Bad vibes in Baghdad

Iraqi politics has been bumpy lately. It's rapidly headed towards a managed conclusion that involves a elections but very little actual democracy. And it looks to be Qom that is doing the managing rather than a distracted team Barry. I get the feeling that a dignified partial exit from a much less violent Iraq is being mistaken for a beneficial conclusion to Bush's misadventure.

Ricks on FP
A friend who doesn't scare easily writes from Iraq:

I'm afraid things are coming to a tipping point here. If the Chalibi-Iranian faction succeeds in keeping those 15 pro-Alawi Sunni parties off the ballot all bets are off. I can see a Shiia-on-Shiia civil war (with the Sunnis backing the Alawi faction) or a military coup as real possibilities. At this point, the best thing to happen would be to postpone the election. If they go ahead toward March the way they are heading, all bets are off. I don't think Washington is fully engaged with Haiti and Afghan distracting them. A lot of bad vibes here.
Tom again: Chalabi amazes me. He certainly is a survivor. What will the Doug Feiths and Richard Perles of the world say if he winds up running Iraq as an anti-American, anti-democratic, pro-Iranian leader? I'm sure they'll find some glib, bullshitty way of blaming it on President Obama.
Reidar Visser Some More De-Baathification Metrics
The party-level statistics of the fallout from the latest round of de-Baathiciation are now beginning to filter through. This information was not obtainable from the accountability and justice board or the IHEC, since the only document leaked from them was a consolidated list of 511 banned candidates without any party affiliations given. However, the individual parties received lists of their de-Baathification “results” in the various provinces.

As expected, it is the secular and nationalist parties that are hardest hit. The biggest of them, Iraqiyya, has reported that altogether 72 candidates across the country are on the banned list, 22 of them in Baghdad. The Ahrar list, a much smaller nationalist party but one that is even more critical of Iran , says 20 of its candidates are on the black lists. We already know that the Unity of Iraq alliance headed by Jawad al-Bulani, the Shiite interior minister, and Ahmad Abu Risha, the Sunni leader of the Anbar awakenings, has been disproportionately hit even at the highest level, with several entity heads banned. It is a fair guess, therefore, that their share of the outlawed candidates may be even bigger than what Iraqiyya has. Finally, the Coalition of National Unity – which defected from Unity of Iraq soon after its inception but is a similar Sunni-Shiite secularist set-up headed by Nehru Abd al-Karim, an Iraqi nationalist of Kurdish origin – is also widely seen as a main casualty. It is therefore likely that these four parties may account for as much as half of the banned candidates, with the rest being made up of independents plus some symbolic cuts in the Shiite-dominated State of Law and Iraqi National Alliance (reportedly in the region of no more than 10-30 each, perhaps a convenient range for removing internal enemies given that the latter party effectively controls the de-Baathification process).

At the same time, remarkable pieces of information about the utter capriciousness of the entire process keep popping up. Perhaps the most brazen one concerns the appeals process. According to the accountability and justice act of January 2008, those covered by the legislation are supposed to have 30 days to appeal. But without any explanation, that has now been reduced to three days! Surely even diehard supporters of the de-Baathification board must realise the flagrantly despotic nature of that kind of approach. Also, as already suspected, it does seem as if the accountability and justice board has tried to exclude former Baathist regardless of rank, since a good deal of members at the firqa level (who are explicitly OKed for public service under the law from 2008) have reportedly been blacklisted.
And earlier:
How can the Watani list be so confident and go ahead with the publication of its candidate lists even before the IHEC has formally approved them? The explanation is very simple, and is contained in the Watani lists themselves: Its candidate number twenty-four in Baghdad is named Ali Faysal al-Lami and belongs to the Iraqi National Congress headed by Ahmed Chalabi. Sounds familiar? Yes, that’s right, Lami is the director of the accountability and justice board that recently moved to bar several hundred candidates from taking part in the elections. No resistance was offered, and today no one in Iraq seems to be making a big point of the fact that he himself is a candidate in the elections! Little wonder, then, that the Watani leaders seem confident about proceeding with the release of their list: It is they who effectively control the vetting process for the entire elections process. They enjoy full support in this frreceived om Iran; meanwhile their leaders are being feted in Washington, where Adil Abd al-Mahdi has just been visiting.
Al-Lami was nicked by the Septics in 08 for conspiring with Qom and banged up for some time. He is the INC's main link to JAM and particularly the Iranian linked group involved in the kidnapping of Peter Moore and quid pro quo freeing of the IRGC's mini-Muqtada Qais al-Khazali another chum.

