Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Allawi Mess

One blogger is calling the arrangement between Iyad Allawi and Barbour, Griffith and Rogers the foundation for a "thoroughly modern coup" and the more things begin to slowly take shape the more it becomes difficult to disagree with that assessment.

As we noted yesterday, Allawi's bloc has "left the building" and is no longer participating in Nouri al-Maliki's government, resulting in "political mayhem" or, in the words of CNN's Senior Baghdad Correspondent Michael Ware:

[T]here is no government here and anyone who says there is either delusional or trying to spin a line. There's nothing here for America to work with.

So Allawi's efforts to destabilize the Iraqi national government have apparently succeeded. If Americans are wondering why anarchy hasn't swept over the street of Baghdad yet, it's because most of the basic law and order functions of Iraq are controlled by the sectarian militias, something that says a lot about just how weak the "federal" government is/was.

But Allawi knows damn well he can not rise to power without the imprimatur of Washington. Yesterday we relayed how former Ambassador Robert Blackwill was chauffeuring Allawi around DC and now Blackwill's BGR colleague and former Sec. Rice adviser Philip Zelikow (who also co-authored a book with his ex-boss in the mid-1990s -- the two have a well-known close bond) is doing some TV appearances for the effort.

So BGR has now supplied Allawi with handlers (Blackwill), surrogate spokesmen (Zelikow), a communications apparatus (, presumably behind-the-scenes strategists ... as the elements fall into place this looks more and more like a campaign for office. The only thing missing is a rapid response team...

Enter an entirely unrelated development at the Pentagon. From TP:

In advance of the September White House report, the Pentagon is launching “a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week Iraq Communications Desk that will pump out data from Baghdad — serving as what could be considered a campaign war room.” “I would not characterize it as a war room,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. “It’s far less sinister than that. It’s more like a library.”

Now there's not yet any indication that this unit will be working for the sake of Allawi. The order to assemble the Iraq Communications Desk came from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who spent a long career as a defense contractor before holding several high-ranking national security-related positions during the current Bush Administration ... though, wouldn't it be interesting if England went on to work for a certain lobbying firm sometime in the not-so-distant future?

But returning to the "war room," which in this case is only part of the story. The bigger picture will be the discussion in the U.S. about Gen. Petraeus' September report on the progress of the surge (which will likely be prepared in some manner by the White House). The current Iraqi government will not be receiving glowing reviews in the report, no matter who writes it, which would put al-Maliki is a position of almost untenable weakness with the power that is propping him up. At that point, presuming there is any government left, he might face a no confidence vote or simply resign all together.

So if I may be allowed to speculate for a moment, I think it is not unreasonable to theorize that the PR blitz being made by BGR has been timed to coincide with the release of Petraeus' report on the progress of the surge in hopes that the inevitable less-than-optimistic news will lead to the ouster of al-Maliki. The resulting power vacuum would then be effortlessly filled by Allawi, who has already been doing what he can to legitimize the current Iraqi government.

Yet here's what amazes me: $300,000 can't get you a decent single family home in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, but it can get you the prime minister's mansion of an oil-rich Middle Eastern country?*

What an absolutely confounding world we live in...

* [I know it's not that simple and will actually take up this matter from a different -- and rather odious -- perspective later today, time and energy willing.]

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