Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Iyad Allawi is back as Saddam Mark II

but don’t worry, his torturers and death squads are secular like Saddam’s, not like that scruffy, rabble rousing ‘sectarian’ Sadr

So Iyad Allawi (or Ayad Allawi), the man groomed by the Bush administration and Blair government to be their client Prime Minister in Iraq, seems to have won the latest elections there. He was first appointed as unelected ‘Interim Prime Minister’ by the Iraqi Governing Council in 2004 (that Council having been appointed by US ‘governor’ of Iraq George Bremer), but lost elections to a Shia list, with the first two elected Prime Ministers since the invasion having been first by Ibrahim al Ja’afari and then Nouri Al Maliki, who both formed a coalition government largely made up of the Iranian backed ‘Supreme council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq’ and it’s successors, along with the Kurds ;and an uneasy and unstable alliance with the Sadrists (also Shia, but less willing to accept the continuing presence of foreign troops).

Allawi lost the first national elections despite the Bush administration providing him with covert aid and conspiring with him to rig the election (according to UN officials), despite Blair sending Labour party official Margaret McDonagh to advise Allawi in his election campaign; and despite some officials under Allawi , threatening to cut food rations to people who didn’t turn out to vote (There was also rigging on the part of the Shia list and the Kurds according to UN staff in Iraq). (1) , (2)

There has been some condemnation of former Ba’athists being banned from standing and even some being threatened with having their candidacies revoked retrospectively after they’ve been elected. Most of these are Sunnis on Allawi’s secular electoral list. This is due to what Seymour Hersh called “the redirection” in US policy in Iraq when the focus switched from using Shia proxies to target Sunnis who were seen as ‘dead enders’ for Saddam and Ba’athism, back to using Sunnis and secular Iraqis to target Shia who are simplistically seen as all ‘pro-Iranian’. Certainly not all Ba’athists were murderers – anyone wanting a career under Saddam had to become a Ba’athist or else hope they could flee into exile without being killed. Allawi does not seem to have been a great democrat or interested in upholding the law or his people’s basic rights either under Saddam or since his overthrow. (3), (4)

There’s been little discussion of Allawi’s own past. Seymour Hersh interviewed former CIA agents and Iraqis who knew Allawi in the 1960s and 70s. They said he was involved in helping Saddam into power and posed as a doctor to assassinate Iraqi dissidents under Saddam from at least 1971 till 1975 (the CIA also having been involved in backing Saddam in the 1960s through till 1991). This is supposedly a sin washed away by his break with Saddam and Saddam subsequently sending assassins to try to kill him, most famously in a failed attempt with an axe in London in 1978. From exile in the 1990s Allawi ran a programme of bombings of cars, cinemas, newspaper offices and Ba’ath party offices in Baghdad as a CIA proxy. Under Allawi as ‘Interim Prime Minister’ (and under his successors Ja’afari and Al Maliki) US-trained ‘police commandos continued the torture methods used under Saddam (even employing many of Saddam’s former Mukhabarat secret police and torturers) and began the ‘Terror in the hands of justice’ TV programme in which torture victims confessed live on television to being terrorists before being executed.(5) – (12)

Some western diplomats say they also ,witnessed Allawi personally shoot six suspected insurgents in front of them(13).

Saddam was also ‘secular’, also relied heavily on the Sunni minority for support and was also backed by the US, British and French governments right up until the invasion of Kuwait - all through the period in which he gassed the Kurds in his genocidal (but secular) ‘Anfal’ campaign and invaded Iran (leading to the deaths of millions, but never mind, he was secular). After the 1991 Gulf War he switched all oil contracts to Russian, French and Chinese firms and their governments became his supporters.

The only major difference between Saddam and Allawi is that Allawi is from a Shia family rather than a Sunni one (though, like Saddam, his family is not a religious one) and has some claim to be democratically elected, though his methods in government are likely to continue to be those of Saddam – torture, murder and execution without fair trial (often with the conviction based on a confession made under torture). It’s true that he hasn’t attempted wholesale genocide against the Kurds, but then he doesn’t have the free hand, nor the huge flow of money and arms that the governments of most of the world (especially the US) gave Saddam during the Anfal and the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s

Moqtadr Al Sadr is meanwhile demonised as a man “who maintains an overlord's hold over more than two million Shia Iraqis”, despite the fact this “overlord’s hold” is based on his widespread popularity among the poorer Shia of Baghdad, who do not see their interests being represented by the main Shia list of Iranian backed politicians from wealthier backgrounds, nor by Allawi with his links to the occupying forces. Could the hostility to him in the media be anything to do with briefings against him by British and American government and military spokespeople? Could those have anything to do with his opposition to the presence of foreign forces in Iraq? A balanced account of Sadr does not suggest that he is either particularly pro-Iranian (though US attempts to capture or assassinate him forced him into exile in Iran) and he seems to have tried to restrain Sectarian violence by his followers against Sunnis, with many of those responsible having broken away from his organisation (For details and sources on Sadr and the Sadrists go to (14).

Propaganda from the British and US governments has now come full circle from lauding Saddam for his ‘secularism’ against Iranian extremism in the 1980s to condemning him for his unprovoked aggression against Iran in 2001 till the last couple of years and now back to supporting Allawi as a new ‘ secular strong man’ who will ‘oppose extremism’ and ‘provide stability’. Sceptics might wonder whether being tortured or summarily killed without any trial by Allawi’s death squads who are ‘anti-sectarian’ or ‘secular’ is really that different from being tortured by those who justify their actions on religious grounds, or if the governments of the ‘free world’ just prefer Allawi because he’ll do their bidding by giving their firms oil contracts and opposing the Iranians just as Saddam did – plus allowing them military bases in Iraq to secure it’s oil and make it easier to get hold of Iran’s in future.

(1) New Yorker Magazine 25 Jul2007 ‘Get Out the Vote -
Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq’s election?’ by Seymour Hersh ,

(2) = Dahr Jamail / IPS 01 Feb 2005 ‘Some just voted for food’,

(3)= Guardian Comment Is Free 29 Mar 2010 ‘Iraq's new ruling elite show contempt for voters’, by Toby Dodge,

(4) = New Yorker magazine ‘The Re-direction’ by Seymour Hersh

(5) = New Yorker magazine 28 Jan 2005
, ‘Annals of National Security : Plan B’ by Seymour Hersh’,

(6) = Aburish, Said K (1997) ‘A Brutal Friendship’ , Indigo, London, 1997&1998, paperback, pages136-143

(7) = Aburish, Said K (2001) ‘Saddam Hussein – The Politics of Revenge’, Chapter2, esp p54-9

(8) = New York Times 9 Jun 2004 ‘THE REACH OF WAR: NEW PREMIER; Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks’ ,

(9) = Human Rights Watch 25 January 2005 ‘Iraq: Torture Continues at Hands of New Government -
Police Systematically Abusing Detainees’ ,

(10) = Amnesty International 6 Mar 2006 ( AI Index: MDE 14/001/2006 ) ‘Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq’ ,

(11) = Amnesty International 20 Apr 2007( AI Index: MDE 14/020/2007 ) ‘Iraq: Televised 'confessions', torture and unfair trials underpin world's fourth highest executioner
’ ,

(12) = Times 07 Jul 2005 ‘West turns blind eye as police put Saddam's torturers back to work’,

(13)= Sydney Morning Herald 17 Jun 2004‘Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses’ ,

(14) = 28 Mar 2010 ‘Exiled Iraqi sheikh may hold key to power in Iraq’,