Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chalabi Aide Linked to Terrorism

Important story with excellent reporting by Eli Lake in the Washington Times today: Chalabi, Iran, Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jihadists Draw First Royal Saudi Blood

News from Saudi Arabia: a suicide bomber slightly injured Prince Muhammad bin Nayif, the Deputy Minister of Interior who is the son of the Minister of Interior.

To my knowledge, this event marks the first time a jihadist has come close to killing one of the Saudi royal brood. If I'm right, then this is big; very, very big. A turning point, I'd add.

It is like a taboo being ruptured, a point of no return. Let's how the jihadist forums take to the news.

دولة القانون ام دولة الشريعة؟

A new column in Arabic, in which I warn of the creeping application of Islamic law, the shari'ah, in Iraq by Maliki's acolytes. Sorry, don't have time to translate.

عن موقع اتجاهات حرة

ائتلاف دولة الشريعة

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ignatius on Shahwani and Iranian Influence in Iraq

David Ignatius published a column in the Washington Post today under the title ‘Behind the Carnage in Baghdad’. It is so rife with disinformation and error that one is at a loss as to where to begin.

The premise of the column is that Gen. Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahwani, who was appointed by Amb. Jerry Bremer as head of the newly resurrected Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) in 2003 while the Coalition Provisional Authority was still in place and who has recently submitted his resignation, was one of the last remaining bulwarks against Iranian hegemony in Iraq and that his absence from power is a grave setback for Iraq’s sovereignty. Missing from Ignatius’ narrative is the fact that Shahwani’s contract expired in May 2009; the CPA had included him among several security and financial officials who were guaranteed a five year contract to stay in their positions when sovereignty was handed over in 2004, and these appointments could only be annulled by a parliamentary majority.

Also missing from the narrative is that the dismantling of anti-Iranian intelligence bulwarks in Iraq was the doing of the Americans. First reported in a column here, the intelligence unit whose job it was to monitor Iranian movements inside Iraq and to conduct counter-espionage operations inside Iran and elsewhere against Iranian interests was disbanded in November 2008 by a decision taken by the Central Intelligence Agency. The unit was established even before the new INIS was cobbled together under Shahwani, and consisted of 25 former Iraqi intelligence officers with experience on Iranian issues, who were paired up with a like-number of CIA officers. The unit never grew beyond this size and was housed in a building separate (but adjacent) to the new INIS headquarters. Shahwani had absolutely no jurisdiction over this unit and was barred from reviewing its product. Whatever anti-Iranian successes can be attributed to this unit have nothing to do with Shahwani’s tenure as head of the INIS; it was fully independent and secretive, and the decision to dismantle it was not one taken by the Iraqi government.

This information hasn’t been reported on previously, and no reporters have looked into it.

Furthermore, the leadership and rank and file of the chief Iranian terrorist outfit in Iraq, the so-called ‘League of the Righteous’, are now being released as part of a deal brokered by the Americans and the Brits. Again, this decision had very little input from the Iraqi government.

Muhammed Shahwani

Shahwani, a native of Mosul with Afghan heritage, was a former pilot with the Iraqi Army who had very little background in intelligence work. His 1996 coup attempt in conjunction with the CIA, as reviewed in the documents of Saddam’s mukhaberat of which I have copies and had a hand in locating, reads like amateur hour. As his conduit to fellow conspirators in Baghdad, he chose an Egyptian national of dubious mental stability who went off and volunteered his services to Saddam’s spies after Shahwani recruited him. Tens of officers, including Shahwani’s three sons, were executed because of this foolish mistake. The 1996 fiasco should have gone down in history as one of the agency biggest f*ck-ups, but the CIA found no one more qualified to appoint as nominal figurehead of the INIS than Shahwani in 2003. Shahwani had left the Iraqi military in 1984 and left Iraq in 1990. From 2003 through to 2007, the CIA provided the annual budget of the INIS, which peaked at 80 million dollars a year.

