The Allawi Factor

They are busy counting in Iraq.  Maliki's coalition seems to be doing well but the big story there is that Ayad Allawi's grouping, "Al-'Iraqiya" is also doing surprisingly well. Allawi represents in some sense the old Iraq that emerged in the '50s under Hashemite rule, an Iraq that had been brewing under the influence of western style school curricula ever since Ottoman days.  This was an Iraq that increasingly saw itself in terms of a non-sectarian, nationalist identity.  The Baath Party became a vehicle for expression of that self image for the Baath was a relentlessly secular, nationalist and non-Marxist socialist entity.  There were many secular Shia Iraqi Baathists and Allawi was one of them until he had a major falling out with Saddam Hussein.

In the present circumstance Allawi's coalition represents a yearning for that other Iraq. That Iraq was a "work in progress," in 2003.  It had been twisted and diverted into strange paths by Saddam, but it still existed and it was reflected in the many "mixed marriages" and mixed neighborhoods around the country.

Allawi represents the possibility of an Iraq not dominated by sectarian religion and government inclined toward an Iranian alliance.  The secular Sunni and Shia Arabs, tribals, and Kurds (some) who support him are waiting to see if there is reality in that hope.  pl

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19 Responses to The Allawi Factor

  1. DaveGood says:

    I submit that twisting and diversions were entirely of western making.
    Iraq\Saddam was shoved into the war with Iran by an America intent on gaining “revenge” on Iran.
    Saddam was doing what his former paymasters at the CIA ordered him to do. Saddam was a CIA agent from 1959 onwards till a date as yet unknown… he was seen as a bulwark against Communism.
    There’s nothing “Strange” about how the Baathist secular, nationalist ideology went wrong…..It got “twisted” because of western, principally American, Pressure who saw it as a cheap tool they could reshape and use for their own purposes.

  2. Green Zone Cafe says:

    The results aren’t all in, but Maliki looks like the winner of a good plurality of seats. It will then be a question of who he partners up with.
    I think the most likely partner is the INA of ISCI, Sadrists and others. He might try to cherry pick among the parties and personalities there – Jaffari and not Chalabi, for example.
    Beyond that, what he does with the Kurds (does he try to take in Goran, and shut out KDP/PUK?) and Iraqiya is an open question.
    It will be a long five months or so.

  3. Patrick Lang says:

    GZC et al
    I hope you realize that my post is a truly cynical attack on the “emerging democracy.” There is not a chance in the world that Allawi will gain much in this election. Well, maybe a couple of insignificant ministries from which he and his can steal their share of the public’s money. pl

  4. Patrick Lang says:

    As a participant in the events you mis-represent I can only say that you are utterly wrong. pl

  5. DaveGood says:

    Fair enough…. But it remains a fact that for something to be “Twisted” or “Distorted” requires a powerful outside force to do the “twisting”.
    And it is a fact that Saddam acted on behalf of the CIA from 1959 onwards till an unknown date.

  6. Jose says:

    This is looking like a Lebanon situation where there will a lot of gifts to trade among the various factions and external interest players, probably the best result will can get in the long run.
    The more horses feeding at the trough, the less chance for exclusion and violence.
    IMHO, there is no way the American forces are going to be asked to stay, so declare victory and get the **** out.

  7. Stormcrow says:

    Thanks for the directly informed confirmation, Pat.
    I’m probably about as far to the left as DG is, these days. But that read wrong to me, too. I just did not have any direct insight on which I could base an objection.

  8. Patrick Lang says:

    Once again, you are completely wrong. Saddam Hussein was never an agent or a friend of the US and he was never under American control? Where does this fantasy come from? pl

  9. Patrick Lang says:

    Ah, the legend of the CIA having tried to kill Kassem with SH as our tool.
    Have you been nurturing this fable all this time? I imagine you as a lifelong hater of the United States at some English school.
    You must (please) explain to us why the Eisenhower Administration would have wanted to launch a plot to do away with Kassem. He wanted to restore the Hashemites to power because they were willing tools of the West? Well, its true that they had better manners than anyone else in Iraq since and actually managed to run a representative constitional monarchy. They did have a low survival potential. Two days before the coup in ’58 the British embassy warned the king and the regent that Kassem should not be allowed to bring his division into Baghdad and that he should be arrested. They would not do it, a sad story but I doubt that Eisenhower would have cared very much.
    The oil! Ah! Of course, the oil! How could I have missed that? pl

  10. Stormcrow says:

    The oil! Ah! Of course, the oil! How could I have missed that?

    But, but, but ….
    Oil explains EVERYTHING.
    Doesn’t it?????[/sarcasm]

  11. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Things will probably go badly, this being Iraq with its internal and external malefactors, but why be so cynical? A ramshackle democracy is no less likely than any other outcome. In time Iraq might be no more corrupt than, say, the Italian Republic. And Italy is not too bad a place to live.
    There is good news, that Bolani, he of the fake $40,000 bomb detectors, did very poorly.

