Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is Maliki an Iranian "Puppet" or an American "Puppet"?

Whereas many western Iraq-watchers keep pushing the line that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is beholden to Iran and to Iran's acolytes within the UIA coalition, the Iranians seem to think the opposite: Maliki and the Iraqis now in charge are too beholden to the Americans, according to this interesting Associated Press report.

I can't vouch for the report, but the gist of it holds true to what I've been arguing for a while: Iran's influence in Iraq has been eclipsed through Maliki's recent actions.

Maliki is coming into his own; he's no one's puppet. Maliki is even exploring the possibility of launching his own political coalition that would be independent of the UIA, according to several sources.

Quick note on Basra: Certain facts have been revealed to me that indicate that the Fadhila Party, which controls the governor's office in Basra, has been enabled and oriented all along by the British down there. For example, it seems that while the Iraqi government had issued an arrest warrant for Isma'il al-Wa'ili, the governor's brother, on charges ranging from oil smuggling to extortion, Britain found it appropriate to invite him over to London and set him up in a fancy hotel for 10 days last month. Al-Wa'ili was taken around to meet with all sorts of high-ranking British officials. And contrary to what was reported earlier about an Emirati handover of al-Wa'ili to Iraqi authorities, the fugitive been hiding out in Kuwait all along.

Another interesting and related rumor has it that a British official has been lobbying on behalf of Sheikh Sabah al-Sa'idi, the head of the Public Integrity Committee in parliament and a member of the Fadhila Party, to get his own arrest warrant annulled. Al-Sa'idi is being charged with oil smuggling too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm sorry -- I don't get this one. Why would the British have done these things?

1:34 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nibras, if you don't mind, I'll field that one;

The Brits have been mollycoddling their Islamic population for many years, and this is their only understanding of how to deal with them. They facilitated the "honor" killings, turned their heads from thugs beating people up for not having beards, or dressing "not muslim enough", just like they did back home.

Would you agree, Mr. Kazimi?

2:03 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having just read your famous Nostradamus/Zarkawi post, I can see there might be more than one reason for the "Drang nach Norden" (Mosul) of the foreign Sunni fighters in Iraq.

It is only a hop, skip, and a jump from there to the Syrian frontier, so I asssumed they might be about to transit Syria and headed for Lebanon to fight the Shias in Beirut and south. My simple assumption was based upon probable Saudi "travel arrangements".

You brought up an aspect of the north migration I hadn't given any thought to, namely a Saudi-orchestrated return home of the fighters not only to Lebanon but to Syria itself. The always isolated Assad clique could be caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

4:24 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys need to watch this.


5:03 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading an interview with Bush a couple of years ago where he said he believed his major role with Prime Minister Maliki was to act as a political mentor.

Maliki seems to have developed seriously substantial leadership qualities over the last 18 months? What say you, Nibras?

5:05 PM, May 15, 2008

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi dagneyt,

I once wrote the following:

"Iraqis still cling to the myth that the British are wily and clever conspirators, much smarter than those boneheaded and excitable Americans. Iraqis are still measuring up these officers that they’re meeting and talking to nowadays against the standards set by the British graduates of Empire who first came to Iraq in World War One and whose yellowed and archived intelligence and administrative reports from that period still reflect the fine training that they came equipped with. Not so with today’s crop, unfortunately the imperial sun had set and whatever grew in its dank and dark wake has come up anemic and stunted."


I agree with you, and I'd add that the British officers, spooks and diplomats operating in Iraq today are hugely overrated.

Dear anonymous,

You'd probably also enjoy this column on Syria:


Dear gj,

Maliki's certainly come a long way since the time when I wrote this column:


But I do add a caveat at the end:

"Any well-calculated policy from Washington would never have entailed drafting men such as Maliki or Mashhadani to round out the team tasked with pulling Iraq back from the precipice of civil war. There is the slightest ray of hope that such men might mend their ways and respond to coaching."

I think Maliki is doing very well. For example, he's handling the local political scene of Mosul very shrewdly and he's doing it by being proactive and on the ground there. Naturally, the western press and the Congress don't want such inconvenient facts to burden their false narratives, the first among which is to blame the Iraqis for everything.

Maliki needs to reshuffle the team around him though; his office is still dysfunctional and slow.



5:32 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An older Baha'i lady I knew in Iran always blamed the British when anything went wrong: another example of the old thinking that the Brits were behind everything in the middle east/southwest Asia. And in truth they often were. ggg

6:44 PM, May 15, 2008

Blogger Chris Baker said...

The puppet master is clearly Ayatollah Ali Sistani. His representative in Karbala, Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalai, recently issued an unusual public lecture to co-puppets Nouri al-Maliki and the Americans about the risk of inflation, better services for the poor, and the need for more jobs. Sistani's representative in Friday prayers last week said "there are important sectors of society that may undergo damage by the inflation spike that might incur" referring to a recently announced increase in public salaries and academic salaries which he says "we blessed".

Karbalai also "called" (probably congratulated) the government for forming two committees led by the Prime Minister “to decide the causes halting the delivery of the ration card items for people and to know the real causes of not improving the electricity power to the required levels”. Karbalai said the condition of the ration cards and electrical services have not been enhanced "five years after the collapse of regime (of Saddam Hussein)”. Karbalai said the two services are important because they touch the "course of life of poor families working daily to survive”.

Further he highlighted “the government must show care to social security network since the benefits given are so little”, suggesting “the government must activate the industrial sector by directing the owners of industrial capital to invest in factories”. In other words Sistani wants more jobs.

Two days earlier a major new investment program in electricity projects was announced and the electric ministry was discussing getting helicopters to patrol the electricity network. Al-Maliki also this week blasted the Central Bank for their policy on inflation and pegging the Dinar higher against the Dollar, which he said had led to a rush of imports when jobs were needed. Maliki is also heavily promoting his $5 billion plan for reconstruction.

11:13 PM, May 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Nibras. When I read Maliki had personally gone to Basra and now to Mosul that's when I remembered the Bush interview and thought "well, that's the sort of thing Bush would encourage him to do".

Being of the Left (surprise, surprise) I have no great love for W, but he understands grass roots politics backwards, and since 9/11 has understood the qualities required for leadership.

As I recall, it was PM Maliki who came up with the "Baghdad Security Plan" to W when all seemed lost late 2006 after the ISF's embarrassing debacle in Operation Together Forward.

As you say, the US media, in thrall as they were to the Baathists, doesn't want to give the new Iraq any respect or credit.

However! It is notable from their coverage of operations in Sadr City just how cringingly embarrassed they are by their coverage of Basrah. I think the turning point has been reached.

btw for anyone wanting to know why the Brits have done so lamentably, they should read Rory Stewart's superb account of his year as "governor" of Maysan 2003/04.

2:30 AM, May 16, 2008

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