Syria Circling The Drain

So far, we’ve seen varying degrees of serious Muslim unrest in Pakistan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Bahrain, Libya, and Oman. Now, it appears that Syria is also on the verge of descending into chaos.

Thousands continue protests in Syria

Thousands of people took to the streets in the southern city of Dara, chanting “Syria, Freedom,” a day after a deadly crackdown on protests there, human rights activists said.

The demonstrations Thursday occurred at the funerals for some of those killed when government forces opened fire on protesters the previous day. Initial reports put the death toll at 15, but Reuters news agency, citing a hospital source, said more than 25 people were killed.

. . .

No additional violence was reported Thursday, but human rights activists said a number of Syrian writers and journalists who reported on the unrest in Dara had been arrested.

. . .

Presidential advisor Bouthaina Shaaban pledged to consider ending the emergency law in place since 1963 that has allowed the government to detain anyone without a warrant or a trial.

She said the government was also drafting a law that would allow political parties other than the ruling Baath party to operate, and loosen restrictions on news media. She also promised wage increases and health insurance for public servants.

But the human rights activists noted that the promises were not binding and pledged to move forward with their plans for Friday protests.

See also:
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad faces most serious unrest of his tenure
The Syrian revolt
Syria: patience of people running thin
Thousands Protest At Syrian Funerals
Thousands of Syrians chant “freedom” at Deraa mosque
Reports of bloodbath in Syria
Syrian Police Kill at Least 15 Protesters
Syria changes tack, promises reform
Syria offers reforms to calm violence
Syria crisis: Can reforms appease protesters?
Obama administration condemns Syria crackdown
2011 Syrian protests

Like Libya, here’s another revolt that I can heartily root for. Bashar al-Assad has buckets of American and Israeli blood on his hands and I would thoroughly enjoy watching his corpse being dragged through the streets. Tomorrow’s planned Day of Rage, after Friday prayers, could be a tipping point as to whether the Syrian government will fall or brutally repress the protesters. Stay tuned.

/of course, the Muslim country government that I would most like to see circle the drain is the Iranian regime, directly responsible for well over 90% of all the terrorism on the planet, maybe, hopefully, soon

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It’s Allawi By A Nose

Allawi wins thin plurality in Iraq election

A secular Shiite, Ayad Allawi, has won a narrow plurality in Iraq’s national election, but it is a religious Shia party that will likely determine if he’ll form a government.

Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya party took 91 of the 325 seats in Iraq’s Council of Representatives, electoral officials declared yesterday, 19 days after 12 million Iraqis went to the polls.

The current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whose party won 89 seats, immediately announced he would not accept the results and called for a recount.

But it is the third-place Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a coalition dominated by two religious Shia parties, that is in the driver’s seat.

With 163 members needed to form a majority, the result means that unless Mr. Allawi and Mr. Maliki join forces – which is highly unlikely, since they despise one other – the only way either man can likely form a government is with the support of the INA. Any coalition formed without it would be too fragmented and give undue clout to smaller parties.

Mr. Maliki, leader of the Shia religious Dawa party, would seem a natural partner for the INA, the product of a union between the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by Ammar al-Hakim, and the Sadrist followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. All three parties are pro-Iranian.

But two things stand in the way of such a coalition. The Sadrists want no part of a government led by Mr. Maliki, the man who crushed the Sadrist militia in Basra and Baghdad, while Mr. Hakim professes to have learned his lesson in last year’s provincial election that it is more important to emphasize broad national interests than narrow sectarian ones.

Indeed, it was the 2005 coalition government of these three elements, along with major Kurdish parties, that contributed to the country’s bloody sectarian conflict and the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Nevertheless, many Iraq watchers believe that Iran would still prefer to see these three Shia parties hook up again. That was reportedly Tehran’s view last summer when the three considered a union, but it was Mr. Maliki who turned his back on the idea, preferring to go it alone with his State of Law bloc. Now it’s Mr. Maliki who needs allies.

New life was breathed into the idea of a reunion of the pro-Iranian groups by a Supreme Court decision handed down this week. The court held that the stipulation in the constitution that the bloc with the largest number of seats gets the first chance to form a government is not limited to a bloc that ran in the election. It also could mean a group of parties formed after the vote. In other words, a quickly formed coalition of the three Shia religious parties could claim the right to try to form the next government.

For his part, Mr. Allawi, who served as the first, provisional prime minister in 2004, can argue that such a coalition will only stoke the fires of sectarianism, something that most Iraqis want to avoid.

Indeed, Mr. Allawi’s success is testament to that. A secular Shiite, he ran in partnership with several Sunni political figures determined to get a share of power. Mr. Allawi polled well in Sunni districts but, as Iraq-watcher Reidar Visser observed last night, his victory was more than just about his appeal across the sectarian divide.

“By winning more seats than expected south of Baghdad [where Shiites predominate], and almost as many seats as Maliki in [religiously mixed] Baghdad, Allawi has proved that he is more than ‘the candidate of the Sunnis’,” Mr. Visser wrote on his highly regarded historiae.org website.

With the support of the INA’s 70 members, plus a handful of others, Mr. Allawi could form a government. While some analysts, such as Mr. Visser, caution that uniting Iraqiya with the INA could “mean another oversized, ineffective government populated by parties with little in common,” not everyone agrees. Sheik Jalal Eddin al-Saghir, the INA’s most senior council member, says he has tried to get Mr. Allawi to join their alliance in the past.

