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  • Iraq from Blix’ Teams to “Wikileaks’ Documents”
    Mon, 25 October 2010
    George Semaan

    The conflicting sides inside and over Iraq did not need the “Wikileaks documents” to complicate their problems and multiply the obstacles and barriers facing the birth of the new government, a birth which has started to require more than a Caesarian section. What the website revealed – although it was the greatest leak of confidential information in history – was not a secret, considering it was known by those accused of having committed the Iraqi “bloodbath” and is circulated and endured by the Iraqis on a daily basis. Still, what is mostly important about these “secrets” is that they are now documented by the hour and the day, feature names, and have revealed through registered facts the history of the known conflict between the Americans, the Iranians, the Syrians and the battling Iraqi forces, which has so far claimed the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. They also exposed the role of the leader of the State of Law Coalition himself, i.e. Nouri al-Maliki, in “managing the death and torture squads” and the role of the Iraqi army and policy in the killing and torture operations. Now, the obvious question is the following: Should these documents not be transferred to an international court so that this court can conduct its inquiries and investigations and try those involved in what could be described as being “war crimes”?

    Still, what is important about the publication of these documents is also its timing, which will cast heavy shadows over the United States while it is busy with the midterm congressional elections, is struggling to exit the Iraqi and Afghan swamps and is trying to contain the losses of the hindered Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. On the other hand, it will shed more light on the “bright image” of the United States in the Arab and Islamic worlds and will contribute to the flow of questions and fears towards Iran that is seeking to reassure its Arab neighbors by covering up its momentum in the region, from Kabul to Naqoura and Gaza, and its role in the Iraqi bloodbath. In that same context, it will further embarrass Syria and its choices, as well as its movements between Riyadh, Tehran and Ankara.

    Nonetheless, the most important thing about this timing is the impact which the documents will have on the main arena of the “bloodbath.” Indeed, these documents will increase the burdens of the Iraqis who are trying to find their way out of the governmental crisis, and will once again revive the memories of the killings, the organized torture and the sectarian conflict. They will also raise numerous questions regarding the eligibility of Nouri al-Maliki, the candidate with the most luck to lead the new Cabinet, and his method of managing the authority and its institutions, as they will cause a lot of embarrassment to the powers raising the banner of the leader of the State of Law Coalition both domestically and abroad, from Tehran to Washington going through Damascus.

    The “democracy” which was heralded by the Americans and for which the Iraqis drew up their new constitution to the point of emulating Western democracies never arrived. In the meantime, Al-Maliki neither lost his chances nor will he resign and present himself before justice. He believes that the goal behind the publication of the documents is to obstruct his reelection for a second term. He will thus remain in the race and seems to be the strongest candidate, unaffected by the calls made by his opponents in the Iraqi List to form an international tribunal or their warnings regarding the “return of dictatorship.” On the other hand, the justifications of his office will not dissipate the damage caused by these documents to his image since the damage is done. Moreover, it will not do him any good to hold the Americans responsible for the fall of victims since that will increase their feeling of guilt because they promoted his candidacy for a second term, and will prompt them to express additional reservations over him and circumscribe him if they are incapable of imposing the alternative they want.

    The conflicting sides inside and over Iraq do not need to read the documents to define the winner and the defeated, since the battle surrounding the new government is clearly defining the new balance of the powers involved in the secret-public war that is ongoing between the Americans and the Iranians in the first place, and between the other regional players. The balance is clearly tilting in favor of Iran. This was not the case prior to the events featured in the “Wikileaks documents,” i.e. prior to the 2003 war on Iraq. Back then, Saddam Hussein’s regime stood in the face of the Iranian expansion and acted as a “thorn” in Syria’s back which supported the “Islamic Revolution” throughout the first Gulf War.

    The situation changed following the fall of the regime in Baghdad. At first, the Americans thought that a democratic Iraq could be built over the ruins of Saddam’s dictatorship and that the new regime will enhance the regional balance of powers in the face of the Islamic Republic. They went as far as to think they could capitalize on the ability of the new regime in Baghdad to present a “democratic Shiite model”, which might encourage the Iranians to try to emulate it. Furthermore, the Bush Jr. administration and especially former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used to respond to the detractors of the war on Iraq by saying that Saddam’s toppling – although it relieved Iran from its archenemy – marked a great gift to Israel since it eliminated this country from the balance of Arab powers facing the Hebrew state. However, soon enough, the Americans and the Israelis discovered that Iraq’s fall in Iran’s hands allowed the latter to reach the shores of Naqoura, the hills of Jabal al-Sheikh in South Lebanon and the shores of Gaza as well. Moreover, it opened a new page in the conflict which was quasi-limited between Tel Aviv and Tehran, thus allowing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to proclaim from the outskirts of Galilee the establishment of the “Peoples Resistance Front” and herald the end of Israel… In the meantime, all that was left for the Arabs was to host the operations’ stage.

