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Iraq Former P.M. Says Surge Not so Great

by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Thu., Jul 24, 2008
Filed under: War Making and OversightCongressional Oversight

When it comes to Iraq, the surge is a great success, right? Well, according to Ayad Allawi, Iraq’s former prime minister, that depends on what you mean by “success”.

In a briefing before members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday, Allawi answered questions from members of he subcommittee on international organizations, human rights, and oversight. When asked by Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., the subcommittee’s ranking member, for Allawi’s “assessment of of what’s come of the surge,” Allawi all but said, not much.

Reminding Rohrabacher that the original objective of the surge was to create a safe environment for a process of national reconciliation, Allawi said, “Now, militarily, the surge has achieved some of its goals. Politically, I don’t think so.”

Allawi rattled off a laundry list of perils that still confront the Iraqi people: internal displacement of large numbers of people, millions of refugees outside Iraq, security forces he described as sectarian militias dressed in national uniforms and no regime for enforcement of the national constitution, which he described as a “divisive” document.

The former prime minister, who is now a member of the Iraqi parliament, also alleged that the process known as “deBaathification” is “being used to punish people.” Originally designed to purge Saddam Hussein’s loyalists from military and security forces, Allawi said the process has become politicized and can be used against virtually anybody, since Saddam Hussein’s “Baath party ruled for 35 years, and every individual had to join…”

“So, if you measure the surge from a military point of view, it has succeeded,” Allawi said. “But I don’t think this was the [prime] objective, because soon you will have reversals. Security has not prevailed, and the key element in security is reconciliation, and building national institutions for the country. If this does not happen, then the surge will go in vain.”

Despite his role as arch-rival to current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (whose party defeated Allawi’s in Iraq’s 2005 elections), Allawi seems to concur with Maliki’s call for a plan for withdrawal of U.S. troops. In his opening statement, Allawi told the subcommittee, “As we think about moving to the next stage of our relationship, it is appropriate to discuss a time frame for reduction of U.S. forces.”

He cautioned, however, against any withdrawal that would take place before non-sectarian institutions and defense forces took shape, or before a reconciliation process, which he noted as being high on Congress’s list of benchmarks, is under way in earnest.

Nonetheless, leaders of Allawi’s political party, the Iraqi National List, were among the 31 leaders in the Iraq parliament who signed a letter (PDF file) presented to Congress on May 29 for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to be part of any future agreement between the two countries. The 31 signatories signed as representatives of their political parties, collectively speaking for a majority of Iraq’s 275 members of parliament.

The Bush administration has been negotiating with the Maliki government an agreement based on a “declaration of principles“, which the two leaders signed November without the approval of their respective legislatures. This coming December, the U.N. mandate that protects U.S. forces in Iraq will expire, and the administration apparently seeks to replace it with a bilateral agreement that takes the U.N. out of the equation.

Subcommitee Chairman Bill Delahunt , D-Mass., yesterday conducted the seventh in his series of hearings on the declaration of principles. Allawi did not appear as part of that hearing, but rather in a briefing held afterwards. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Delahunt’s co-sponsor on the U.N. mandate for another six months, sat in for the “conversation”, as it was called, with Allawi, commiserating over the lack of transparency by their respective executives about agreements under discussion via the declaration of principles.

“When you said you don’t know what the substance of that agreement is — that’s the same for us,” DeLauro said.

Once seen as a tool of the Bush administration (especially during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry), Allawi today is singing a different tune from the cheerful notes he once struck in favor of Bush’s Iraq policy. His eyes are clearly trained on the 2008 U.S. presidential election — and Iraq’s 2009 national elections.

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