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Former Iraqi PM Allawi Testifies Before Congress, Blasts Maliki

The former interim PM criticized the surge, the constitution, and warned that Iraqi forces are not loyal to Iraq, but to sectarian militias.
 
 
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The current Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is in the news lately over his endorsement of Barack Obama's plan for withdrawing troops on a 16-month timetable, but yesterday in Washington it was a former Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who was making news. And it wasn't good news for Maliki.

Allawi, a former Baathist and an Iraqi nationalist, heads the Iraqi National List party in Iraq, and he served as the first prime minister of a sovereign Iraq until elections gave power to the Shiite religious parties. Allawi is a Shiite, but a secular one, who appeals to both Sunnis and Shiites. After quitting the Baath party, Allawi lived in exile and he was supported by MI-6 and the CIA, and he returned to Iraq in 2003. He makes no secret of wanting to replace Maliki, who is a confirmed sectarian with close links to Iran.

Last September, Allawi tried to arrange clandestine meetings between Iraqi resistance forces under Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former aide to Saddam Hussein, and U.S. commanders in Iraq.

[On Wednesday] he testified in front of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the proposed U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement (SOFA) and the parallel U.S.-Iraq strategic framework.

Allawi blasted the so-called surge, saying that it failed in its primary objective, namely, to end the Iraqi civil war and foster political reconciliation. He said that General Petraeus personally came to his house early in 2007 to assure him that the surge would accomplish its intended objective. Instead, things got worse, said Allawi.

"There is an urgent need to build nonsectarian institutions," he told the committee. Sitting alone, dressed conservatively in a gray suit, Allawi said that Iraq's police and army are still organized on a sectarian basis. Asked about the importance of U.S. training for Iraqi forces, Allawi said, "The issue is not training. By and large, training is secondary." The problem, he said, is that the police and army are not loyal to Iraq, not loyal to a national chain of command, but report informally to Shiite militias.

Asked by subcommittee chairman Rep. Willian Delahunt (D.-Mass.) if the Iraqi army was composed of sectarian militias that have just "exchanged uniforms," Allawi replied, "Unfortunately, this is the case." He said that he'd discussed the problem directly with President Bush and General Petraeus, but without answer.

Allawi said that 13 members of his party had been assassinated by thugs tied to the army and police. "They were killed by people in uniforms, dressed in police and army uniforms. We had not only 13 killed, but we had hundreds arrested." Such arrests and killings, Zimbabwe-style, made a sham of the 2005 and 2006 elections. Backed by more than 100 Iraqi parliamentarians, Allawi is trying to ensure the UN and Arab League observers keep a close watch on provincial and national elections in 2009. (Originally scheduled for October, 2008, the provincial elections will likely be postponed because of Kurdish sabotage of the election law over its Kirkuk provisions.)

Most of the militia gangs who've infiltrated Iraq's security forces are tied to the Iran-backed Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and its Badr Brigade, who provide Maliki's main political support.

Allawi stressed the Iraq's constitution, which he called "divisive," needs to be rewritten.

Allawi demanded that the Iraqi parliament be given a chance to review any U.S.-Iraq accords signed by Bush and Maliki.

In testimony before Allawi, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute pooh-poohed Iraqi public opinion, which is strongly opposed to a continuing U.S. presence. The only thing that matters, said Pletka, a hardcore neocon, is what America wants, Iraqi public opinion be damned. She ridiculed Iraqis, suggesting that most Iraqis believe that there were no Jews in the World Trade Center on 9/11. "If we polled Iraqis about the number of Jews in the World Trade Center, their answer is not likely to reflect reality," she huffed. So why take Iraqis seriously when they say that they want U.S. forces to withdraw? She added:

The question of the extension of the United Nations mandate that governs the allied presence in Iraq has received undue attention, and distracted from the very real question of American interests. …

Some have suggested that Iraqi parliamentarians who have expressed concern about the shape of any bilateral agreement with the United States should carry the day. Their views, however, are theirs alone. These parliamentarians are responsible to their constituents. Their opinions regarding immunity for American service people, contractors, the nature of American bases in Iraq and all else are questions to bring to their side of the table. We have our own side.

Maliki, who'd like the U.S. to stay in Iraq indefinitely to continue training his security forces, is under great pressure from Iraqi nationalists, including Muqtada al-Sadr, to support the timetable idea.

Sadly, only four -- four! -- members of the House of Representatives bothered to attend the Allawi hearing: Democrats Russ Carnahan, Rosa DeLauro, and Lynn Woolsey, and Republican Dana Rohrabacher.

Robert Dreyfuss is the author of " Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam " (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books).