Powerplay II


A response to Belmont Club on the political situation in Iraq, and SCIRI the Kingmaker


Early this morning, Belmont Club's Richard Hernandez solicited my opinion on his post titled "Crunch time again," where he discussed the political situation in Iraq, the difficulties and problems in forming a new government, the issues in dealing with the militias, the possibility of the politicization of the Iraqi Army, and the prospects for success. Mr. Hernandez has posted my reply in full.

In my reply, I noted (as I did yesterday in "Inside the UIA") the party to watch is SCIRI. Mr. Hernandez points us to Mohammed's post at Iraq the Model, which notes the political negotiations are back on due to Sistani's call to speed up the political process, and Sadr's fears of Allawi controlling the security portfolio. Mohammed also notes the rise in prominence and popularity of Aadil Abdul Mahdi, the candidate who narrowly lost to Jaafari in the United Iraqi Alliance ballot for prime minister.

AbdulMahdi is attracting increased attention from the media and there's high demand on him for interviews especially on the papers. Today I read his latest where he called for forming the government as soon as possible, enforce the laws and activate the constitution to put an end to the current state of chaos and put militias under control as well as dealing with the phenomenon of having Iraqi forces taking orders from neither of the security ministries. He also asked politicians-Iraqi and foreign-to be careful with their statements and study their words before saying anything that can "pour oil on fire".

Mr. AbdulMahdi through his latest remarks looks like trying to prove that he represents the moderate voice inside the UIA and that he stands as a balancing choice that can approximate the position of the extremes of the political/sectarian spectrum.

Actually it looks clearer now that the SCIRI still looks forward to replace Jafari with a candidate from their own. And this is also obvious from a statement al-Hakeem gave to the CNN (found it on the SCIRI's paper al-Adala) when he answered a question about Jafari by saying that "the UIA is till studying the matter and things will clearer in the next few day we need more time to have this subject studied from all sides ".

Abdul Mahdi is positioning himself as the law-and-order candidate, and has the backing of the U.S. government as well as the approval of the Sunni, Kurdish and secular Shiite parties. He has the ability to create the unity government. Listen to Sistani's statements. Watch SCIRI's actions. Sadr is being equated as the kingmaker, but in reality SCIRI holds the power to make or break the next prime minister.



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READER COMMENTS: "Powerplay II"

Posted by Alan Furman at March 29, 2006 4:34 PM ET:

I believe the Belmont Club link you want is this:

http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2006/03/crunch-time-again-2_29.html

Posted by ECH at March 29, 2006 4:36 PM ET:

Now the game is being played for all the marbles. The next few weeks will likely deterimine the future of Iraq for decades to come.

Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 29, 2006 4:51 PM ET:

"Sadr is being equated as the kingmaker, but in reality SCIRI holds the power to make or break the next prime minister."

Yep, he can only be a kingmaker within UIA. Unfortunately, to form a government requires a 2/3rds vote.

Posted by dj elliott at March 29, 2006 4:57 PM ET:

Where were the protesters?
After 1 SOF's raid, the only street protests reported were characterized as in the "hundreds".

Only hundreds. In Baghdad.

That was either a sign of weakness for Sadr's mob or this was a rogue element and the protest was perfunctuary. As was the UIA's protests.

Posted by Michael at March 29, 2006 5:29 PM ET:

Thanks for the insight. It is curious so many are for him. What are his credentials?

What more does anyone know about Abdul Mahdi? Is he really a moderate or just positioning himself as one? Is he indigenous or returned exile?

Posted by desert rat at March 29, 2006 6:22 PM ET:

From wikipedia in full

" ... Adel Abdul Mahdi (Arabic: عادل عبد المهدى ) is one of the two current (February, 2006) Deputy Presidents of Iraq and a leading candidate for prime minister under the United Iraqi Alliance.

A Shia Muslim, Adel Abdul Mahdi is a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He was formerly the Finance Minster in the Interim government.