“We can work with him,” said Sheik al-Saghir, imam of Baghdad’s most important Shia mosque.

Some of Mr. Allawi’s Sunni partners may have trouble working with the INA, however.

It was the INA that launched an anti-Baathist campaign that prevented several Sunni politicians from running in the election. Many of those blocked from running hailed from Iraqiya. They argue that they hold no brief for the memory of Saddam Hussein and left the Baath party long ago. Their history, they say, should not bar them from political office.

These same Iraqiya politicians may also have a difficult time teaming up with some of Iraq’s Kurdish political leaders. Prominent in Mr. Allawi’s party is a group of arch-nationalists who are determined to prevent the Kurds from claiming territory in and around the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk that lie between the Kurds’ northern heartland and Sunni Arab population centres.

Indeed, the first move in the game of coalition-building may well be an attempt by the major Kurdish leaders to team up themselves with the INA. Both groups share a preference for Canadian-style decentralized federalism and together could parley their combined force into concessions from either Mr. Allawi or Mr. Maliki.

See also:
Alliance led by ex-Iraqi PM wins election narrowly
Reports: Former Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi wins most seats in Iraqi parliament
Allawi wins narrow victory in Iraqi vote
Secular bloc wins most seats in Iraq
Preliminary results show Allawi wins most seats in Iraq election
Iraq Election Results Give Allawi Group Largest Bloc (Update3)
Secular challenger hails Iraq election victory
Secularist former leader Allawi wins Iraq vote
Allawi wins Iraqi election; al-Maliki rejects results
Maliki seeks recount in Iraq elections
Poll body rejects Iraq recount call
Iraq’s Allawi ‘open to talks’ over new government
Allawi pledges to work with rivals as Iraq election result declared
Iraq’s Allawi extends hand to rival
Iraq’s Allawi says open to all in coalition talks
Iraq election front-runners court possible allies
After Win, Will Former U.S. Front Man Rule in Iraq?
Ayad Allawi, once seen as a U.S. puppet, returns to the center of Iraqi politics
Allawi Wins and the Media Misses the Significance
Analysis: Allawi win could curb Iran’s influence
In Iraq’s election, a defeat for Iran

Although the margin is razor thin and the election dust is far from settled, this is arguably a victory for the United States and a defeat for Iran, since Allawi is a pro-West secular candidate, whereas al-Maliki is a pro-Iran religious candidate. Hell, the fact that this election unfolded as smoothly as it did is, in and of itself, a victory for the United States. Iraq sure has come a long way since 2003.

/now, let the coalition wrangling begin!

A Recipe For Disaster

Can you smell what Iran is cooking?

Key Iraqi Sunni Political Bloc Pulls Out of March 7 Parliamentary Election

A key Sunni political bloc declared Saturday that it would not take part in Iraq’s March 7 parliamentary election. Saleh al-Mutlak, who was banned from running by a parliamentary committee, is pulling his National Dialogue Front out of the election with just over a week to go before voting is set to begin.

The decision by veteran Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlak to pull his political bloc out of the approaching election poses a severe blow to the Iraqi electoral process, and gives ammunition to adversaries of any compromise.

An appeals court recently upheld a decision by a parliamentary committee barring al-Mutlak from running, because of alleged ties to the Baath Party of deposed leader Saddam Hussein.

Mutlak’s spokesman, Haidar al-Mullah, told reporters that his National Dialogue Front was “boycotting the upcoming election” and urged other parties to do the same. He supported the decision by citing complaints by U.S. commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno and Ambassador Christopher Hill over Iranian interference in the electoral process.

The parliament committee which banned dozens of prominent Sunni candidates from running in the election is led by pro-Iranian politicians Ahmad Chalabi and Ali Faisal al-Lami. Chalabi denied, Friday, on Al Hurra TV, that Iran had any responsibility in the decision.

. . .

Top U.S. officials, as well as many Iraqi Sunni leaders, have accused Iran of pushing for the decision to ban key Sunni politicians from running in the election. Marina Ottaway thinks that it may be a “bit much to see the long arm of [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmedinejad” behind the current crisis, because Iraq, she says, “has never had much of a democratic tradition.”

Abou Diab, however, believes that the current political imbroglio has clear Iranian origins, and that Iran wants “to turn Iraq into a friendly client-state after the planned U.S. withdrawal,” next August.

See also:
Iraq party pulls out of vote
Popular Sunni political party to boycott Iraqi elections
Sunni party vows to boycott Iraqi elections
Fears of Iraq poll boycott after Sunni party pulls out
Sunni party to boycott Iraqi elections
Sunni bloc boycotts Iraq vote citing Iran interference
In Turmoil, Sunni Party in Iraq Calls for Vote Boycott
Secular party withdraws from Iraq’s elections
Sunni Bloc Boycotts Iraq Polls
Sunni party pulls out of Iraq elections
US envoy accuses Iran over poll ban
US general links Chalabi to Iran
Chalabi Tells General Odierno: ‘Mind Your Own Business’ – Iraq News Agency, Iraq
Iraqi former PM Allawi meets Saudi king ahead of polls

Remember Ahmed Chalabi? He was instrumental in providing us with the information (reports of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s alleged ties to al-Qaeda) that got us to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Now, it appears that he’s trying to deliver control over Iraq to the Iranians after we leave. Have we been played as the world’s biggest suckers by Iran and her agents?

/wouldn’t it be a shame if Ahmed Chalabi were to suddenly go missing?