Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Shahwani, The ‘Patriot’

Former Iraqi Intelligence chief—a favorite of the Central Intelligence Agency and certain Washington Post columnists—Muhammad Abdullah al-Shahwani is running as a candidate for parliament (Baghdad Province) on his own slate, called Al-Neshoor Party.

Back in August 2009, at the time when Shahwani was forcibly retired (…the guy is 72), the CIA media mill went into overdrive warning that Iraq would become a colony of Iran’s in five years, and that the only man who was holding down the fort in the face of an Iranian attack was Shahwani. He was sold as Iraq’s truest patriot. Many journalists and columnists, as they usually do, swallowed the Agency’s story without questioning any component parts of it. It was also revealed on this blog that it was the Agency itself which took the initiative, on its own volition, of dismantling the anti-Iran shop it had set up within the newly formed Iraqi Intelligence Service.

So let’s get back to Shahwani’s new gig. His party is running in the provinces of Baghdad, Nineveh, Salahuddin, Anbar, Diyala and Kirkuk. Which means Al-Neshoor is only making a bid for seats in provinces with predominant or significant Sunni Arab constituencies. Shahwani is fielding 59 candidates in these provinces, and by my count, only one is a Shia. So at a time when most slates are scrambling to portray themselves as inter-ethnic and cross-sectarian, Shahwani, Mr. ‘Patriot’, is selling himself as Mr. Sunni Arab.

Another interesting touch is that his campaign materials showcase the old Iraqi flag, the one with three stars on it. Yeah, Shahwani is definitely reconciled with the reality of a New Iraq. Or maybe not.

Is it a wonder that the Iraqi executive branch was worried about Shahwani’s loyalties?

So this is the candidate who is supposed to be Iraq’s savior, if David Ignatius’ sources are to be believed.

It is unfortunate that the American message in Iraq has been reduced to being pro-Ba’ath, and consequently is easily interpreted by America’s detractors as anti-Shia. The Kurds can’t be encouraged either by that. One can’t really build a partnership between the US and the New Iraq on such a premise. Who is responsible for this policy failure? Is anyone asking?

And what use is it to publicly bemoan Iran's alleged influence in Iraq without doing anything about it, and not only that, but dismantling the anti-Iran arm that was in place? Doesn't that serve to only expose the Agency's weakness?


Anonymous Abu Fil said...

Ya Nibras

Thanks very much for this. I have a quick question: in your view, what is the most effective way of communicating in Iraq? Is it cell, internet, blog, TV, radio.....wa kidha wa kidha? The reason I ask is to understand more deeply how information is trnasmitted, transmuted and transformed. The US message is one which may carry some (paranoid) resonance, and I am keen to understand how opinion is formed (coffee-shop, other word of mouth, mosque, newspaper). Keep up the great work; I find this invaluable in deepening my own understanding. AF

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