Israel makes friends in Iraq
Mithal al-Alousi, a top aide to Iraqi
National Congress leader, Ahmed Chalabi, has just turned up in Israel,
according to the Israeli newspaper
attending a conference on terrorism at the
Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre. Rather implausibly al-Alousi claims
that his boss, Chalabi, did not know about the trip to Israel, but he
says Chalabi supports contacts with Israel
Al Alousi was Director General of the
de-Baathification department that oversaw the purging of Ba'ath party
activists from Iraqi institutions. This process proved controversial as
Ba'ath party membership was mandatory for many professionals, or those
seeking foreign travel. Husam al-Rawi, a member of the Royal Institute
of British Architects and a professor at Baghdad University was reported
in the Guardian
saying "The problem is they
didn't look at who were really leaders. They ... went down too low.
Instead of targeting a thousand or a few
hundred people, they targeted 80,000."
In a one party state, the governing party acts as a social institution
that draws in members for pragmatic, rather then purely ideological
reasons. The majority of Ba'ath members will have had no relationship
with the repressive security services.
De-Ba'athification, was a particular
project of the Pentagon's favourite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi and American
neo-con Paul Wolfowitz. It is therefore a project particularly
associated with the neo-conservative agenda. Interestingly, Paul Bremmer
the former American imperial pro-consul dissolved the de-Baathification
unit the day before he handed over power to the Interim Iraqi
Government, without reference to any Iraqi organisation.
The new government of Iyad Alawi has
since both criticized the disbanding of the Iraqi army by Bremmer and
said that it will incorporate Ba-ath party experience back into
government. Clearly Alawi intends to build a repressive police state,
and he needs all the help he can get.
Chalabi had been widely tipped to take
over as Iraqi president, before being sidelined by rival Alawi.
Seemingly from no-where rumours started circulated in Washington,
including a leading article in
Newsweek in May, that Chalabi
might be working with the Iranian government. Laughably some unnamed
Whitehouse sources suggested that Chalabi may have fed the CIA false
Iranian intelligence on Iraqi WMD to goad the US into attacking Iraq!
Of course Chalabi has links with Tehran,
as he was the CIA's go-between to the Iranian government, particularly
in 1995 when a CIA operative known as "Bob" tried to coordinate military
action between the Kurdish guerrilla armies and the Badr Brigade - Iraqi
shias, armed and trained by Iran, in a push to overthrow Saddam. Chalabi
was promising that some Iraqi army units would defect. The offensive,
scheduled for March 3rd was called off at the eleventh hour,
as it seems that "Bob" had exceeded his authority.
Al Alousi's visit to
Israel is in fact not surprising. Chalabi has had long term relations
with Tel Aviv, and his project in Iraq is associated with a Zionist
dream of Balkanising the Arab world, with weak states and strong war
lords. Under Chalabi Iraq would have become the Lebanon with oil.
Chalabi's flirting with the Zionists is not unique.
reports the Iraqi ambassador in London recently saying there is a
powerful lobby in Baghdad pushing for ties with Israel. The Arab Web
site Al Illaf
just published a report saying that Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar
Zabari, is pushing for an end to the state of war between Iraq and
Israel. This is perhaps not surprising as Zabari was formerly the chief
lieutenant of Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic
Party (KDP). The penny drops when we ask who was involved from the KDP
in negotiations with the CIA and Chalabi in 1995 - yes our friend
quoting Iraqi diplomats in Amman, there was a recent meeting in Jordan
of senior Iraqis with Israelis. They say Iraqi defence minister Hazem
Al-Shaalan also favours a thaw in relations with Israel. Al Shaalan is
a shady figure. He was a Ba'ath Party member and Iraqi MP until 1990,
when he suddenly left for London and allegedly spied on the opposition
groups in the UK for Baghdad. He joined the émigré Free Iraqi Council,
and it is rumoured that he became a CIA spy. He emerged from no-where in
Iraq to become governor of Diwaniyah, and was then elevated to Foreign
Minister! He certainly has strong friends in the American camp, and few
friends in Iraq.
Not all in the Iraq government favour
normalization of relations with Israel. Importantly, the new Quisling
President Iyad Alawi, is opposed. This is further evidence that there is
still a power struggle in Iraq between different American strategies,
and between their allies about what best to do. There is reportedly a
poisonous atmosphere in the Iraqi government as ambitious and ruthless
wannabes jockey for position.
Currently the Americans are viewing
Chalabi with disfavour,
but he still draws $340,000 per month from
the Pentagon, including $36000 per month to maintain an office in
Tehran. Washington clearly wants to keep its options open. The model of
government Chalabi proposed for Iraq has failed disastrously in
Afghanistan. In his recent autobiography, General Franks, the man who
led the invasion of Afghanistan admits that the Whitehouse had a plan to
install Hamid Karzai long before 11th September 2001. So the failure to
reconstruct Afghanistan was deliberate policy from the start.
Indeed, there seems to be a shift in
policy in Afghanistan. A few days ago, the war lord in Herat, Ismail
Khan, was overthrown by the US backed government of Karzai. This briefly
led to the United Nations withdrawing from the city after their office
was mobbed by 1000 supporters of Ismail Khan, and according to Paul
Greening, an Oxford based volunteer now in Kabul, all International
citizens were pulled out of Herat by the International NGO security
officer. Nevertheless, American troops backed the Afghan government
forces who secured victory; and this may represent a move towards
stronger, centralised government and reining in the warlords.
What does come across is that the
American neo-cons have bitten off more than they can chew. Their
ideological assumptions of what would happen after invasion were wrong,
and resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq has caused them to revise their
plans. The links to Israel by some members of Alawi's government suggest
that he presides over a divided house, and furthermore that not all
sections of the US state are throwing their lot in with him. The
prospects of American victory in Iraq look very slim as they seem to be
adrift without a rudder.