Even when supposedly running the new IIS, Shahwani was mostly on leave for treatment in Amman, Jordan. Day to day management of the IIS was left to his chief aide, Zuheir al-Ghreibawi (identified as Zuheir Fadel in the Ignatius piece), another former pilot that Shahwani had recruited and likewise lacking in an intelligence background. In recent years, Ghreibawi has ingratiated himself with Maliki in order to secure Shahwani’s job when the latter’s contract was up. It is still far from certain that Ghreibawi will get the top job. Other serious contenders are Nouri al-Badran (estranged brother-in-law to Ayad Allawi and former Minister of Interior), Qasim Daoud (Gulf-backed MP who is now part of the new UIA), Najib al-Salihi (former Iraqi officer and opposition figure), Gen. Abdel-Aziz al-Kubaisi (current head of personnel at the Ministry of Defense) and Gen. Farouq al-Araji (Maliki’s chief military advisor). Maliki has discussed these names, and none of them can be pegged as Iranian acolytes.

Shahwani was primarily useful for the CIA in conducting political black-ops and rumor campaigns against Iraqi politicians that the agency found to be a nuisance. Shahwani was sighted arriving in London a couple of days ago, and at this time may be back in the US where his family resides.

As for the threats against the officers of the INIS, which number 2,400 and not 6,000as Ignatius claims, some are really emanating from Iran but most of the hits they have gotten came from the jihadists or from internal score-settling, as certain networks of the INIS got involved in organized crime cartels. The cases involving Ayad al-Ubeidi, Rejeb al-Mashhadani and Amer al-Hashimi (VP Tareq al-Hashimi’s brother) come to mind.

As for the claim that Maliki travels around in an Iranian jet with an Iranian crew, attributed by Ignatius to an “Iraqi intelligence source who is close to Shahwani,” well, that is blatantly untrue and can be easily checked. The source also claims the Iranians promised Maliki a near-parliamentary majority, which can only be chalked up to bombast.

There is Iranian influence in Iraq, just as there are U.S. and other regional actors who have a say. But over-stating Iranian influence is an exercise in malicious myth-making, geared towards papering over mistakes, policy failures and casting doubt on Iraq’s sovereignty, a thing that many of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors, with close ties to the CIA, would like to underline for a variety of purposes. I’d like Iraq to be completely devoid of regional influence, but that is a fantasy at this stage. Truth is, the general trajectory of foreign influence in Iraq in on the wane, which is great. Hey, I’ve always argued that the reverse should be true: a democratic Iraq should be actively meddling, through its security agencies, in the internal affairs of its neighbors, empowering dissidents and doing, y’know, other stuff. Let’s see what the future has in store in this regard; I’m optimistic that it will happen.

In the vein of myth-making, the same source tells Ignatius that, in five years, “Iraq will be a colony of Iran” absent American help. But only briefly, for the Martian landing is expected soon that will put an end to the human species.

Mr. Ignatius is sourced-up at Langley, and it may be a stretch, as some claim, that he has been used by the agency for its own myth-making purposes over the years. Be that as it is, Ignatius should call up his sources and ask them why was the anti-Iran unit shut down in November 2008? Did that count as the absence of “American help”? The CIA spin would likely be another round of “Iranian influence” and that would be yet another serving of hogwash: Maliki never envisioned having the authority to shut down the outfit. In 2007, when he toured the INIS building, he was only allowed to see the first three floors and barred from touring the rest of the facility. Even Shahwani wasn’t allowed to set foot in the anti-Iran unit building. That team was seen as untouchable, even though the paramilitary arm associated with the unit, the so-called ‘Dirty Brigade’ then under Gen. Fadhel Jamil Barwari, was involved in all sorts of ‘extracurricular’ crime and political score-settling against Iraqi politicians and was the subject of angry recriminations (Note: the ‘Dirty Brigade’ is now under Maliki’s control). But no one dared to go after the unit, and everyone was surprised when the Americans suddenly pulled the plug on it.

Irrespective of the excesses of the INIS, I liked the idea that Iraq had a bad-ass unit dedicated to stamping down on Iranian toes. But it was an American decision to disable it, not an Iraqi one. I’d like to hear some answers that attempt to make sense of that stupid decision. Getting those answers, rather than splattering spin across the WaPo’s editorial pages, should be the job of someone like Mr. Ignatius.

