Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oh Captain My Captain

Oh Captain My Captain: Some guest on an Aljazeera TV program insulted Sistani yesterday, and this prompted every John, Dick and Harry of Iraqi politics to jump at the opportunity of expressing fealty to the Uber Ayatollah today. The United Iraqi Alliance (no. '555') organized demonstrations all over the south denouncing Aljazeera, and Ayad Allawi sent a telegram of indignation at the incident and eternal adoration to Sistani. There is even footage (that has been given to AP) of Ahmad Chalabi joining a demonstration in Sadr City and actually carrying a picture of Sistani over his head, according to an eye-witness.

Hopping a ride on the Sistani bandwagon is the Iraqi political equivalent of being firmly in "support of motherhood."

Chalabi Watch: Chalabi toured southern Iraq last week, and images of the campaign are up at the INC website. Chalabi's daughter, Tamara, is keeping a weblog of her observations in the run-up to tomorrow's poll over here at Slate. The Iraqi political class is circulating a rumor that angry crowds had hurled heavy Pepsi cans at Chalabi during a stump speech in Samawa, which was denied by an independent media source accompanying Chalabi's entourage. Chalabi did visit the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf without incident, in an apparent jibe at Allawi who got pelted with shoes by pilgrims at the shrine a few days ago. Interestingly, the Allawi incident probably earned him votes among the middle-class, anti-Muqtada Shia demographic, according to observers I've talked to.

There was even a wild accusation that Chalabi had backtracked on de-Ba'athification; an accusation that was mildly denied by his camp. The accusation first showed-up in an Italian news wire story about a speech that Chalabi--head of the de-Ba'athification Commission--had made in the southern city of Basra, and that was later carried on Al-Arabiya TV. Mithal Al-Alusi, a gun-ho de-Ba'athifier, quickly put out sound-bytes on Alhurra and Radio Sawa denouncing Chalabi as a vote-grabbing cameleon for wavering on the constitutionaly-mandated policy of de-Ba'athification.

Is that a Gucci hijab? My favorite picture of the day comes from Reuters of these two Iraqi hotties voting in Tehran; I'm betting that these two residents in the Islamic Republic of Iran did not vote for the United Iraqi Alliance...



Hint, hint: Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV hosted Tarek Al-Hashimi (‘The Consensus List’ no. 618), Masoud Barzani (the ‘Kurdistan’ list no. 730) and Ayad Allawi (list no. 731) on its Min al-Iraq show yesterday. The presenter, Elie Nakouzi, gave each candidate one minute towards the end of the show to speak directly to the voters. It just happens that there may be a political alliance in the making between Hashimi, Barzani and Allawi to prop-up the latter’s bid for premiership. And just in case it escaped anyone’s notice, Nakouzi directed a question about the proposed alliance to Barzani. Call this a hunch, but I believe that is exactly what the Saudis are hoping for; let’s see if the media blitz they have afforded to Allawi and ‘The Consensus List’ on the various media outlets that they own would translate into votes tomorrow.

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