Cigars in the Sand

Commentary, Notes and Pictures from my time in Iraq

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Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Farmer by genetics, Lawyer by training, currently "vacationing" in Iraq and advising the Iraqi government on border security issues. Before moving to Baghdad, I served in the White House as Deputy Counsel for the Homeland Security Council. I can be reached at opusxryanathotmaildotcom.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Jaafari vs. Allawi

So now that we are down to two major candidates for Prime Minister of Iraq, let's take a peek
at some of the political maneuvering:

"'I think we have to send a message,' [current Kurdish Deputy PM Barham Salih] said. 'The parameters are very clear.' Asked if the Kurds could join Dr. Allawi in an effort to form a secular bloc within the new assembly that could put forward its own candidate for prime minister - most likely Dr. Allawi, Mr. Salih replied: 'Anything is possible. In the past, it used to be Saddam Hussein who made all the decisions for us Iraqis. But now, this is an open game, and you will see shifting alliances.'

Mr. Salih hinted that the maneuvering could include efforts to break up the Shiite alliance, luring secularists among the 140 alliance members who won assembly seats to join the Kurds and the Allawi group. 'You will see that looking at this in terms of fixed formations is a mistake,' he said.

Dr. Allawi predicted that settling the issue of who would lead the new government could take weeks, and hinted that the battle could be bitter. He said he had heard rumors that the alliance leaders had consulted with Iran's ruling ayatollahs, and had been told that Dr. Allawi, a secular Shiite with close ties to the United States that go back at least 15 years, would not be acceptable to Iran as prime minister in the new transitional government. 'I have heard that they don't want me,' he said. 'Why, God knows.'"

Let me start out by saying that I don't particularly have a dog in this fight, except that I think there is a greater chance the current Minister of Interior would stay on if Allawi emerges victorious. It looks to me like Allawi and Salih are sending signals that they already have the backing of a few blocs of delegates from Jaafari's list. And Allawi's mere mention of Iran is a clear play for Sunni, and secularist, backing.

The key player could very well turn out to be Chalabi. Yes, he dropped out of the internal race for the Shia nomination. But he is still a highly-skilled power broker, and can deliver a sizable number of delegates. Although he officially endorsed Jaafari, its conceivable that he could abandon that position for the right promises. Was Deputy PM Salih talking about Chalabi when he said "You will see shifting alliances" and "looking at this in terms of fixed formations is a mistake"?

In any event, I certainly enjoy the ringside seats.