Allawi Attacked by Mob in Najaf;
In Baghdad, 2 GIs Killed
Former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi and his entourage were attacked by mobs on Sunday. Najaf governor Asad Abu Kalal complained that Allawi had not cleared his visit with the provincial authorities, but had suddenly shown up with a bodyguard of Western security guards. Allawi charged that the attackers were followers of nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and that they had intended to kill him. Abu Kalal rejected this allegation, and Najaf authorities attributed the incident to spontaneous crowd action rather than deep political conspiracy.
Allawi is a secularist ex-Baathist, who cooperated with the CIA in the 1990s in organizing Baath officers who broke with Saddam and fled to London, in hopes of using them to make a coup against Saddam. The Americans shoe-horned him in as interim prime minister with UN complaisance. While he was in power, in August of 2004, there was major fighting in Najaf, during which important old buildings were destroyed and hundreds if not thousands were killed. At some points there were rumors that Allawi might send in Iraqi troops to storm the shrine of Ali, risking major damage to it. Allawi has also upbraided Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for intervening in Iraqi politics. In other words, an Allawi visit to the shrine of Najaf was bound to be controversial.
Since Allawi is basically running for prime minister in a majority pious Shiite society, the visit to the shrine in Najaf was intended to be a photo op that might help generate favorable campaign images. His attackers knew this and intended to spoil it.
Some analysts believe that Allawi’s list, which got 14 percent in the last elections, will do better this time. But there was also a lot of this kind of speculation before the Jan. 30 elections. Basically it is a secular middle class perspective that journalists are more likely to encounter; but in fact the secular middle classes in Iraq have been devastated. Personally, I think the 14 percent was a fluke created in part by his advantages of incumbency (he was on television all the time in January of 2005, making all kinds of promises to various constituencies). He doesn’t have those advantages any more, and may actually not run as well. Certainly, he won’t get a big vote in Najaf.
Najaf officials insist that the problem of militia rule in the city has been resolved, and they have big plans for development.
Sheikh Abdul Salam Abdul Hussein, a mosque preacher and follower of Muqtada al-Sadr, was assassinated on Sunday. A range of other killings occurred in various parts of the country. Two US GIs were killed in southeastern Baghdad.
After a showy refusal to talk to the Americans about Iraq by high Iranian officials, lower-level middle managers are now saying that Iran will “think about” such contacts. Stay tuned.
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey has admitted that many Iraqi officers in the new security services still have loyalties to militias.
US officers have admitted in interviews that most of the guerrillas they are fighting in western Iraq are local Iraqis, not foreign jihadis. The admission contradicts the general thrust of White House commentary on the issue.