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 sixteen-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 US commanders in Iraq.
Yesterday he testified in front of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the proposed US-Iraq status of forces agreement (SOFA) and the parallel US-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 US 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.