There are growing indications that the befuddled citizens of Neocon World are settling on Ayad Allawi, the former CIA asset and interim prime minister, as their preferred candidate for the job of Iraqi strongman. Allawi, of course, is doing his part to fan the flames, even to the absurd degree of retaining an American PR firm to build his image as potential Iraqi leader here in the US.
Congressional Democrats (and Democratic presidential candidates) have predictably, if witlessly, been doing their part to advance this lunacy by jumping onto the dump-Maliki bandwagon.
The problem with this American-Allawi lovefest, of course, is that Allawi has no real constituency inside Iraq: so it’s unlikely he could win an election there. But then we’re not really talking elections anymore, are we? No, we’re talking good old-fashioned coup here. You see, that whole “let’s build a democracy in Iraq to be a shining example for the whole Islamic world to follow” thing has lost a little of its sparkle in Neocon World, whose denizens seem to be increasingly pining for a return to the strongman days of yore.
So would an Allawi coup work? Not a chance. At least not unless we’re prepared to use US forces to prop him up indefinitely in the face of a broadening civil war. Allawi is a secular Shi’ite. The Iraqi armed forces, such as they are, are largely made up of members of religious militias. It’s hard to be a military dictator when you don’t control the military. But since Allawi isn’t well liked in Iraq, he has only one possible source of firepower.
You got it: we have met Allawi’s army and they are us!
If you won’t take my word for it, here’s what Charles Crain, a freelance writer in Iraq reporting for that radical left wing rag, Time Magazine, has to say about it:
Despite the recent focus on Maliki’s shortcomings and failures, the job of Iraqi Prime Minister — at least as outlined by American officials — is probably impossible. There is probably no one who can reconcile with Sunni nationalists while simultaneously disarming militias tied to Shi’ite Iran. There is no one who can assert control over militia-dominated government ministries while simultaneously asserting control over Sunni communities that remain antagonistic towards the central government. As a senior Western diplomat observed earlier this month, there is no knight in shining armor waiting in the wings to solve the country’s problems if and when Maliki finally succumbs.
And yet, that’s just how Allawi would like to be considered. He follows in the tradition of prewar Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi whose outlook and politicking play better in Washington than in Baghdad. Allawi is admirable in some respects. In 2004 he supported offensives against both Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite militia — the kind of even-handed approach that impresses Washington and, in a perfect world, would unify Iraqis. But Iraq is far from perfect, and so is Allawi. He was not popular, and even before elections in early 2005, no one thought he had a chance of maintaining his influence.
* * *
So if Allawi was being literal when he promised on Sunday to “fight for [his] country,” chances are he’ll eventually want to outsource the actual combat to Americans. Allawi’s bid for renewed influence, while far-fetched, raises an important question: does America want to leave Iraq, or does it want Iraqis to do what America tells them to do? As long as American politicians insist that Iraqis do things the American way, American soldiers will have to remain in Iraq and provide the muscle.
Clearly, trying to shove Allawi down the throats of the Iraqi people would be yet another in the long line of neocon fu*k ups. Yet, given the history of Bush and the neocon’s mismanagement of this ill-conceived modern-day crusade, it very well may come to pass.
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