Jihadists Behind Baghdad Attacks (Updated)

The self-styled 'Islamic State of Iraq' that is led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi took responsibility for the multiple terrorist attacks in Baghdad last Wednesday in a statement released today by 'Ministry of Information' of the ISI on the Al-Falluja jihadist forum. These attacks included the near simultaneous suicide truck bombs against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance, even though that latter bombing was attributed by the Maliki government to a wing of the Ba'ath Party per a televised confession.

The ISI called the attacks "Ghazwet [Raid] of the Prisoner" and can be read here (Arabic text).

They will probably release a more extensive video of the operations at a later date, with statements by the suicide bombers, as is their custom when taking responsibility for big, dramatic attacks.

I had appeared on Alhurra TV on Sunday and when asked who was behind the attacks I said that it was the ISI, even though the other guest, Kamal al-Sa'idi MP from the Da'awa Party, kept insisting that it was the Ba'athists.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Alhurra interview. I can't figure out why I can't embed!?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Announcing the 'New' UIA

So the revamped United Iraqi Alliance was finally announced today, and if you’ve been reading this blog for the last few months, this marks a seminal moment in Iraqi politics. The big news is not who was on stage as the announcement was made, but rather who was absent, namely Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Da’awa Party.

Negotiations proceeded at a feverish pace right up to the moment when the main actors began heading out to the conference hall, with the Da’awa Party pleading for a delay. However, these pleas fell on deaf ears since Maliki’s representative to the preparatory meetings, MP Hassan al-Sineid, had already agreed on the 24th (today) as the final date for the launching of the new UIA. Needless to say, the refusal to postpone the announcement took the Da’awa by surprise, believing as they did that they had far more leverage given Maliki’s popularity.

Yet Maliki’s political fortunes have been sinking as of late, as his claim to fame for bringing an end to violence, especially in Baghdad, was dramatically torn asunder by Wednesday’s multiple bombings aimed at high value targets. The political atmosphere is so poisonous that Da’awa apparatchiks had been insinuating, with Maliki in the lead, that the bombings resulted from the “strained political atmosphere,” implicitly accusing the Islamic Supreme Council headed by the Hakim family as the main culprits.

The Iraqi government for its part has been putting out conflicting stories about the bombings. The Defense minister claimed that the bomb parts were Iranian-made, again casting aspersions on the Hakims, who are perceived as close to the Iranians. But ‘Baghdad Operations Command’ released televised confessions from a Ba’athist who claimed responsibility for the truck bomb at the Finance Ministry, adding that he answered to the splinter Ba’athist wing headed by Mohammad Yunis al-Ahmad. (Note: a New York Times story today by Steven Lee Myers mistakenly attributed the confession to the Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri wing of the Ba’ath Party.)

This move by the new UIA effectively splits the Shia Islamist vote, and would naturally mean that the Sistani establishment in Najaf would be forced to pick sides.

The mathematics behind the announcement has to do with the notion that the principal parties of the new UIA got more votes in total than Maliki in last January’s provincial elections (Hakims 11 percent, Sadrists 7 percent, Ja’afari 4 percent, versus Maliki’s 19 percent). The chief power brokers are Ammar al-Hakim and Ahmad Chalabi, while Sunni representation is simply garnish, with Hamid al-Hayess of Anbar Province (former Iraqi National Congress bureau chief in Ramadi) taking the podium to give a Sunni face to the show. Former Allawi ally Qassim Daoud is there too, as are a smattering of non-aligned tribal leaders such as Hatim al-Sultan of the Banu Tamim.

Both Ja’afari and Adel Abdel-Mahdi said that they had hoped that Maliki and the Da’awa would have been on board, and kept the door open for a future realignment, but that is very unlikely at this stage. The chief stumbling block in the negotiations was that Maliki demanded assurances that he would remain the UIA’s sole candidate for the PM job post-elections, which the Hakims were not prepared to commit to.

The Bombings:

I didn’t want to comment on the bombings, since it involved a personal fright. But the headline in the Washington Post the following day (Aug. 20) was simply shrill and ridiculous: ‘Iraq Carnage Shows Sectarian War Goes On’. The write-up by Ernesto Londono was equally hyperbolic, but I’m used to by now his attempts to over-dramatize events in Iraq. The Iraqi ambassador to the US has a letter to the editor published in the paper today addressing the WaPo’s headline and shoddy reporting.