He is a trained economist who left Iraq in 1969 for exile in France. He worked for French think tanks and edited magazines in French and Arabic. He was born in 1942. Adel Abdul Mahdi is also referred to as Adel Abd al'Mahdi, as well as other various derivations, this highlights the continual difficulties of transliteration from Arabic into English. ... "


From Forbes

" ... Mahdi was repeatedly jailed for this opposition activities in the 1960s, before the Iraqi government stripped him of his job and passport in 1969, a year after the Baath party took power, ushering in decades of dominance by Saddam.

Mahdi used his time in France to acquire degrees in politics and economics from French universities, eventually heading the French Institute for Islamic Studies think-tank and editing magazines in Arabic and French.

He also spent time in Iran, the former base of SCIRI, in which he served as the group's representative in the northern Iraqi province of Kurdistan from 1992-1996. ... "

Posted by ECH at March 29, 2006 6:26 PM ET:

Madhi is better then Jaafari, but he isn't as good as someone like Allawi who doesn't have links to Iran and all sides like moderately.

The list system killed Allawi, because the Kurds, the Shia, and Sunnis all like Allawi, but they are still going to vote for their precieved ethnic and religious list.

Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 29, 2006 7:01 PM ET:

"Madhi is better then Jaafari, but he isn't as good as someone like Allawi"

Unfortunately, Allawi is the "occupiers pick". If we look at Karzai in Afghanistan, he was actually a recommendation of the Germans. So Karzai was perceived as neutral, while Allawi is perceived as an American puppet, even though I would agree, he is probably the best candidate.

Posted by Lisa at March 29, 2006 7:45 PM ET:

This may be off topic but I noticed that the UN has given Iran 30 days to stop their nuclear enrichment...
My question is what happens after 30 days? Sanctions? What do you guys think?

Posted by Lisa at March 29, 2006 7:50 PM ET:

Also, I have noticed that these "people" and I use that term loosely are still running around Iraq murdering Iraqi citizens...what's the down low on that?

And I noticed that attacks have stepped up Afghanistan...what's the deal there?

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 29, 2006 9:16 PM ET:

Lisa
"This may be off topic but I noticed that the UN has given Iran 30 days to stop their nuclear enrichment...
My question is what happens after 30 days? Sanctions? What do you guys think?"

In thirty days the UN will issue another stiffer ultimatum suggesting even more ultimatums if prior ultimatums are ignored. Ignoring the present UN ultimatum will of course lead the both sides to the uncomfortable and dangerous position of later having to exchange further ultimatums. For now ultimatums will refrain from the suggestion of force but further ignoring ultimatums will ultimately lead a situation where the suggestion of force in a ultimatum might be the ultimate endpoint of the discussion process.

Posted by Soldier's Dad at March 29, 2006 9:21 PM ET:

Lisa,

"My question is what happens after 30 days? Sanctions? What do you guys think?"

At some point, quietly in the night, without warning, a fleet of B2 bombers equipped with 30,000 pound bunker busters will end Iran's nuclear enrichment. Iranian radar's won't have see them arrive, and won't see them leave.

Or the Iranian's could find religion before then.

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 29, 2006 9:37 PM ET:

"At some point, quietly in the night, without warning, a fleet of B2 bombers equipped with 30,000 pound bunker busters will end Iran's nuclear enrichment. Iranian radar's won't have see them arrive, and won't see them leave."

Sorry to say, the option isn't really on the table. At this point Bush couldn't possibly get a mandate for it. It would lead to a long and nasty war with Iran which would quite possibly lead to a major disruption in the world economy due to disruptions in the oil supplies.

Also, Our army is now bogged down in Iraq. You don't purposely open a second front when your military is occupied elsewhere


Posted by ECH at March 29, 2006 9:54 PM ET:

Unfortunately, Allawi is the "occupiers pick". If we look at Karzai in Afghanistan, he was actually a recommendation of the Germans. So Karzai was perceived as neutral, while Allawi is perceived as an American puppet, even though I would agree, he is probably the best candidate.
--------------------------------------------

I honestly think that matters very little in who Iraqis voted for.

If there was a straight vote of any major politician in Iraq (except Sistani) against Allawi I am certain Allawi would have come out on top.

