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Monday, June 28, 2004

Juan Cole On The "Handover"

Juan Cole has consistently been one of the best go-to folks for all things related to Bush's Iraqi misadventure. Now that, as Soledad O'Brien informed America this morning on CNN, "the American occupation is officially over," Professor Cole gives us some educated insight into Allawi's hopes for success:

Allawi is not popular and was not elected by anyone in Iraq. The Kurds were sullen today. There were no public celebrations in Baghdad. When people in the Arab world are really happy, there is celebratory fire. They are willing to give Allawi a chance, but that is different from wholehearted support....

...Since Bremer was a congenital screw-up, just getting him and his CPA out of the country and out of control may be a good step forward. Allawi won't care about Polish style shock therapy for the economy. Allawi does not have any investment in keeping Iraq weak or preventing it from having a proper army. But how the Iraqi military, if brought back, can operate in a security environment where there are 160,000 foreign troops under US command is unclear.

So that some group of Iraqis now control the budget and can set key policy in some regards may be significant. But the caretaker government is hedged around by American power. Negroponte (the US ambassador to Baghdad who has just arrived in the country) will control $18 bn. in US AID to Iraq. Rumsfeld will go on controlling the US and coalition military. There isn't much space left for real Iraqi sovereignty in all that.

Another danger is that Allawi will overshoot and provide too much security. He is infatuated with reviving the Baath secret police or mukhabarat, and bringing back Saddam's domestic spies. Unlike the regular army, which had dirty and clean elements, all of the secret police are dirty, and if they are restored, civil liberties are a dead letter.

The guerrilla insurgency will continue, perhaps become more active. My wife Shahin, always a keen and canny observer, thinks the guerrillas will make their priority number one the assassination of Allawi.

I agree with Shahin wholeheartedly. In fact, they've stated as much:

DUBAI, June 23 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda-linked operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has threatened to kill Iraq's new Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in a purported audiotape posted on an Internet Web site.

"As for you Allawi -- sorry, the democratically-elected prime minister -- we have found for you a useful poison and a sure sword...we will pursue our mission (to kill you) to the end," the voice on the tape says.

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