And via Col Lang Habakkuk on Iraq
Adam Silverman,Thanks for that most interesting and helpful clarification of the current state of play in Iraq.This may be a stupid question, but if the 'diasporan movements' don't have 'indigenous support bases' why do the 'indigenous movements' have so little power? And is this a stable situation over the longer term? Can the 'powers that are' permanently capture 'huge chunks of the Iraqi Security Forces' in such a situation? And can they hope to prevail over the 'traditional and/or tribal Sunnis and Shi'a' and the Sadrists?JohnH"That is certainly not part of any US end state I've ever heard of." Me neither! And that all by itself would lead one to be skeptical that it could actually be happening."The problem is not simply that, as the Colonel says, the ability of the United States to control history is far too limited for one to be able to infer from a given outcome either that the USG wanted it, or from the fact that the USG did not want it that it could not have happened.When one actor has overwhelming power, the name of the strategic game for many other actors will be to find ways of getting this power to act in their interests. Allying with it is one way.Others include using superior guile to outwit the overwhelming powerful actor, and make its own power work against it. One way of doing is a classic insurgency technique -- manoeuvre the security forces into a situation where they have to tread a narrow line between not responding and appearing weak, and responding in ways that make them the insurgents' recruiting sergeants -- very easy to do, particularly if you let yourself be baited into letting anger get control of you. Another is manipulating the overwhelmingly powerful actor into using its strength in one's own interests.The attacks on the World Trade Center are an interesting variant of the former approach -- although fortunately the sectarianism and cruelty of the jihadists, among other things, have limited their ability to capitalise on the success of their ploy to inveigle the United States into ruinous involvements in Muslim lands.Although definitive evidence is lacking, little that has happened recently has served to dispel suspicions that the Iranian exploitation of Ahmed Chalabi's ties to the neocons was one of the classic displays of the latter tactic of all time.To avoid being the victims of either tactic, it is necessary that the United States - and also my own country, Britain -- wise up. One central part of this is precisely grasping the limitations of one's ability of to influence outcomes in other societies. Another is shedding the deeply ingrained delusion that we 'modern', 'scientific' and 'rational' people understand the world, while others less fortunate do not. Where the kinds of understanding required to play Machiavellian games are at issue, this is commonly the precise reverse of the truth. The 'informational advantage' lies not with us, but with them. David Habakkuk
That last point is telling. This is an enemy that can't even convincingly rig a domestic election and they have run rings round us in Baghdad for the past five years.

Incidentally I don't see Ahmed "The Thief" Chalabi as anything other than an opportunist, sure he was always careful of his relationship to Qom, no major player in post Saddam Iraq isn't. The Iranians are natural allies against the deposed Sunni and their Gulf Kingship allies and the games of balanced powers must be played to survive in the rough house of Iraqi politics. He had self interested and probably genuinely patriotic reasons for telling the OSP guys what they wanted to hear about WMD. The idea that Qom would sucker DC via the INC into the disastrous cakewalk to Baghdad is preposterous. It held considerable risks of Tehran being next and they practically begged the Bush team for a humiliating accommodation in its wake.

It's only as DC overstretched power became evident that Qom assets in Iraq were mobilized to seek the sort of end game we see approaching. Nothing is certain but they are well placed for advantage. As Ricks says at the end of The Gamble: "the events for which the Iraq war will be remembered by us and by the world have not yet happened."
IraqPundit on Chalabi Outwits Obama
Reports are that Vice President Biden is suggesting that the decision to exclude candidates from the March 7 election be postponed until after the vote. That way the so-called accountability and justice commitee can scrutinize each candidate and decide whether to kick them out later. Biden is also suggesting that the candidates sign a document that denounces Baathism or condemns the Baathist party or whatever. It doesn't sound too promising. Whatever President Obama's plan was for solving this election crisis, it's not working.

Ahmad Chalabi, the brains behind the committee, knows there isn't much that can be done. He was smart enough to exclude the candidates that strengthened Allawi's Iraqi List and posed the most serious threat to the Shiite Alliance. Now Maliki is going about saying the decicion to leave out the Baathists is a sound one. And anyone who says otherwise is a Saddam supporter. It's ludicrous.

President Jalal Talabani makes more sense when he says that it should be up to the Supreme Court. The decision to ban people is illegal and unconstitutional. But of course a review by the courts will delay the vote, which is what Chalabi expects will happen.

Chalabi has stealthily positioned himself in a strong position through which he can control much. He pretty much manipulates Moktada Al Sadr, who is pushing Ammar Al Hakim around. Mookie is now accusing Ammar of being supportive of U.S. presence in Iraq, which makes Mookie sound like the true patriot. Of course Mookie's charge doesn't come from Mookie himself, it comes via a statement, which was probably composed by Chalabi.

Somebody better get their act together and let the Iraqi people decide who should run the country. Let all the names remain on the ballot and leave it up to the people. The more I talk to people, the more I hear them say they will vote for Allawi. That is what's really motivating Chalabi to call the shots for Moktada, who he believes is popular. And most important, Chalabi believes Moktada is under his control.

There are reports that say Obama underestimated the difficulty of the Israel-Palestine issue. Well, it certainly looks like he underestimated the difficulty of Iraq, too.
Joe "Sykes-Picot II" Biden on point again, oh dear.
Our correspondent says Mr Biden will have to tread carefully as, particularly in Shia circles, political interference and pressure from the Americans is a deeply sensitive issue.

He says Mr Biden may not achieve an immediately visible success but the Americans will be eager for the elections to foster national reconciliation so the withdrawal of troops can be achieved against a stable background.

Tony Blinken, Mr Biden's national security adviser, said the vice-president would not be heavy handed.

"I don't think it's the place of the United States or any other outside country to resolve these kinds of problems for Iraqis," he said.

"We want to be as helpful as the Iraqis want us to be in helping them resolve these problems. Because, ultimately, [those problems] are what stands between Iraq and a successful, stable future."

Mr Blinken said the timetable for withdrawing all US combat troops by August, with a full military pullout in 2011, remained on track.

The election blacklist targets former members of the Baath party, the Fedayeen militia and Mukhabarat intelligence agency.

Ahead of the vice-president's visit, Mr Talabani suggested Mr Biden had proposed "that the disqualifications be deferred until after the election and that those candidates who have been barred condemn and disavow the Baath party and undertake to act through democratic means".

Although violence has lessened in Iraq over the past two years, security remains fragile.

Both Iraq and its Western backers see the March election as a crucial test of whether peace can be made sustainable.

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