Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Discrepancies, and a new ambassador in DC

Fuzzy Math: Help me out with this one: a candidate no one had heard of before, Tawfiq Hashim Ali Al-Hashemi, running as an independent, gets 1,782 votes in the out-of-country poll, and a further 2,405 votes from the Iraqi military for a total of 4,184 votes in the ‘special poll’ tally. However, Al-Hashemi—who only ran in his home province of Misan—got a measly 463 ‘ordinary’ votes. So why did this obscure candidate running on the number ‘532’ get ten times more votes among the expatriate/military constituency when compared to his own backyard? Either someone inflated his numbers in the ‘special’ count, or deflated his home-base score. Either way it seems fishy, and it’s not as if he was getting the Florida treatment whereby elderly Holocaust survivors voted for Pat Buchanan by mistake; he is sandwiched between lists no. ‘531’ (Najib Salihi’s Free Officers and Civilians Movement) and no. ‘533’ (The Karbala Independent Coalition) on the ballot—both of which did poorly.

I’d hate to sound like the MARAMists, but the discrepancies keep piling up. For the record, it is now clear that the two ‘Sunni’ lists, the Consensus and Salih Al-Mutlag’s, were themselves involved in massive cheating in the three provinces of Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar. Many of the ballots from Sunni areas were disqualified (65 ballot boxes to be specific, from the Al-Rashid and Yusufiya suburbs of Baghdad), but part of the deal now with the Electoral Commission is to factor in these questionable votes as part of the final tally in order to placate the MARAMists and win them more seats in the parliament.

The Manchukuan Candidate: It seems that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry has designated Iraq’s head of mission to the United Nations, Samir Al-Sumaida’ie, as its new ambassador to Washington, even though the Bush administration had quietly informed the folks in Baghdad that it will hold off receiving his diplomatic accreditation until the new government is formed.

Al-Sumaida’ie was a member of the Iraqi Communist Party, and in his socialist youth and for most of his life he was known by the more egalitarian moniker, Samir Shakir Mahmoud (first name, father’s name and grandfather’s name), that usually drops the surname. But when he made it to Baghdad post liberation, he found that Sunnis were a hot commodity in the marketplace of post-Saddam politics, so he changed his name to Samir Al-Hadithi, in relation to the town of Hadhitha in Anbar Province from which his family hails. This was seemingly enough for him to get appointed by Paul Bremer as a member of the Governing Council, even though he was a marginal figure in Iraqi opposition circles. Then he figured out that there is some currency in a tribal affiliation, so he changed his name once more to Samir Al-Sumaida’ie.

Mr. Mahmoud/Al-Hadithi/Al-Sumaida'ie Goes To Washington

He had been active in Iraqi opposition circles since the late 1980s, and in 1993 he formed the Iraqi Democratic Party with Aziz Aliyan and Aida Osseiran. The party was a front for the Iraqi National Congress in northern Iraq, and received its funding from Ahmad Chalabi, according to signed receipts I had perused in the late 1990s.

In one of the regime’s General Security Directorate files for communists who had recanted their Marxist affiliation, there is an entry for ‘Samir Shakir Mahmoud.’ He is described as an Iraqi who had returned from London in the late 1970s, but was briefly arrested on the charge of possessing counterfeit dollars. He is categorized as a member of the Ba’ath Party in the rank of nassir, or supporter.

I am not sure whether Saddam’s goons are describing the same person, since Al-Sumaida’ie’s biography on the Iraq Mission’s website says that he left Iraq to London in 1973. But I can’t imagine that there were two ex-communists called ‘Samir Shakir Mahmoud.’

In the 1990s, Al-Sumaida’ie would show up to opposition conferences arriving from China, where he had set-up a business.

Al-Sumaida’ie served briefly as Iraq’s Minister of Interior in the waning days of Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority. He obligingly signed the arrest warrants against INC officials per Bremer’s recommendation in the summer of 2004. He was then assigned the plush job of ambassador to Turtle Bay.

Many people found it odd that the Americans were so invested in the career of this China-based businessman, who does not boast any real political heft of his own within the Iraqi political class.

Al-Sumaida’ie lent his support to an electoral list running in the most recent elections even though his name was not on the ballot. They had even printed posters brandishing his picture in his UN seat. The list fared poorly at the polls.

Some of his poetry can be perused here, at his personal website. Note how many pictures he has of himself. Call Iraq’s mission to the UN at 212-737-4433, and ask for Samir. Whisper ‘Queen of Diamonds’ and see what he’s programmed to do. Should be fun if you have nothing else up your sleeve.


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