Daily Archives: August 17, 2006

The Eyes of Alusi

Posted by Cutler on August 17, 2006
Iraq, Right Zionists / No Comments

As a reporter, Nancy Youssef has a peculiar approach to covering Iraq. She seems, at times, to view Iraq through the eyes of Iraq’s most pro-Israel Sunni Arab politician (only pro-Israel Sunni Arab politician?) MP Mithal al Alusi.

According to an Associated Press report, Alusi was part of Ahmed Chalabi’s inner circle until he made a 2004 trip to Israel that caused a firestorm in Iraqi political circles.

In an June 2006 post, I commented on a peculiar article by Nancy Youssef under the headline “Iran now enemy No. 1, Sunnis say: Fears fhift from Israel to Shi’ite nation next door“:

Sunni Muslims have begun to ask: Is Israel really Iraq’s enemy or is it neighboring Iran?

Sunnis are often not comfortable talking openly about Israel, especially in a region where most Arabs won’t refer to it by name and blame Israel for the conflict with the Palestinians. But privately, many have said Israel has not done anything lately to harm them, but Iran has…

While campaigning for a seat in the new parliament, Mithal al Alusi called for stronger ties between Israel and Iraq, and he appears to have won. He said some Iraqis are warming to a stronger relationship with Israel, in part because they are frightened of Iran’s influence. “They are afraid of Iran’s extremist political system,” he said.

Swopa at Needlenose subsequently mentioned this article in a very important post entitled “Switching sides on the Sunni-Shiite Seesaw.” In a ZNet article called “The Devil Wears Persian” I also discussed the ways in which Right Zionists who courted Shiite moderates in Iraq during “Act One” of the Bush Revolution might be attempting to cultivate a “marriage of convenience” between Sunni Arabs and Israel as “Act Two” of the Bush Revolution. The idea of such a “marriage” continues to have implications for political developments in Lebanon (discussed in recent posts here and here).

More recently, Youssef has been reporting on Prime Minister Maliki and his “security crackdowns” in Basra and Baghdad.

What is interesting about the Youssef reporting is not really what it tells about recent battles between rival Shiite factions–including the followers of Mahmoud al-Hassani in Basra and Karbala and the “Fadilla/Virtue Party” followers of Ayatollah Muhammad Yacoubi in Basra (for this, see the August 17, 2006 Washington Post article, “Rival Shiite Militias Clash in Southern Iraq“).

Youssef’s earlier report on the prospect of pro-Israeli, anti-Iranian sentiment among Iraqi Sunni Arabs was drawn from thin air; Alusi was her only real source, apart from one random “Sunni on the street” quote. Nevertheless, it was surprisingly “prescient” about emergent Right Zionist projects in the region. Perhaps her current reporting may be similarly indicative of things to come.

If so, then Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and his ally Moqtada al-Sadr might be in for a rough ride if Right Zionists have their way.

Back on July 4, 2006, Youssef reported that Maliki’s security crackdown in Basra had “failed.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s first major security initiative, a 30-day state of emergency intended to restore peace to Basra… appears to have failed, residents there report.

The state of emergency ended Saturday, but residents said that little had changed: Shiite militias and tribes still control the city’s streets, political factions still fight for control of the city, and Shiite Muslim militias still threaten Sunni Muslims with death

In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Jawad al-Bolani, Iraq’s interior minister, who was named to the post seven days into the Basra plan, acknowledged that the initiative had not worked.

Even though Bolani seems to be the lead source on the “failed” crackdown, Youssef doesn’t deliver a quote from Bolani that makes the point.

Still–giving Youssef the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of argument–let’s say that Bolani did declare the Maliki crackdown a failure.

Youssef also reports that not everyone considered the crackdown a failure:

Basra’s governor, Mohammed al-Waili, a member of the Fadhila Party, one of the groups fighting to control the city, said he believed the plan had been successful

But there is a political dimension to these different perspectives. As I discussed in a previous post, Bolani was also from “one of the groups fighting for control of the city”–but from a group battling against Basra governmor Waili and the Fadhilla party.

So, it looks to me that the Maliki security crackdown in Basra ended in a victory for Waili and the Fadhilla party and a loss for Bolani and his patrons, Sheik Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi (“Prince of the Marsh Arabs”) and Ahmad Chalabi (for explanation of the Bolani-Muhammadawi-Chalabi alliance, see previous post).

Needless to say, Youssef writes of “failure” from the perspective of the Bolani-Muhammadawi-Chalabi alliance.

More recently Youssef filed a report entitled “Al-Maliki May Doom Baghdad Security Plan.”

The Baghdad security plan, which some cast as the last chance to avert a civil war, will be thwarted by Iraq’s prime minister because he is unwilling to tackle the country’s biggest security threat, many residents and politicians fear.

The plan calls for U.S. forces to sweep neighborhoods and help restore services, eventually leaving the capital under Iraqi military and police control. If that happens, U.S. troops could begin to withdraw

[M]any Iraqis fear the plan is doomed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s willingness to attack Sunni insurgents but not the Shiite militias that support his Dawa political party

He must change. This is not his private office. He should represent all Iraqis,” said Mithal al-Alusi, a secular Shiite member of parliament. The Baghdad security plan “is the last chance for al-Maliki.”

Ok, ok. Wait just a second. Alusi is here described as a “Shiite.” But the whole fuss about Alusi has always been that he is Sunni. That, at least, is what seemed to impressive to Thomas Friedman and others who sing his praises…

And please… spare me the RNC midterm election slogan that if only Maliki would crack down on Shiite militias, then”U.S. troops could begin to withdraw… ” Please. Bush has been clear: “”as long as he’s president, we’re in Iraq.”

The crucial information, however, is that folks like Alusi are on the verge of breaking with Maliki over his refusal to crackdown on Sadr.

But the frustration–and, presumably, the blame–is not simply with Maliki. Youssef writes:

U.S. officials have been hesitant to criticize the Mahdi army publicly, out of fear that doing so would spark more violence

In other words, “U.S. officials”–like Maliki–are also to blame. More Right Zionist frustrations, to be sure.