Yet the most disturbing aspect of how the bombings were reported upon by the US media were the quotes by current and former U.S. officers in Iraq, as well as U.S.-based analysts, commenting on what happened. These statements reeked of what seems like gloating; they sounded like a jilted ex-wife taking pleasure that the younger bride for whom she was dumped ran away with the mailman. The ‘Blame The Iraqis’ crowd among America’s military and security classes are taking great pains to bleach-out their blemished legacies; they did nothing wrong and it was the always the Iraqis who screwed everything up. It is the common refrain of the insecure and the recognition-hungry. The atmosphere between Iraqis and Americans has been poisoned, by careerism and activist reporting, far beyond the effects of whatever antidote may be available. To me it is high time for full disengagement: leave the Iraqis to sort out their own problems without the snide commentary, and let’s see what those folks can do to ‘win’ in Af-Pak. U.S.-Iraqi relations should be restructured towards private sector investment and energy security. There’s very little other ground for ‘feel-good’ cooperation.

Lastly, check out a story in today’s NYTimes about beach life in Habbaniya Lake. This piece of reporting by Duraid Adnan and Timothy Williams is a far clearer reflection for how life goes on, and going well, in Iraq. At the end, it’s all about boys and girls flirting and creating happier memories.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

No wonder counter-insurgency is faltering in the Mosul area...

Chalk this up to the "Do you know the enemy?" syndrome. From the New York Times today, 'Minorities Can't Escape Fury of Northern Iraq's Ethnic and Religious Maelstrom,' Sunday, August 16, 2009:

Maj. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., commander of American forces in northern Iraq, told reporters on Tuesday that the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had now teamed up with another militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq.
I'm guessing that Gernal Caslen and his briefers are not regular readers of Talisman Gate. This guy is supposed to be battling the jihadists in and around Mosul, yet he manages to get a critical piece of information so wrong, which makes me wonder, what else is he getting wrong?

'Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia' created the Islamic State of Iraq in October 2006, nearly three years ago. It subsumed itself into the new organization, and there hasn't been something called 'Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia' since that time. Kindly update your briefing folders.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Have the jihadists found their own Amr Khaled?

Amr Khaled is a popular, telegenic Islamic revivalist from Egypt who has a wide following for his entertaining, sometimes jovial, discussion of Muslim morality. Al-Qaeda's As-Sahab Media has released a video by Sheikh Khalid bin Abdul-Rahman al-Huseinan under the title 'A Quiet Discussion with Obama' (approx. 35 mins, Arabic video). Al-Huseinan's mannerisms and style closely mimic those of Khaled's, even at times his voice becomes squeaky like that of the Egyptian's when excited. This video is a far cry from Zawahiri's dry lectures, or the dour faces of some of the other scholars or spokesmen that Al-Qaeda has put forward in the past.

Is this a conscious strategy on the part of Al-Qaeda to rebrand its image by giving a man like al-Huseinan, who I haven't seen before, a platform? Al-Huseinan is certainly engaging, and speaks almost as if colloquially. The whole point seems to be to make jihad fun; he's having a blast fighting the Cross-Worshippers, why shouldn't you?

Al-Huseinan, according to bits and pieces gathered from the web, is a Kuwaiti cleric who also goes by the name 'Abu Abdel-Melik'. In the video, he claims to be in Afghanistan at this time. The video is dated Rejeb 1430 AH, which indicates that it was made last month.

Poem: "We will never give it up"

This is a powerful poem in Iraqi colloquial Arabic by Detroit-based poet and journalist Falih Hasoon al-Daraji. It is reflective of the grit and determination that one senses on every level of how talk of rehabilitating the Ba'athists goes down among Iraqis. The poem is addressed to Ba'athists, and the basic premise is "Never, ever think of coming back to power"...No matter how many bombs, no matter how many casualties..."We will never give it up"...Setting it to the Star Wars soundtrack makes even more dramatic...The rebels have defeated the Evil Empire and destroyed its Death Star...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Catching Up on Iraq Stuff

-UIA announcement delayed: As expected, the declaration of a ‘new’ United Iraqi Alliance list, due compete in the next national elections in January, was kicked down the road until August 24. The declaration was supposed to occur today, but continuing ‘negotiations,’ or rather political brinkmanship, resulting from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s refusal to sign on just yet, delayed what was pegged to be a spectacle of Shia Islamist unity.

