Thursday, September 09, 2004

U.S. Forces Take Action in Areas Dominated by Iraqi Insurgents

So nobody is trying to claim that all this talk about our losing territory is just in the imagination of the media. Good start.

I've been wondering if both the US and Allawi had decided that a 'strongman' was preferable to elections. These attempts to regain territory so all of Iraq can vote might mean I was wrong - or they might be intended as an excuses to say we tried. Or Allawi may want one thing and our government another. Or our government may have different groups with different plans. It doesn't seem the Sunni triangle will see urgency in creating conditions for an election either. If they are not willing to accept the results of an election dominated by Shia, they might rather have an excuse to reject that election.

I hope I'm wrong, but the odds of a generally accepted January Iraq election seem rather slim. I don't know who might have the stature to replace Allawi even if Allawi intended to permit such a thing. I can't envision any of this happening, and can't guess at the result if it did.

How about if elections are postponed again and again? What sort of leader will Allawi be? Much of what you hear about him is hard to track down the source of, but this New Yorker article names names:

But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies—Saddam became President in 1979—is much less well known. “Allawi helped Saddam get to power,” an American intelligence officer told me. “He was a very effective operator and a true believer.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, “Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he’s a thug.”

Early this year, one of Allawi’s former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides. She depicted Allawi as a “big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students.” Allawi’s medical degree, she wrote, “was conferred upon him by the Baath party.” Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.

“If you’re asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does,” Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. “He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff.” A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi’s personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat “hit team” that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

Doesn't sound great.

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