Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

...Because Iraq's issues are one-dimensional

The Washington Post has a story today about the Iraqi government's plans to relocate the Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) away from the border areas for now, and eventually away from Iraq.

The aftertaste of Ernesto Londono's copy is that the Iraqis are doing this due to Iran's undue influence over the decisions of Maliki's government. The MEK serving as an auxillary force in Saddam's reign of terror is only mentioned in passing. Even then, Londono uses the wishy-washy "reportedly" to describe the MEK role in supressing the 1991 Uprising. Apart from doing Iran's bidding, the Iraqis have no clearly defined reasons of their own to dislike the MEK, the story infers.

The MEK has plenty of Iraqi blood on its hands. Kirkuk and Kifri in 1991, and Ramadi in 1995, come to mind. But who's interested in what the Iraqis have to say for themselves, right? Certainly not the WaPo, unless its a sob story about how bad things are, relayed with the kind of rhetorical flourish that may or may not put someone in line for a Pulitzer.

Note to Londono & Co: Away with thee to the Hindu Kush, for there await the stories that will garner you prizes, and sustain your egos. Iraq is depleted, so off you go to greener pastures.

UPDATE: ADIL AL-MASHHADANI: Several news outlets are reporting that Adel al-Mashhadani was arrested by Iraqi troops today. Fighting broke out with his fighters in the Fadhl neighborhood of Old Baghdad afterwards. This is great news. Mashhadani was one of Al-Qaeda's point guys in eastern Baghdad, responsible for countless numbers of deaths. The Americans thought it wise to hire him, and trot him out to reporters, without mentioning what he had done. This is how I put it in February 2008:

Even thugs who were doing Al-Qaeda’s bidding just a few months ago and had only turned because Al-Qaeda had appointed someone else to replace them were polished up and made presentable and available for media comment: Adil al-Mashhadani was reborn as a respectable local notable. “Let’s get him in a photo-op with David Ignatius!”
I followed up in the comments section of that post with a description of how I would've handled it:
I certainly would not have hired Adel al-Mashhadani! I would have watched him battle it out with his replacement, Ala’a al-Alawi, and then sent in the Iraqi Army to shoot and arrest the remnants of both gangs.
I'm not sure, but I think I was the first to identify Adel al-Mashhadani as the leader of the insurgency in Fadhl (July 2007).

Now who wants to bet that Odierno will try to move heaven and earth to get this thug released? And all the venal reporters, as well as the self-described 'experts', will eat it up.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quick Links

-This week's post for Hudson NY is titled: Remembering the Americans.

Concluding paragraph:

America under Obama can physically escape from Iraq, but it cannot escape from its legacy in Iraq. It can choose to allow the broken jihadists and the ousted Ba’athists to define that legacy, or it can willfully shape how it shall be remembered. Given the way the world works these days, how others remember you filters back into how you remember yourself: will America’s strength and message endure and be reassured, or will the growl of the jackals grow louder?
-Maliki mouthed some very harsh words about the Ba'ath Party on Al-Iraqiyya TV. He said that the Ba'ath was "an absolute evil and whoever goes back to it will be held to account." These words are a clear reflection that his overtures towards Ba'athists, made in the hopes of establishing an alliance with the Mutlag faction, were rejected by Maliki's base. The link is here (Arabic text).

-Furthermore, MP Kamal al-Sa'idi of the Da'awa Party came out with the clearest expression (Arabic text) of his party's stance by saying that they didn't want the Islamic Party's candidate to assume the role of parliamentary speaker.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Maliki-Mutlag Alliance

The Washington Post finally caught up today with a story that was first discussed here about a month ago: the prospects of a long-term alliance between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni MP Saleh al-Mutlag.

I have two quick points to make: basing this alliance on a re-integration of Ba'athists or Ba'athism into Iraqi politics will damage Maliki, in a major way. Anthony Shadid's copy in the WaPo failed to include the statement issued yesterday (Arabic link) by Maliki's office on a related 'talking-to-the-Ba'athists' controversy, which reads:

The Iraqi Constitution prohibits any dialogue with, or a return to the activity of, the disbanded Ba'ath Party or its participation in the political process due to having committed ugly crimes against all the components of the Iraqi people over the course of thirty five years and its propagation and exercise of sectarian and racist ideas, so we ask everyone to commit themselves to this principle towards all entities or facades of the expired Ba'ath Party.
Pretty explicit, huh? There's not going to be a Da'awa-Ba'athist love fest anytime soon. In fact, I'd wager that this passing controversy has already eroded a significant part of Maliki's appeal and his opponents will always come back to it over the next few months.

The second point I'd like to make is that forming any future cabinet in Iraq will be impossible without having the Kurds on board. The Kurds will likely remain a unified bloc in the next round of parliamentary elections, and their MP cadres are distinguished by party discipline. There won't be defections or splinters. Whichever way I do the math, it is simply impossible to form a coalition government that can pass parliamentary approval without including the Kurds, who remain very pissed off at Maliki and may throw their weight to any other coalition that sidelines him (...which would naturally include Mutlag, who doesn't really care who he aligns with as long as he gets a bunch of ministerial appointments).

Lastly, this report by ABC News is interesting. Click away (...I couldn't figure out how to embed the video link. Help!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Al-Baghdadi's Fifteenth Speech

The speech itself runs for about 13 minutes. It's the same voice, as best as I can tell. It was released by Al-Furqan on March 17, 2009. Al-Baghdadi declares the successful conclusion of the Karama ('Honor') Plan, and the beginning of the 'Harvest of Blessings', the title of the speech. It follows his fourteenth speech, released in January, which was about Gaza (...please let me know if I've missed any).

And once upon a time I used to care so much about what al-Baghdadi had to say that I'd translate his words and analyze away for hours (see his 13th speech here), but nowadays, especially since the jihadists have been defeated in Iraq, I can't seem to rouse myself into caring. Besides, either the jihadists or someone else has been doing a fine job of translating the speeches into English, so I don't feel compelled to put in the effort when the job is already being done.

Oh, by the way, for the readers who haven't followed this blog over the years, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is supposed to be the new caliph.

However, I briefly discuss what I believe are the important indicators of this latest speech in this week's piece for Hudson NY, and this is the concluding line:

Obama, the skilled orator, may be rudely awakened to the prospect that there are long-term and unexpected consequences when ceding the rhetoric of victory to one’s enemy; however delusional said enemy may be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Questions for the 'Iran-engagers'

I have a new piece out on Hudson-NY about why I think America's new policy of bartering with Iran over Iraq will lead nowhere.


Of course, stereotypes are frowned upon in polite company, and there’s no politer company than that of diplomats, hell bent as they are on striking deals with the world’s most unsavory villains. But would it hurt to keep it in mind while haggling, considering that the jury’s still out on whether Iran’s multiple poker-faces are mere duplicity, or plain old creepy schizophrenia?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wishful Thinking in DC

I attended a think tank talk today involving Iraq. I can't get into specifics because it was off the record, but just to give you an idea of how misguided many of these people are, I'll relate the following: one person got up to ask a question and in the process referred to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as "the leader of the Muslim world, and the leader of the Arab world" and described him as "an enlightened man". What is disturbing is not that the Saudis have hired DC propagandists to sing their praises, but rather that the room did not break out in laughter and derision at this person's audacious sycophancy.

Otherwise, here's something I wrote for Hudson-NY: Iraq Withdrawal: Wishful Thinking.

It concludes with,

Consequently, Obama can give speeches to his heart’s desire but he’s not in charge of this particular policy, a policy agreed to by his predecessor in office and now wholly up to the Iraqi voter to decide on.