Maliki wants guarantees that he will be the UIA’s sole candidate for the PM job post elections, and that the candidacy of the current Minister of Interior, Jawad al-Bolani, be publicly quashed. Bolani’s momentum was buoyed by what one source called Ammar al-Hakim’s nod towards him, and a judgment that the Hakim family’s preferred candidate, current Vice-President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, would never be marketable to the rest of the UIA as PM material. To bolster this trend, Bolani seized on the gruesome incident at the Rafidayn Bank-Zawiya Branch on July 27 which implicated one or more of Abdul-Mahdi’s bodyguards, to cripple whatever hopes the latter had of ever becoming prime minister. The bank heist, in which eight employees were killed, has severely wounded the Hakim family in their traditional Baghdad bastions, Karrada and Jadiriya. For now and for the foreseeable future, Abdul-Mahdi is simply too radioactive for any important role in Iraqi politics.

Of course, Maliki isn’t getting any guarantees because almost no one among the major Shia players, not to mention the Kurds and the Sunni Islamic Party, wants to see him back as PM. Which naturally leads to Maliki’s continued tease: “give me what I want or I will go it alone.”

Maliki’s stance enjoys the realization that without him, the UIA is dead in the water. The fortunes of all the Islamist parties seem to be sinking, a fact reflected to a certain degree in the provincial election results and anecdotally. What Maliki doesn’t realize is that his little flirtations with the UIA, and with a broad coalition of anti-UIA forces, ends up pissing everyone off. When he eventually makes up his mind, the blowback will be severe and damaging: if Maliki goes it alone then the component parts of the UIA will accuse him of collusion with Ba’athists, while if he rejoins the UIA he will be accused of sectarianism. Either way, he shall bear the brunt of the popular gripe regarding corruption, poor services, and mismanagement of the economy. Maliki's current PR strategy of scapegoating others (..."parliament is delaying everything") doesn't carry much water: it is his name that Iraqis curse when the electricity goes out.

-Rehabilitating the worst of the Sadrists: I find myself in agreement with Muqtada al-Sadr: rehabilitating the Asa’ib al-Haq (‘League of the Righteous’) terrorist group is immoral and dangerous. Maliki cynically thinks that they should be brought back into the political process, much like his policy of rehabilitating Shia Ba’athists while shunning Sunni Ba’athists. Maliki thinks that such micro-constituencies of able enforcers or thugs can be turned into his own arm of political intimidation against others. The Americans and the Brits have played along, hoping to cut a drug deal with the Sadrist offshoot in return for a couple of their hostages and several corpses. Towards that end, they have been releasing the leaders of Asa’ib al-Haq. In a story on August 4 in the New York Times, it seems that Muqtada al-Sadr has issued a written statement condemning such moves. Of course, al-Sadr is worried that these former Sadrists whom he has excommunicated will get back in the game and will turn their energies, and guns, against him. Either way, neither the Iraqi state nor coalition forces should be in the business of rewarding bad behavior; they should just rough it out until such groups are eradicated and weeded out of Iraqi society.

-Even the 'Dining' section is politicized: The New York Times carried a story by Steven Lee Myers about the culinary tradition of masguf (grilled fish) in Iraq. The author and his editors clearly were trying to follow the agenda of saying “Life goes on in Iraq, but just barely, and it could unravel at any moment, and we may just yet remain credible harbingers of doom.” I don’t have the patience of running through all the crap in this particular piece, but three things stand out: the assertion that under Saddam liberties were looser, that selling alcohol is still done clandestinely, and that the “guts” of the fish are fried and served as an appetizer. First, Saddam closed the bars, liquor shops and ‘cafes’ of Abu Nawas Street as part of his ‘Faith Campaign’ in the 1990s. Second, every little grocery store on and near Abu Nawas Street has turned itself into a liquor store, which is something that any pedestrian can clarify for oneself. Third, the fried “guts” is actually the roe sack (carp eggs) which can be bought at Whole Foods. The sack is fried in the oils that ooze out of the fish, and that’s the whole point of masguf and why it is yummy (…missed in the article): the oil from the top of the fish slowly streams down to cook the rest of the fish.

