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December 08, 2006



Dear AA,

Salih al-Mutlak is quite liberal with his announcements. So I'd advise a cautionary approach towards this "National Salvation Front".

From the make-up outlined in Aswat al-Iraq, the group comprises the sidelined factions, but can by no means be called "national". The Sadrist Movement may control Sadr City and have sympathizers in the South but nobody knows just how much popular support it really has, and they may very well use this as leverage against Da'wa/SCIRI within the UIA. Mutlak's own group and that of Mishan al-Jabburi are marginal even within the Sunni Arab population. Iyad Allawi's list has tanked in both elections in 2005. "Tribal elements of Central and Southern Iraq" is too vague a description for anyone to know who that is and what they bring to the table. Ditto for the "Arab Shiite Movement". The various representatives of (unspecified) Turkmen, Yazidi, and Christian movements might very well use this new gathering to pressure the central gov't to be more malleable towards those groups' demands regarding the amending of the Iraqi constitution. Also, the main Christian groups in the North have just stated that they'll demand self-governance for Christian areas in northern Iraq and a future annexation of these areas to the Kurdistan Region. The Fadhila Party (Al-Ya'qubi) is fighting with SCIRI for control in parts of southern Iraq, and particularly Basra, and I would judge their participation in this new political bloc against that background and don't give much about their willingness to keep Iraq united. And "Kurdish movements that oppose separation" is simply laughable. PUK & KDP have, between them, over 90% of the vote in the Kurdistan Region, and the vast majority of Kurds in Iraq aim for independence.

So ... in the end it looks like a rather heterogenous assembly of forces whose main (if not only) point of agreement is their opposition to the current Da'wa/KDP/PUK/SCIRI alliance.

As for Allawi, I find it hard to believe that Iraqis will forgive him for the battles of Najaf and Fallujah, undertaken during his time as Prime Minister and having received his strong endorsement.




The idea of Allawi as figurehead seems fantastical. They main characteristic of such an individual is that he's innocuous enough to facilitate consensus among conflicting parties: "innocuous" can hardly apply to the former head of Bremer's pet parliament. This speculation reminds me of the "buzz" (in Washington) a year or two ago that Chalabi was about to resucitate himself as an 'anti-American' populist. My guess is that it's being pushed by the same crowd. The vote count for Allawi's slate was no accident.


Intriguing analysis and speculation. How do the Kurds fit into your thinking?


This Allawi talk is sheer nonsense. In a much more peaceful time, he couldn't muster enough votes to make a dent. Now he's a fix for this sectarian mess? Hardly.

Antiquated Tory

I have to say, old boy, this one was well below your usual standards of plausibility.

Ghurab al-Bain

Actually I think the temptation for someone like Allawi, if not the man himself, will certainly surface and seem quite plausible - or another Abd al-Karim Al-Qasem if you will. This is what regimes like the Jordanians and Saudis have wanted all along. I agree with others that it is actually less likely than it appears in today's Iraq.


I may have framed all this poorly - I don't think that Allawi would actually solve any problems, he'd likely be unpopular, fail to bridge the gaps, etc... My point was just that at a time when everything else is failing, an idea like this is likely to emerge (and the man does seem to be angling for it). And I *have* heard some people of the Jordanian/Saudi officialish variety float the idea, though I couldn't say with what success. So I thought it interesting to think about it now.


It's not just that he can't solve problems. He can't get the job... short of an american coups. Which also isn't going to happen.

The opinions of the saudi's et al aren't relevant to the Iraqis, and they don't want the guy. So, again, short america litterally tearing down the political edifice it build and naming allawi supreme leader, there is no chance of this happening.




Have you seen this report in the Sunday Times? I think it is relevant. My guess is that Allawi is behind the leak of this information, perhaps hoping to pressure the US to resume talks with the Sunni insurgents through him, rather than talking seriously with Iran as ISG urges.



Thanks for the link - so the insurgent groups were in fact pressing for an Allawi return. Who knew?


A dissenting opinion. I think in the light of all the other positioning going on, this leak was likely designed to try and knock Allawi out of the running, outing him in this way.