    A few days ago, Barack Obama’s administration believed that Al-Maliki was the fittest to rule during the next stage, although it tried – to no avail – to secure an alliance between him and Iyad Allawi, the leader of the Iraqi List, to block the way before Iranian hegemony. It built its conclusion on the outcome of his first term, i.e. his fight against the militias linked to Iran and his cooperation with many of its demands in regard to the security and military agreements. Indeed, the man had succeeded in ensuring an accurate balance between Iran and the United States, allowing him to wage Operation Charge of the Knights to enhance security, expand his popularity and consecrate his position in the conflict over power. This was done in the face of the other Shiite powers which he seemed to be trying to unify, by completely marginalizing them if he is unable to annul them. He also cooperated with the Americans in their efforts to lead the Sunni powers away from Al-Qaeda and into the heart of the state.

    Nonetheless, what embarrassed the Americans even before Wikileaks was Al-Maliki’s call from Tehran upon the Islamic Republic to contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq. It was as though the victims and the billions of dollars offered by the United States to get Al-Maliki to sit in Saddam’s place were not enough. It also had to see its opponent called upon to reap the billions generated by the reconstruction. What increased this embarrassment was the public support granted by the Republic’s Guide Sayyed Ali al-Khamenei to the leader of the State of Law Coalition, knowing that he had previously exchanged the support of Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr with promises and measures that raised the discontent of the American administration. All of these positions prompted Washington to reconsider its stand and its support.

    As for the revelations of the Wikileaks documents, they will increase Washington’s embarrassment. However, this will not mean it will reverse the fate drawn up by Iran, which is the most effective in and capable of controlling whoever assumes the premiership. In addition, the majority of the Shiite components who think they have won Iraq after Saddam’s fall, cannot risk losing it, and this will force them to hold on to Al-Maliki whom they believe is the most apt to maintain this gain. This is due to the fact that according to the constitution, the prerogatives of the prime minister render him the absolute decision-maker in all aspects of the authority, from the appointment of senior employees, the command of the army and the intelligence bodies to the issuance of the major economic decisions in the oil sector among other sectors. In other words, the constitution placed most of the basic decisions in the hands of the prime minister who consequently becomes - along with those whom he represents - the strongest player.

    After the administration of Barack Obama discovered the frailty of its wager on Al-Maliki and after its rivals felt that their “resisting” project was advancing, the administration was left with few choices in Iraq. Indeed, in light of the flaw affecting the balance of powers, it cannot engage in direct or indirect talks with Iran which is acting on the beat of the retreat of the US wagers and projects on more than one front, from Lebanon to Palestine and Afghanistan. Therefore, dialogue is excluded unless Washington is capable of regaining the initiative, of conducting trade-offs and making compromises. Hence, what is left for the administration is to reconsider the date of the pullout of its forces from Iraq, an unlikely option for many reasons.

    Obama’s administration was hoping that Al-Maliki will form a government capable of providing the necessary protection for the final pullout of its troops from Iraq by the end of next year (there are around fifty thousand of them). However, his retreat to the beat of Iran’s plans and with the blessing of the Sadrist movement might extinguish this hope. Consequently, Washington may have no other choice but to rely on the Kurdish initiative launched a while ago by the president of the Kurdistan province, Massoud al-Barzani. Indeed, the Kurdistan Alliance has already started the preparations for a dialogue table that will be held in Irbil and bring together the leaders of all the winning blocs in the elections. For their part, the American ambassador and the authority in Najaf welcomed this initiative, considering that the Kurdish paper could mark the beginning of the awaited understanding. This understanding would be over an internal amendment that would define the prerogatives of the prime minister and activate the roles of the Political Council for National Security, the president of the republic and parliament, in a way that would put an end to the tyranny featured in the prerogatives of the prime minister and his quasi-absolute power. As for the Kurds who can now tilt the balance in favor of whichever candidate to the prime minister’s position, they will insist on the participation of all the political components in the upcoming Cabinet, in addition to their known demands which are related to Kurdistan and the province’s border and powers.

    If the Kurdistan Alliance is able to lead its initiative toward the desired conclusion, the new government will be governed by an accurate balance, preventing it from acting freely and from enjoying a unified strategic vision and a unified program to deal with the regional complications, the transformations and the major decisions. Still, such a development might give Washington enough time to rearrange its cards and pay more attention to the Lebanese, Palestinian and even Syrian files, in the hope that a strategic breakthrough along these fronts will reshuffle the cards and the alliances and fix the flaw affecting the international-regional balance of powers.

    While awaiting such surprises, so as not to say miracles, Lebanon and Palestine must wait for relief to come from Iraq where the conflicting sides are continuing to write the “new democratic history” with blood, from the Hans Blix teams to the “Wikileaks documents”!

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