-Stories about Kirkuk as a A-bomb about to detonate: Rod Nordland, ‘Now It’s a Census That Could Rip Iraq Apart,’ The New York Times, July 26; Anthony Shadid, ‘Worries About A Kurdish-Arab Conflict Move To Fore in Iraq,’ Washington Post, July 27; Andrew Lee Butters, ‘Why Kurds vs. Arabs Could Be Iraq’s Next Civil War,’ TIME, July 22. All these stories are ridiculous, but Shadid quoting Hamid al-Hayess of Anbar to say that if the Kurds try to take Kirkuk then “we will wipe it off the face of the map” takes the cake. Quoting a clown like Hayess on Kirkuk is like quoting Marion Barry on the Skip Gates arrest. Anyone can find crazy quotes, but it is up to the reporter and the editor to decide whether they run or not. When crazy quotes are run, as they do in Western press stories on Iraq, then it reflects a continuing agenda. Anyway, Hayess publicly stated to Iraqi media that he never said such a thing, so Shadid should check his notes.

I didn’t plan to write about Kirkuk, but with the degraded level of what’s being written about the place, and the expectant glee of imminent doom as reflected in the press accounts, I may just have to pour some cold water on this type of dribble. But not today, for I have work to do.

-The Reese memo debate: I agree with Col. Timothy Reese’s memo (see text here) that the Americans should declare victory and go. Although Reese may have been miffed by the fact he can’t boss around Iraqi officers any more like interns and hence was motivated to fire off a screed against those who won’t get him his coffee anymore, the reality is that America’s presence in Iraq is devoid of strategic direction. In a nutshell, I believe that direction should be safeguarding Iraq’s democracy from a drift towards authoritarianism (…which some Americans and Brits on the ground are encouraging), and arming and developing Iraq’s military and security forces to act as America’s principal strategic ally in the region (…which isn’t happening). Washington is unclear about what it wants to do with Iraq, while it irrationally blows assets and money on Afghanistan, a country that has very little of the long-term strategic potential (political, military and economic) that Iraq enjoys. The Obama administration’s cluelessness about Iraq’s future is merely a continuation of Bush’s second term, and it is too late to fix this structural flaw in America’s strategic design. There is no violent agenda that the current Iraqi Army and police, even with all their shortcomings, can’t handle, so sure, pull the plug and off you go.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The 'New' United Iraqi Alliance, and Bolani for PM

My new piece for Hudson NY today deals with the persistent delays in announcing the 'new' UIA, and why some are pushing for Jawad al-Bolani to be Maliki's replacement.

These delays cannot be chalked up solely to finding the most auspicious and PR-friendly date possible; these delays mask a failure by the chief architects of the new UIA to sign on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They know fully well that without Maliki, the UIA would be a desperate stunt by washed-up parties that have been battered at the ballot box, and continue to sink at the polls.

For now, UIA sources are putting up a brave face, “Everything is fine, Maliki is on board.” But they must have been a little rattled when Ali al-Adeeb, the most enthusiastic supporter for a resurrected UIA within the Maliki camp, was quoted a couple of days ago as saying to an Iraqi news agency that “It is a matter of who joins who,” that is, does Maliki join the UIA or does the UIA fold under the wing and leadership of Maliki, the latter an impossible prospect for the inflated egos of the UIA’s key players.

It is at such times that one must tune into Baghdad’s rumor mills. Rumors may not be true, yet they do reflect a state of mind and may influence the multiple showdowns of political brinkmanship accompanying the negotiations for a new alliance. One particular rumor must sound upsetting to Maliki: the consensus candidate for the prime minister’s job after the election is the current Minister of Interior, Jawad al-Bolani. According to the rumor mongers, most of the components of the UIA—spooked as they are by Maliki’s rising fortunes—as well as the Kurds and the two dominant Sunni camps, the Islamists and the neo-Ba’athists, want any credible alternative to Maliki to be agreed upon before going further, and that candidate is Mr. Bolani. In other words, the UIA is a trap for Maliki so that his adversaries can tether him down and replace him with another.
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