(that might not be a dissent, just an observation)


I'd see that as more of an observation than a dissent It wouldn't surprise me a bit if other contenders-in-their-own-minds wanted to knock Allawi out - precisely for the reasons I outlined.


A lot of weird positioning going on right now. A few days ago there was a CS Monitor report that said, inter alia, that smaller parties were forming an anti-Dawa, anti-SCIRI coalition.


>>>This week, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular politician accused by rivals of links to the insurgency, announced a broad alliance he is calling the National Salvation Front. The bloc aims to unite opposition parties against Mr. Maliki and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), who met with the Bush administration in Washington on Monday....

The AMS is also part of the National Salvation Front, the initiative announced by Mr. Mutlaq.

The bloc includes Shiite and Sunni parties that are united in their call for regional and international dialogues on solving the Iraq "catastrophe." The only parties not participating are Maliki's Dawa Party, the country's two main Kurdish parties, and Hakim's SCIRI. It also includes the Fadhila Party led by Ayatollah Samir Yacoubi, a strong Shiite party that rivals SCIRI's power in southern Iraq.

"It is like a shadow government," Mustafa al-Hiti, a member of parliament with Mutlaq's party, says of the new front. "There must be change."<<<

Now today there is an AP report saying that al Hakim is organizing an anti-Maliki, anti-Sadr coalition.


>>>"The failure of the government has forced us into this in the hope that it can provide a solution," said Omar Abdul-Sattar, a lawmaker from al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party. "The new alliance will form the new government."

The groups engaged in talks have yet to agree on a leader, said lawmaker Hameed Maalah, a senior official of al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.

One likely candidate for prime minister, however, was said to be Iraq's other vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite who was al-Hakim's choice for the prime minister's job before al-Maliki emerged as a compromise candidate and won.<<<

'Byzantine' doesn't begin to describe the political situation in Iraq.

And then there's the bottomless pit of George Bush's strategy shop. This report from ABC suggests that if the goal in Iraq is shifted to training/advising the Iraqi army, that won't mean any troop drawdowns or redeployments. That's not going to please the Sunnis.


Ok, so I forgot the link:



Dear Smintheus,

Re: Salih al-Mutlak (why do people keep writing the name with a "q"?) - I've given a short comment about precisely that group above (first comment in this thread). I forgot to add that the Fadhila Party of Al-Ya'qubi (in addition to being SCIRI's main competitor in the Deep South) is one of Muqtada's main rivals. They both (Fadhila & Muqtada) claim to be the rightful heirs of Muqtada's father. It's similar to the Ba'th split into a Syrian and an Iraqi branch back in the day.

As for the 2nd story, that looks like the current coalition (Kurds+UIA) want to replace the no-longer-reliable Muqtada al-Sadr with some Sunni groups in order to retain parliamentary majority. Wouldn't be surprised if that happened.

On Allawi, dear AA, that story is almost a year old. And I would like to get more info on just which insurgent groups would accept him as head of government. 1920 Brigades are ex-Ba'th and the other 2 mentioned (Ansar al-Sunna & National Islamic Resistance) are Sunni Muslim concerned about Kurds & Shi'a. For them to suggest to ignore any elections & put Allawi on the throne doesn't look like they understand what can & what can't be done in contemporary Iraq.



Here is more on attempts to build a coalition to sideline Maliki, or Sadr, or both, from the NY Times:



My good man. We may end up with a lot of things. This has moved well beyond our control because of the strategic moustrap we are in. We do not have the politcal capitol to do anything, either. That was spent on this war. The greater regional consequences are huge, and there is not a damn thing we can do about it. Take a look at what is going on in Palestine, Lebbanon....you name it. It is going to take decadesfor us to recover from the mess this administation has made, if we ever recover fully at all.
The thing that I strikes me the most are the debates going on about "a way foreward" and a policy that "can effect change". This one has gotten away from us, we do not have the power to do anything to effect the outcome. We can shotgun predictions, but in the end, this thing plays out in a way that is beyond our control. "You break it,you own it"..... hell, we broke it, AND NOW IT OWNS US.
Sorry for the lousy spelling...
Great site... by the way.

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