Baghdad Putsch

The "Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,"  (SCIRI) has now deposed the secular leaning mayor or governor of the city of Iraq and pult in place one pf their own.  This was done by force in broad daylight.

Is this important?  You bet it is.  The capital city of any Arab county is by far the most important place in the country in terms of population, centrality of authority and tradition of government.  The SCIRI Shia know that , and their friends and mentors in Tehran know it as well.  Possession of the city government gives one the police, fire department, police troops, administrative apparatus of control, etc.  If one is planning a consolidation of power on the basis of POWER and not constitutions, one would want to hold the City Hall (baladiya).

Ambassador Khalilzad has been telling the new Iraqi power structure what to do about their new constitution.  It seems to me that SCIRI is telling him what he can do with that.

If the US accepts that an issue like this can be settled by force a pro-Iranian Shia militia, then I would say that the political "game" is over in Iraq.  The militias, the Jaafari government and the Iranians will all draw the appropriate conclusion.

The implication of this will also not be lost on the nationalist component of the Sunni Arab revolt.

Pat Lang

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25 Responses to Baghdad Putsch

  1. GreenZoneCafe says:

    Tamimi’s term was up, because he was appointed by Bremer. The SCIRI guy was appointed by the members of the provincial council, who were elected by popular suffrage in January.
    Hey, this is democracy, for better ot worse.

  2. ismoot says:

    So, why was he still mayor?
    So, democracy works for you whatever the outcome? That makes it the ultimate in virtuous action.
    Disadvantage to the US counts for little then?
    How do you feel about the new president of Iran? pl

  3. Ali says:

    I’m getting the impression that US options are dwindling in Baghdad. Time to talk Turkey with Iran I’m afraid they are holding all the aces.
    Very intelligent blog by the way undermined slightly by typos.

  4. ismoot says:

    “Typos?” I could care less. When you don’t understand it, let me know.. pl (Type B – INTP)

  5. Leslie says:

    What Baghdad putsch? Al-Tamimi wasn’t elected, he was appointed by Bremer. As GreenZoneCafe notes above, the Badr Brigade [SCIRI] had the popular mandate as of January 30th.

  6. b says:

    As Gen. Odom said over a year ago
    It’s over, USA lost, get out.

  7. ismoot says:

    Alternate World?
    “Popular mandate?” “Badr Brigade?” Ah, you are writing from Tehran. Good thinking. pl

  8. Leslie says:

    If you read the International Herald Tribune article, which Pat Lang links to above, you’ll see this: The man SCIRI installed in Baghdad, “Hussein al-Tahaan, is a member of the Badr Organization, the armed militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.” The article also goes on to state that SCIRI won the provincial elections in Baghdad on January 30th. So if there was a pro-Iranian Shia militia coup, it occurred in January and not August.
    Read the article.

  9. ismoot says:

    I should make clear my position. I think that an Iraqi government dominated by religious Shia and inevitably attracted into the orbit of Iran will be a catastrophe for the future of the Middle East. pl

  10. I agree with IsMoot on the the Iran/Baghdad connection behing bad for US policy, but nothing can really be done. As others have pointed out in this discussion, the SCIRI won rights to control Baghdad back in January. Tahaan took the office of Baghdad’s governor after the win, but Tamimi made it impossible for the SCIRI to govern the city. So, this happened. But don’t get me wrong; I find how Tamimi was kicked out worrying. Some backstory is missing, such as why Tamimi was still in power and why he wasn’t forced to step down of his own accord. Was the US still backing Tamimi behind closed doors, placing pressure on the central government, or was it something else entirely? Don’t know, but the fact remains that this “coup” most likely looks legitimate from Baghdad. Unless the person looking at it is a Sunni, which is an entirely different problem.

  11. GreenZoneCafe says:

    I’m not saying it is in the interest of the US, but it is not a “putsch.”
    Unfortunately, we’ve put the USA in a very bad place because of our undermanned and underfunded occupation of Iraq. There were really only two options: (1) leave Saddam alone, or (2) go in with adequate numbers of troops to maintain security and adequate money to finance quick reconstruction.
    And, yes, SCIRI and Dawa are popular. Even Iraqis who work for the coalition have told me they voted for them.

