyed people in six of Iraq's 18 provinces, including the major population centres of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.
Of the 38,500 questioned, 51 percent backed Jaafari, saying they wanted him to stay in the job after the Dec. 15 vote.
Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Sunni who heads his own election list, came second in the poll, with 21 percent saying they wanted him to be the next prime minister.
Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and former Baathist, came third, ahead of Deputy Prime Minister and former Pentagon ally Ahmad Chalabi.
The survey was published as more than 50 Iraqi politicians from across the country's volatile sectarian divide held reconciliation talks in Cairo aimed at easing bloodshed that has plagued Iraq since a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Iraq's U.S. allies hope the elections will advance the political process and lead to stability.

Elections in January swept Shi'ites and Kurds to power, marginalising the Sunni Arab minority that dominated Iraq's corridors of power under Saddam Hussein and before.
Sunnis, who largely boycotted the January polls, are expected to rally their communities to vote in large numbers this time around in a bid to increase their representation in the next parliament.
Jaafari's government has come under fire for failing to tame a raging insurgency of suicide bombings, assassinations and shootings that has left thousands of civilians and members of the security forces dead.
The discovery of more than 170 malnourished and beaten prisoners in a secret Interior Ministry bunker on Sunday has embarrassed his administration and raised questions over promises to guarantee human rights after Saddam's fall.
The ruling United Iraqi Alliance, which includes Jaafari's Dawa Party, has been assailed by insurgents and the broader Sunni Arab community, criticised by its own voters for economic stagnation and been deserted by former allies.
But it hopes to beat opponents by keeping the loyalty of the 60 percent Shi'ite majority that backed it in the last vote.
Alusi, who gained notoriety after a controversial visit to Israel, survived an assassination attempt that killed his two sons. He has won popularity with outspoken criticism of former members of Saddam's Baath party and the Sunni insurgency.
At the same time, he has voiced concern over the influence in Iraq of its powerful Shi'ite neighbour Iran.
Allawi, who came to power in 2004 with a strongman image, enjoys some support among both Shi'ites and Sunnis despite a history of ties to British and American intelligence agencies during his years in exile plotting to bring down Saddam.

Al-Bayyna is a popular newspaper; it gives vent to a lot of Shia frustration. But it is operated by Hezbollah-Iraq (headed by Hassan Al-Sari, as opposed to the other ‘Hezbollah’ organization headed by Abu Hatem Al-Muhammadawi), which is a thoroughly Iranian intelligence operation. Its leader, Al-Sari, had been previously arrested by US forces, and is currently a delegate to the National Assembly on the UIA list, and is running on the same list for the next elections.

I can understand why the Iranians would want to trumpet Jaafari, who comes out with 51% in the poll. The mullahs and their associates in Iran would be humiliated if their inept acolytes running Iraq were to be castigated at the polls by Iraqi voters come December. So, creating the myth of popular support would rally people towards a ‘winner’.

But why doctor the numbers so that Mithal Alusi comes in second with 21%. This is free propaganda for Alusi. I don’t dislike this fact: I voted for him in the last elections and intend to vote for him again. But why would the Iranians do this favor for the only Iraqi politician who has publicly visited Israel?

Propaganda for Alusi?

Alusi is indeed popular: he has charisma and gravitas, and has seized on populist issues such as basic services and a more hard line approach to terrorism. But 1/5 of Iraqis are now supporting his bid for premiership? Sounds far-fetched.

Unless, that is, if there is a liberal democratic near-majority in Iraq that nobody had noticed...We'll know in three weeks...

[For the record: Al-Bayyna's website, at the time of this post, does not carry the poll story, which may have appeared in the print edition]