The problem is the PR block system where people are voting solely for what is precieved as their ethnic or religious block. The Kurds do like Allawi, but almost all Kurds voted for the Kurdish block the same is true of the Sunnis and Shia.

Posted by Lisa at March 29, 2006 10:35 PM ET:

So I see now...ultimatums and more ultimatums...while there are those ultimatums other ultimatums are given until the Iranians finally have had the time they need to get that Nuke built and aimed straight at Israel...man, oh, man...then one dark night while all of Iran is sleeping their Nuke magically disappears.

I see now! :>)
This time we better not let them hide it or move it.

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 30, 2006 12:09 AM ET:

On the serious side there is one possibility.

If you could leverage the Iranian government you might be able to get them to give up their centrifuges in exchange for commercial grade uranium pellets for their civilian reactor. The spent uranium would have to go back the country of origin. Probably Russia. That might set the Iranians back a few years. Keeping good centrifuge technology away from them needs to be at the center of US diplomatic strategy.

I don't see that sort of deal having even a slight chance, though. Not with the present hard line government in Iran.

Posted by ECH at March 30, 2006 12:28 AM ET:

Here is the video of a news report with the hostage taken from Sadr's goons and the Iraqi Army commander who led the raid its a good video.

http://video.cgi.cbsnews.com/vplayer2/play.pl?type=rm&prod=popup&arena=video&feat=vplayer&adtype=pre&id=1454631n&ord=77958.2335990842

What the Iraqis are getting for press is pathetic if you check the link below.

http://hammorabi.blogspot.com/

Posted by Neo-andertal at March 30, 2006 1:40 AM ET:

I still think there is more going on to the violence in Baghdad than Shiite vs. Sunni sectarian violence.

Just to cover the possibilities.
1. Actual attacks by Interior Ministry Troops. - There was a certain amount of this actually happening.
2. Raids and drive by attacks by Sadr's Mahidi army - Quite a bit after the shrine bombing and some activity especially around Sadr city and clashes south of Baghdad.
3. Badr Brigade - Not so much involved as allowing Shiite revenge raids to a certain extent.
4. Sunni armed neighborhoods groups- Very afraid and chaotic. Lots of teenagers with no discipline.
5. Iraqi Army - Have done the best of the bunch so far.
6. Ba'ath and AQ - Attacks on vulnerable Shiite neighborhoods especially around Dora and Sadr City.
7. Ba'ath and AQ - Attacks against Sunni collaborators
8. Ba'ath and AQ dressed posing Interior Ministry Troops. Used to carry out both attacks against Sunni collaborators or to do random killings within the Sunni communities to cause chaos and suspicion. I suspect a lot more of this is going on than now acknowledged. There are too many things wrong with a lot of these attacks. Many of them have an MO that is just wrong. Many of the attacks are blatant and come with their own PR. Also, they are often in places Shiites would have trouble operating in. The Interior Ministry troops are doing raids with BMW's now.
9. Iranian Republican Guard posing as Interior Ministry Troops - I haven't seen real signs of this yet. Their where a few strange reports during the Shiite reprisal attacks for the Shrine attack. In amongst the Sadr's Mahidi army where some groups with better vehicles and better arms.

Posted by TallDave at March 30, 2006 3:31 PM ET:

These problems are pretty small, relative to what we've already overcome. Remember Fallujah?

The road ahead in Iraq is clear. Now it's mostly just a question of whether we have the will to walk it.

That is to say, there are no more major contingencies or potential failure points ahead (like the first elections in Iraq, establishing an interim gov't, creating and ratifying a constitution, removing Saddam, taking Fallujah, etc). Between the liberalizing, inclusive processes of democracy and the superior firepower/training of the IA/Coalition, the problems will be inexorably ground into insignificance from both sides.

It's fairly amazing that so few people seem to understand this; I can only attribute it to the near-total lack of perspective in reporting (for instance, the MSM carried virtually nothing about the extinction of no-go areas that occurred in 2005, esp. along the river ratlines, which was probably the most critical non-political development in the country and the war in that year). Of course, later on it will all have been obvious and inevitable.

Re Hammurabi: The Iraqis have their own problems with media. The press and TV is largely tribal.