  12. Dan says:

    Well, it’s sort of democracy. Tamimi as has been pointed out was a Bremer appointee, and very corrupt (but who isn’t these days). Had a long conversation with a council member i’ve known since late 2003 about this. He says they’d been trying to get rid of him for months, but Tamimi disagreed that they had the authority to get rid of him. With no legal or other systems in place to resolve this dispute, 50 Badr members with guns administered a political ettiquete lesson to Tamimi. While I’d agree that Tamimi shouldn’t have been still in the post, the bum’s rush is not a good democratic precedent to be setting.

  13. Dan that is exactly right – this was a bum rush, not a democratic transfer of power. If al-Tamimi was refusing to leave why weren’t government police used to escort him out? Just because the result represents “the will of the people” does not mean the process is clean.

    And while pl is dead on about the security issue here, that is frankly a done deal. Ever since we deposed Saddam without even the courtesy of a putsch, a pro-Iranian Shiite dominated Iraq was a foregone conclusion. While such an Iraq need not be dominated by religious fanatics, that was exactly the outcome all our actions since April 2003 have led in the direction of.

  14. ismoot says:

    In re the putsch. Now we will see what ZK and Casey will do. “All the world wondered.” pat lang

  15. ismoot says:

    In the end, something as weighty as the outcome in the northern Gulf requires that one choose a side,not on the basis of something as ephemeral as “corruption,” which is likely to be universal in office (if not now, then once stability is achieved) or on the basis of having had an election, but rather on the basis of the probable outcome in the lives of ordinary folk, and its real world effect in the balance of power in that region. pat lang

  16. GreenZoneCafe says:

    Colonel, under the “law,” Local Governmental Powers, CPA Order 71, under which local government is supposed to be operating under, the elected council of the governorate of Baghdad has the power to devolve power to the muncipality if it so votes, and to elect mayors.
    Tamimi was not elected. If the new guy is the designate of the governorate council, he is the legitimate mayor. Calling him a “militia guy,” agent of Iran or whatever does not change that.
    This was a poorly reported article. The lede paragraph by Glanz is tendentious to say the least. Is he in line to be the new Judy Miller?
    What can ZK and Casey do? Depose the elected mayor in favor of the Bremer appointee? That is a joke.

  17. ismoot says:

    Will you think it a joke if the result of the political process underway is a state which abjures the values which we advocate?
    Pat Lang

  18. GreenZoneCafe says:

    Colonel, the fundamental value is that of popular soverignty and the rule of law. I can’t see how this guy can govern worse than Tamimi, it will probably go a lot better because of his links to the ruling party, right?
    The primary values of a municipal government in Iraq are clean streets, sewer and water, I think. What values are being abjured?

  19. BostonGemini says:

    Hello there — Juan Cole writes today,
    “Meanwhile, Jaafari has thrown his support behind the ousting of Baghdad mayor Alaa al-Tamimi by SCIRI. SCIRI won the Baghdad provincial council elections last January and therefore has the right to appoint its own mayor. Often in contemporary Iraq, incumbents put there by the United States or its proxy interim government have refused to leave when ordered to do so by the winners at the ballot box, and Tamimi was one of those who had ensconced himself, apparently with a private guard. The change of mayor therefore had to be accomplished by the elected governing council through a kind of coup whereby Badr Corps (the paramilitary of SCIRI) occupied the mayor’s office.”
    Is this not a reasonable view? I like this blog a lot — you’re obviously very knowledgeable. Any chance I can talk you into displaying comments earliest (on top) to latest (bottom)?

