Democracy or 'cut and run'? New U.S. man in Iraq is not known for bucking the bad guys -
Explanation of the humiliation of US ally Chalabi: He knew too much
DOSSIER: Lakhdar Brahimi
Brahimi worked out an agreement that consolidated Syria's military occupation of Lebanon for at least a decade.
Mission: UN special envoy to Iraq
The Bush administration's agreement for Lakhdar Brahimi, special adviser to
secretary general, to choose the next interim Iraqi government could signal
the end of U.S. efforts to establish democracy in Iraq. The appointment appears
to be part of a scenario in which the United States plans to order troops home
after a general election in Iraq by the end of the year. Under this scenario,
Iraq will have had its election, the United States will have declared victory
and the only losers may be those who hope for Iraqi and Arab democracy.
"The decision to allow Brahimi to run Iraq until the end of the year means the administration has embarked on a cut-and-run policy," a senior congressional aide involved in U.S. policy on Iraq said. "The policy is based on pleasing the same Arab despots that the administration has sought to oppose to perhaps win a few months of quiet in Iraq just enough time for the U.S. to get out."
The choice of Brahimi could not have given a better indication of the administration's about-face on Iraq. Brahimi symbolizes everything that the administration's so-called democratic reform policy for the Arab world opposes. For decades, Brahimi's job in the Arab League, Algerian Foreign Ministry and UN has been to ensure the Arab status quo. No democracy, no human rights, no peaceful avenues for change have been noticeable items on his agenda
Brahimi has been particularly close to such so-called models of democracy as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He was foreign minister of and chief apologist for Algeria during the worst excesses of the military regime from 1991 to 1993. His daughter is engaged to the brother of Jordan's King Abdullah. Brahimi is regarded as extremely close to Arab League Secretary-general Amr Mussa and to the Egyptian leadership.
Brahimi's conduct during the Taif talks to end the civil war in Lebanon offers a glimpse into how this diplomat operates. Brahimi worked out an agreement that consolidated Syria's military occupation of Lebanon for at least a decade. That gave Damascus enough time to so thoroughly co-opt the government and elite in Beirut that not one prominent Lebanese politician has since called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Indeed, such a call has been regarded as a crime in Lebanon.
Top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, center, and the new Iraqi Governing Council chief Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, right, and U.N. envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi, left, stand among other officials and relatives during a memorial service for the chairman of the Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem in Baghdad on May 18.
Iraqi sources said Brahimi who helped set up the new government in Afghanistan has approached his current job in Iraq in a similar way to that of Taif lots of talk but leave the real authority in the hands of the despots. They said that during his first meeting with the Iraqi Governing Council, Brahimi made it clear that he was not just meeting them as a UN envoy, but rather as a "brother Arab." For those Kurds and Shi'ites, who form the majority of the IGC, the message was clear: You are not wanted.
Already, Brahimi has focused on marginalizing Kurds and Shi'ites in any Iraqi leadership with the Kurds being the first target. He told the Kurds that they would not be included in the first level of Iraqi leadership. Instead, the Kurds were offered one of the two vice presidents, a formula used in the Arab world to provide an impressive title bereft of authority. The Kurds have already rejected the proposal, which expected to delay U.S. hopes for general elections in Iraq in January 2005.
The Shi'ites have also been shifting uneasily. Brahimi appears to be passing over the democrats in the Shi'ite community and instead seeks those who are ready to guarantee the minority Sunni community with a leading role in Iraq. And when Brahimi talks of Sunnis, he means Saddam's former thugs.
Iraqi sources that have attended Brahimi's meetings said the UN envoy plans to appoint a figurehead perhaps Sharif Ali - as president. But the real power will lay with Ali's deputy who almost certainly will be a former Saddam aide. As Brahimi sees it, Iraqis need a strong hand.
Ahmad Chalabi failed to persuade the White House. The sight of U.S. boys dying daily in Iraq without a clear exit strategy was not seen as a reelection strategy.
Brahimi has made it clear that he opposes removing Ba'athists from power. He said U.S. efforts to remove the Ba'athists from government, schools, police and the military have been extreme. The 2 million Ba'athists in Iraq carried out Saddam's policy of torture, death and deportation. The only criteria for government jobs was Ba'athist membership. In Saddam's world, there were no technocrats.
As a result, the U.S. military was ordered to release Iraqi terrorists and criminals en masse from Abu Gharib prison. Saddam's former generals and troops were given the keys to Fallujah, the heart of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition.
Ironically, the U.S. "de-Ba'athification" policy has been deemed the most popular policy in Iraq. CPA chief Paul Bremer continues to be thanked by ordinary Iraqis for removing Saddam loyalists that did nothing for the country other than rob and kill.
