Former Iraqi P.M. Says Surge Not So Great

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When it comes to Iraq, the surge is a great success, right? Well,
according to Ayad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, that depends
on what you mean by “success”.

In a briefing before members of the House Committee on Foreign
Affairs yesterday, Allawi answered questions from members of he
subcommittee on international organizations, human rights, and
oversight. When asked by Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the subcommittee’s ranking
member, for Allawi’s “assessment of of what’s come of the surge,”
Allawi all but said, not much.

Reminding Rohrabacher that the original objective of the surge was to
create a safe environment for a process of national reconciliation,
Allawi said, “Now, militarily, the surge has achieved some of its
goals. Politically, I don’t think so.”

Allawi rattled off a laundry list of perils that still confront the
Iraqi people: internal displacement of large numbers of people,
millions of refugees outside Iraq, security forces he described as
sectarian militias dressed in national uniforms, no enforcement of the
national constitution, which he described as a “divisive” document.

The former prime minister, who is now a member of the Iraqi
parliament, also alleged that the process known as “deBaathification”
is “being used to punish people.” Originally designed to purge Saddam
Hussein’s loyalists from the military and security forces, Allawi said
the process has become politicized and can be used against virtually
anybody, since Saddam Hussein’s “Baath party ruled for 35 years, and
every individual had to join…”

“So, if you measure the surge from a military point of view, it
has succeeded,” Allawi said. “But I don’t think this was the [prime]
objective, because soon you will have reversals. Security has not
prevailed, and the key element in security is reconciliation, and
building national institutions for the country. If this does not
happen, then the surge will go in vain.”

Despite his role as arch-rival to current Prime Minister Nouri
al-Maliki (whose party defeated Allawi’s in Iraq’s 2005 elections),
Allawi seems to concur with Maliki’s call for a plan for withdrawal of
U.S. troops. In his opening statement, Allawi told the subcommittee,
“As we think about moving to the next stage of our relationship, it
is appropriate to discuss a time frame for reduction of U.S.
forces.”

He cautioned, however, against any withdrawal that would take place
before non-sectarian institutions and defense forces take shape, or before a
reconciliation process, which he noted as being high on Congress’s
list of benchmarks,
is under way in earnest.

Nonetheless, leaders of Allawi’s political party, the Iraqi
National List, were among the 31 leaders in the Iraq parliament who
signed a letter (PDF) presented to Congress on May 29 requesting
that a timetable
for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to be
part of any future agreement between the two countries. The 31
signatories signed as representatives of their political parties,
collectively speaking for a majority of Iraq’s 275 members of
parliament.

The Bush administration has been negotiating with the Maliki
government an agreement based on a “declaration
of principles
“, which the two leaders signed November without the
approval of their respective legislatures. This coming December, the
U.N. mandate that protects U.S. forces in Iraq will expire, and the
administration apparently seeks to replace it with a bilateral
agreement that takes the U.N. out of the equation.

Subcommittee Chairman Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) yesterday conducted
the seventh in his series of hearings on the declaration of
principles. Allawi did not appear as part of that hearing, but rather
in a briefing held afterwards. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Delahunt’s
co-sponsor on legislation
that would extend
the U.N. mandate for another six months, sat in
for the “conversation”, as it was called, with Allawi, commiserating
over the lack of transparency by their respective executives about
agreements under discussion via the declaration of principles.
(DeLauro is not a member of the foreign affairs commitee.)

“When you said you don’t know what the substance of that agreement
is—that’s the same for us,” DeLauro said.

Once seen as a tool
of the Bush administration
(especially during
the 2004 campaign
against John Kerry), Allawi today is singing a
different tune from the cheerful notes he once struck in favor of
Bush’s Iraq policy. His eyes are clearly trained on the 2008 U.S.
presidential election—and Iraq’s 2009 national elections.

—Adele M. Stan
The Media Consortium

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