  12. Patrick Lang says:

    I know you have an immense current experience of Iraq. My problem is that the basic political problem inherent in Iraq since its creeation in the 1920s has not been resolved. Indeed it is exacerbated. Thar problem is the “spot welding” together of three separate self-aware peoples into one state. This problem exists in many places in the ME, Lebanon being another example. Such places are inherently unstable unless one group enormously outnumbers the other(s) as in Egypt where the Sunni Muslims hugely outnumber the Copts. If the Iraq election does not produce a government that makes the Sunni Arabs and Kurds confident with their future, then there will be instability. Will the state collapse? No, but it will be messy and there will be continuing violence until a political balance is reached that allows people to feel real hope. Are there other regions where such situations exist? Of course, Ireland comes to mind. Israel, the Balkans, etc. pl

  13. SubKommander Dred says:

    Perhaps this comment is a bit off topic: I’ll let you decide whether it’s worth posting. Yesterday morning, when my alarm clock went off at 0600, I heard the soothing lies of Karl Rove coming through the speaker of the radio, as he was being interviewed by some British chick by the BBC. As you can well imagine, having such a bad wakeup, I siezed the damn clock radio and, immediately sitting bolt upright in bed, smashed it against the opposite wall of my bedroom, just as the former presidential advisor to George Bush was going on about the great democracy we helped bring about in Iraq, specifically mentioning, just before the radio hit the wall and shattered into several useless bits of plastic and electronic parts, what a great victory the current elections in that benighted country were for the US. I then muttered a few choice epithets regarding Mr Rove and those who would think him newsworthy enough to interview, and rolled back into bed in an attempt to salvage such a brutal awakening.
    Now, if you’ll pardon me, it’s off to the Goodwill thrift shop to see if I can find a good second hand clock radio, cheap. From now on, I think I’ll set it to some easy listening, muzac type station instead…
    Pete Deer

  14. optimax says:

    You shot your television and then battered your radio. You give new meaning to the concept of interactive media. I suggest you stay away from Glenn Beck’s website for your computer’s sake.

  15. harper says:

    A close friend, an Iraqi Shi’ite now living in Europe, just spent some time with a relative who is still living in Baghdad. From this first-hand account, it seems that the old Iraqi nationalist spirit is reviving. The Baghdadi reported that neighborhoods that were brutally ethnically cleansed during the worst phases of the post-invasion Iraq, are now being quietly resettled by families that had earlier fled. The tensions still exist beneath the surface, and can be exploited, to be sure, by “outside” provocateurs, but a resilient sense of Iraq as a nation is still alive, it seems. This is good news, and seems to be what Col. Lang is also reflecting in his comments on the Allawi coalition vote. Note that the two major coalitions–Allawi and Maliki–are multi-ethnic and religious (ie. Kurds, Sunnis and Shia in both electoral blocs).

  16. Green Zone Cafe says:

    You are right. The problem is like N. Ireland or Lebanon. And accommodations can be reached.
    The most intractable part is the Kurd/Arab thing over Kirkuk, which everyone (US, UN, probably even the Iranians) wants to kick down the road for good reason.
    I think the Arabs can work out their own differences, barring any extreme secularism in the new government.
    But there’s no doubt that things have gotten better over the last two years.

  17. different clue says:

    I know al Sadr is not secularist. But he seems to
    be a cross-sectarian Iraqi nationalist. So I wonder whether he and/or his movement members would eventually try working with Allawi and others to try increasing the size and power of a broader cross-sectarian Iraqi nationalist movement within Iraq? And would al Sistani give quiet advice and encouragement here and there in that same direction?

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    At this moment on St. Patrick’s Day Ayad Allawi appears to be ahead in the Iraq vote count. This is not a miracle. It is a tribute to the common sense of so many in Iraq. It is a tribute to all those who brought back so many dissidents into the Iraqi body politic in the great Awakening. pl

  19. different clue says:

    I was going to have commented myself that I heard this morning on NPR that Ayad Allawi was doing better than expected, and also that the al Sadr list was doing better than expected. So if this many Iraqis were/are prepared to vote for the Allawi list and also for the al Sadr list, perhaps they can also achieve further better things.
    I decided to venture the purely mere guess that the first thing the Allawi and al Sadr groups might do is to work with eachother in delaying al Maliki from being able to form a quick coalition. Perhaps the Allawi-al Sadr coalition might be able to put together a majority coalition with that little good-government Kurdish party and one of the two main Kurdish parties….if the Allawi and al Sadr leaders can convince enough Kurds that such a coalition would offer Kurdistan a genuine autonomous future firmly within Iraq. Less separate than the Tribal Law
    Zones in Northwest Pakistan, but more real and respectable than just a sort of Indian Reservation for Kurds.
    My (just a) feeling is that an awful lot of Iraqis of different sorts would like to contain and restrain the Iranist parties. My (just a) feeling is that the Grand Ayatollah al Sistani would like Iraq to be a free and equal country and not just an Iranian satellite or junior partner. He might signal a passively quiet support for such a coalition
    by failing to support the Iranist parties overtly.
    But of course I am prepared to be corrected by any of the many people here who know more than I do.

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