  20. ismoot says:

    I don’t think the issue here is whether or not a satisfactorily logical case can be made for the SCIRI to take control of the mayor’s office in Baghdad.
    What really matters is the outcome toward which the situation is pointing. In other words whether or not Iraq is going to end up in the hands of politically oriented Shia activists who will make the old saw about post-colonia Africa live again. “One man, one vote, one time” is only funny if you are not facing the prospect of a group of sectarian zealots obtaining enough power to make sure that other groups will never have an effective voice in government or in the foreign policy of government.
    Iraq is not California. In the Middle East there are many instances and countries in which electioneering, party activity and constitution writing have been popular recreations. (The Middle East is filled to overflowing with the memories of old constitutions, old elections and old speeches.)
    Rarely does such activity result in a democratic government which respects the rights of minorities.
    Why? It is because people in the Middle East do not vote for other than “their own.” whether the “own” is defined as clan, tribe, sect or major ethno-religious groping, people vote for their own.
    So, if you have a situation in which an assortment of groups like SCIRI and Dawa band together under the banner of the “true” Islam, you can easily see that the stage is set for a tyranny of the majority.
    There have been political movements in the ME which established status on the basis of categories not based on descent or faith. The Arab nationalist parties of the 20th century did that. Not surprisingly thay were created by members of minorities who otherwise could never have gained access to power in “mainstream” society. A typical example would be the Baath, which was founded in Syria by two Christian schoolteachers and re-founded in Iraq by Shia. It is not an accident that a secularized Shia like Ayyad Allawi was a major figure in the Iraqi Baath.
    I think that we have to stop thinking that Iraqi politics are an analog of American politics. Iraqi politics are about identity, not ideas.
    This is not a role playing game in a classroom somewhere. Real people ar going to live or die with the result of what we have done. pat lang

  21. ismoot says:

    Green Guy
    Everywhere in the Middle East the “baladiya” (city administration) of the capital is a center of the power that inevitably accrues to position in the heart of the country. Garbage collection? Sure. They will do that, more or less, but in a short period of time SCIRI posesson of this piece of the action will morph into something greater.
    Tamimi is of no importance. I interpret your comment about the “new guy” being closer to the ruling party as indicating that your view of the actors on the Iraq political scene as esentially “value neutral.” If that is so, I think you are mistaken. An Iraq dominated by the Shia religious parties will be an Iraq which becomes a tyranny of the majority.
    “Popular Sovereignty” is a nice phrase, applied by politicians when it is convenient to their point of view. As I recall, the US government responded unsympathetically when the southern states seceded in 1861 on the basis of conventions and referenda.
    Italy and Germany elected fascist governments on the basis of popular sovereignty. “Popular Sovereignty” is a concept drawn from the contemplation of how things ought to be. Standards of perfection in government should not blind us to the necessity of doing what is needed to provide human treatment for all, not just Sunni or Shia activists.
    The “rule of law?” Whose law? We wrote this law as the occupying power. Do you think the Iraqis are going to keep the laws we have imposed. Sistani has already expressed himself in this matter to PM Jaafari who stood before him hat in hand. The fact that something is “law” does not insure that it is either wise or virtuous. As Mr. Dooley said, sometimes “the law is a ass.”

  22. BostonGemini says:

    Hmmm. Points taken. Believe it or not, I’m a white male in America, but I think about the concept of tyranny of the majority quite frequently (everytime people want a referendum on gay marriage, saying the people, not courts, should decide on others’ rights). And thanks for arranging the comments as I asked!

  23. ismoot says:

    Glad to re-arrange. I was kind of hoping for a discussion of “Bleeding Kansas” and popular sovereignty, but…
    Yes. Majorities are dangerous. pl

  24. BostonGemini says:

    I debated on whether to use my example, but it’s the reality of my life. I do clearly remember being taught the concept of Tyranny of the Majority in Social Studies classes in school, and have often wondered why others don’t. I didn’t remember anything, though, pertaining to “Bleeding Kansas” — but just read about it at Same principles involved. One interesting thing involved with the Bleeding Kansas period in the article I read was how incidental the problem of the Native Americans in the territory was regarded. Just a minor obstacle to be removed. As far as Iraq safeguarding the interests of communities, perhaps the efforts to federalize the country will help. That is, it may help having the members of the national assembly elected by province, instead of the whole country as one big province, electing national lists.

  25. ismoot says:

    Interesting comment.
    What I was thinking of in re BK was the lack of traction enjoyed by settlers from Missouri in establishing a territorial government on the basis on PS.
    The Free Soilers, Abolitionists, and incipient Republicans instead of recognizing the effect of existing demographics (less Indians and slaves)organized a campaign of large scale Northern immigration to Kansas to reverse the numbers. pl

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