The headline of Sudarsan Raghavan’s article in today’s Washington Post–“Maliki’s Impact Blunted By Own Party’s Fears: Hussein-Era Secrecy Persists, Analysts Say“–certainly suggests a smear campaign against Maliki.
For the idea that Maliki’s government can be equated with the “Hussein-Era,” Raghavan relies on a “political analyst,” Wamidh Nadhmi.
“Many people see some similarities between Maliki and the late Saddam, except he’s much weaker than Saddam Hussein,” Nadhmi said. “People feel he’s in power because he’s backed by American tanks. Others say the Dawa party is not popular enough to win elections on their own.”
Similarities between Maliki and the late Saddam?
Well, I guess Nadhmi would know. As the Washington Post reported in a December 2005 profile of the professor, Nadhmi was a close associate of Saddam and played the role of the official house critic from his perch at Baghdad University during the Hussein era.
[H]e endured… admittedly odd protection under Saddam Hussein that allowed him to speak out at the height of the Baath Party’s tyranny…
Raghavan identifies Nadhmi merely as an “analyst,” but–as an April 2005 Washington Post article noted–the professor is also a leader of a political party, the “Arab Nationalist Trend,” that boycotted the 2005 elections and opposed the Shiite-led government’s aggressive purge of Iraq’s Baathist security forces.
Needless to say, Nadhmi hardly stands out for his current criticism of Maliki. As the Associated Press recently reported, Maliki faces a revolt–led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari–from within his own Dawa party.
According to the Washington Post, Maliki and his allies also fear that they face powerful enemies within the US.
Haider al-Abadi, an influential Dawa legislator… said rumors of a governmental collapse are being spread by “some enemies within the U.S. establishment.”
“Some special intelligence units,” he explained, his voice lowering during an interview at a coffee shop in the U.S.-protected Green Zone. “They have their own plan. That’s what frightens us. People want to wreck the whole thing…
Of course, as William Burroughs suggested, sometimes paranoia means having all the facts.
The very fact of Raghavan’s smear article should be enough to confirm Abadi’s suspicions. But there are plenty of other signs that the Shiite-led government has powerful enemies in Washington and Iraq.
But Maliki still has some very powerful friends.
First among them, according to the Associated Press report, appears to be Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The former prime minister also has approached Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, proposing a “national salvation” government to replace the al-Maliki coalition. The Iranian-born al-Sistani refused to endorse the proposal, [officials in his office and the political party he leads] said.
And then there is Vice President Cheney.
I’m not confident that I know where Cheney stands on the particulars of some major issues regarding the balance of power in Iraq.
For example, Cheney has celebrated the so-called “Anbar Model” that aligns US forces with Sunni nationalist insurgents. Many in the Maliki government see that as something like a slow-moving anti-Shiite coup.
Insofar as Cheney has his eye on the control of Iraqi oil, then he may have no better friend in Iraq than the Sistani-backed oil minister, Hussain Shahristani.
Shahristani–a champion of aggressive de-Baathification–has done his best to shepherd US-backed oil legislation through the Iraqi political process amidst considerable opposition and he has shown himself to be a friend to foreign oil and a foe of organized oil workers.
And, in his recent CNN interview with Larry King, Cheney hardly seems like a strident critic of Shiite empowerment in Iraq. Indeed, he appears to put great stock in the 2005 elections that solidified Shiite political control–against the advice of Right Arabists like Brent Scowcroft–and he appears to go out of his way to defend the current Shiite government and parliament.
Here are some suggestive excerpts from King’s Cheney interview:
KING: OK, let’s go back. On this program, May of 2005, you said the Iraqi insurgency was in the last throes.
KING: Why were you wrong?
CHENEY: I think my estimate at the time — and it was wrong, it turned out to be incorrect — was the fact that we were in the midst of holding three elections in Iraq — electing an interim government, then ratifying a constitution and then electing a permanent government.
That they had had significant success. We had rounded up Saddam Hussein. I thought there were a series of these milestones that would, in fact, undermine the insurgency and make it less than it was at that point….
CHENEY: When you think about what’s been accomplished in, what, about four years now since we originally launched in there, they have, in fact, held three national elections and written a constitution….
KING: Does it bother you that the Iraqi parliament is taking August off?
CHENEY: Well, it’s better than…
KING: While our men are over there?
CHENEY: Yes. It’s better than taking…
KING: And women…
CHENEY: …two months off, which was their original plan. Our Congress, of course, takes the month of August off to go back home. So I don’t think we can say that they shouldn’t go home at all. But, obviously, we’re eager to have them complete their work.
And they have, in fact, passed about 60 pieces of legislation this year. They have been fairly productive. Now there are major issues yet to be addressed and be resolved that they are still working on. But they did — I made it clear, for example, when I was there in May, that we didn’t appreciate the notion that they were going take a big part of the summer off. And they did cut that in half.
Maybe Cheney’s attempt to tout accomplishments in Iraq–all his happy talk–is nothing more than evidence that he is in a state of denial or the he aims to deceive the public about his own enormous sense of disappointment and frustration.
Either seems plausible.
But isn’t it also plausible that Cheney–like his friends Fouad Ajami and Reuel Marc Gerecht, and his long-distance ally Sistani–is not unhappy with the Maliki government, in particular, or Shiite political dominance in Iraq, more generally?
Cheney… and his ace in the whole, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.