Why the about-face in the Bush administration? Senior U.S. State Department officials will tell you straight: The administration was wrong in its Iraqi strategy. The plan should have been to just get rid of Saddam and leave the rest to the UN. As these officials see it, the Iraqis, along with the rest of the Arabs, are basically criminals and incapable of democracy.
"Iraq is very much a tribal society, and tribal leaders and tribal membership is extraordinarily important, and I think we were not as farsighted on that as possible," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. "The second thing is I don't think any of us had realized the extent to which much of Iraq had become a criminal society during the time of Saddam Hussein; and particularly since the sanctions, people had become very entrepreneurial in criminal enterprise, and I think that was an element that we hadn't properly expected. So those are a couple of my disappointments."
Armitage made clear that the United States has essentially dropped its reform policy in both Iraq as well as the rest of the Arab world.
Washington will serve as a cheerleader, nothing more.
"To the extent they spread democracy, it will be by their example," Armitage said. "Let's be clear on that."
Already, the Iraqi experiment has shown that, given stability, Iraqis will make the right choices and reject despotic regime sponsors.
U.S. officials said that in the March and April local elections that took place in the Shi'ite provinces in southern Iraq, independents and representatives of non-religious parties beat the Islamists backed by Iran in nearly every case. Take away the belief that the U.S. wants a real election in Iraq by having Brahimi stack the deck against independents and Iraqis will choose the candidates they fear most.
There is one obstacle to the administration's policy Ahmad Chalabi. The State Department, CIA and parts of the White House regard Chalabi as a dangerous man. Simply put, he knows too much.
Chalabi has repeatedly warned the United States not to backtrack on its decision to remove Saddam's aides from power.
Chalabi said allowing Saddam's generals to command the army and security forces would destroy any chance of democracy in the country and threaten to split Iraq into Kurdish, Shi'ite and Sunni zones. He has also threatened to release damaging details on the corruption in the UN oil-for-food program, which included high UN officials, possibly including the son of Secretary-general Kofi Annan.
"I have opened up the investigation of the oil-for-food program, which has cast doubt about the integrity of the UN here," Chalabi said. "They don't like this."
But Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell were not to be dissuaded. They are convinced that unless the administration converts Iraq into an international problem, the U.S. will never succeed in leaving Iraq. The sight of U.S. boys dying daily in Iraq without a clear exit strategy is not seen as a reelection strategy.
"There will be some Ba'athists who wind up getting back into positions of power in violation of the policy people with blood on their hands, people who were directly involved in the former regime's crimes, and when that's made available to us, we will get to the bottom of it and ensure that they're out of positions of power," CPA senior adviser Dan Senor said. "But we need to know who these people are."
The first thing the administration did was to cut off funding for Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC had been receiving $335,000 a month from the Defense Department to provide intelligence. And none other than Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has testified that INC-provided intelligence saved American lives.
The second goal by CIA and State was to discredit Chalabi. Former U.S. officials, including a current lobbyist to an Arab state, have been feeding the major U.S. media word that Chalabi relayed U.S. funding and intelligence information to Iran. Of course, Chalabi has not been formally charged or even accused on the record by any U.S. official.
The third goal was to humiliate Chalabi. The CPA and the Iraqis had arranged for television news crews to record Chalabi and his top aides being led out in handcuffs. But Chalabi outwitted the U.S. authorities, and he was not at home.
Brahimi's role in Baghdad with U.S. endorsement could destroy Iraq once and for all. The assessment by many Iraqis is that the United States will begin to withdraw its troops from Iraq after the presidential elections in November. By mid-2005, most U.S. troops will be out of the country and Iraq will be plunged into civil war. Iran will grab the Shi'ite areas of central and southern Iraq. Turkey will invade northern Iraq. And Jordan and Saudi Arabia will vie for control over the Sunni minority.
For Washington, time is short. U.S. officials hope that Brahimi will come up with names for the new interim Iraqi government by the first week of June. The proposed government will be presented to the UN and work has already begun on a Security Council resolution to endorse the arrangement.
Powell has spent much of his time trying to convince Congress of Brahimi's usefulness to administration policy. He hopes that Brahimi will win Iraq international recognition and a UN peacekeeping role that would include Arab states. Already, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Oman have signaled their willingness to contribute troops under a UN umbrella.
"Brahimi is not an unknown to us," Powell said. "Ambassador Brahimi worked with us in Afghanistan. We really need the UN, and we work with the UN. And for people who say we want to internationalize this, that means the United Nations, it means NATO, it means other international organizations."
Geostrategy-Direct, www.geostrategy-direct.com, June 1, 2004
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