Using Iraqi Political Discord to Justify Continuance of
2 March 2010
By Dahr Jamail
As Iraqi national elections on March 7 approach,
violence and political discord in the country have
On February 22, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top US commander
in Iraq, announced that the US was preparing
contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of all
combat forces from Iraq if violence or political
instability increases after the national elections
scheduled for March 7.
There are approximately 96,000 US military personnel
in Iraq. Under President Obama’s current plan, which
is a continuation of George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq,
the stated intention is to cut the number of US troops
in Iraq to 50,000 by August 31.
The US government plans to keep at least 50,000 troops
in Iraq indefinitely, as a so-called training force
for Iraqi security forces.
On February 22 alone, the same day General Odierno
made his comments, at least 44 Iraqis and one US
soldier were killed as attacks raged across Iraq. In
one of the attacks, a female suicide bomber killed 22
people and wounded 33 others in an attack at the home
of a police commissioner in Balad Ruz. In another,
three mortar rounds struck the so-called Green Zone in
Baghdad, wounding at least six people.
The attacks have drawn comparisons by Iraqi analysts
to rampant attacks that occurred during the sectarian
bloodshed that ravaged Iraq between 2006-2007.
On February 19, just days before Odierno made his
comment about the possibility of ongoing violence
slowing a US withdrawal, US Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum
warned that violence in Iraq could worsen as a result
of the upcoming elections.
The elections have been seen as a pivotal point for
the Obama administration, with the expectation that
they would bring more political stability to Iraq,
further enabling a US withdrawal.
Instead, thus far, they are having the opposite
effect, as General Mangum suggested might happen.
“Will there be sectarian strife after the election?”
asked Mangum. “That’s our biggest concern at this
Mangum, one of the senior military commanders in Iraq,
warned that the period after Iraq’s national vote may
well be more dangerous than election day itself.
Mangum’s comments show that the military could already
expect Odierno’s contingency plans of slowing the
withdrawal to be a reality.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s political process appears to already
be in a state of breakdown largely fomented by current
and formerly US-backed players.
Months of delays and growing calls for boycotts, along
with actual boycotts of the election from candidates
and groups recently banned from participating are
fueling political discord that threatens to prevent
any party from successfully forming a government in
the wake of the elections.
One of Iraq’s most prominent Sunni Parliamentarian’s,
Saleh al-Mutlaq of Iraq’s National Dialogue Front,
recently decided to pull his party out of the
elections and boycott the vote, after being banned by
the Accountability and Justice Committee for
accusations of having affiliations with Iraq’s
dissolved Baath Party.
Mutlaq is protesting what he along with many Shia
politicians call a “dirty tricks” campaign that he
believes is masterminded by Iran that aims to secure
power for a Shia government. Many analysts see his
move as a reflection of the Sunni boycott of the 2005
Parliamentary elections that led to a large portion of
Iraq’s population being disenfranchised by the vote,
and was viewed as a major contributor to the sectarian
violence that followed.
Mutlaq’s accusations gain credibility where Iraqi
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is concerned.
The US government and corporate media prefer to focus
on Iran’s “meddling” in Iraq; yet, the key players
responsible for most of the political discord in Iraq
are US-installed and -backed men who have always had
clear links to Tehran.
Maliki is a case in point.
Maliki was an Iraqi in exile in Tehran from 1982-1990,
and then remained in Syria before returning to Iraq
after the US invasion of 2003. Maliki worked as a
political officer for the Dawa Party while in Syria,
developing close ties with Hezbollah and Iran.
The Dawa party backed the Iranian Revolution, as well
as backing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the
Iran-Iraq War. The group continues to receive
financial support from Tehran. Maliki is the secretary
general of the Dawa Party.
In April 2006, then US Secretary of State Condoleeza
Rice and her UK counterpart, Jack Straw, flew to
Baghdad in order to replace then Iraqi Prime Minister
Ibrahim al-Jafaari with Nouri al-Maliki. There was no
democratic process involved in the decision.
Another US-backed Iraqi ex-patriot with ties to Iran
is Ahmed Chalabi.
Recently the US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill,
along with General Odierno, referred to Chalabi as
Tehran’s leading agent in Iraq. Chalabi, who leads
Iraq’s Justice and Accountability Committee that has
been banning certain candidates from the upcoming
vote, was said to be “clearly influenced by Iran” last
week by General Odierno.
Chalabi played a major role in providing the Bush
administration with information it wanted in order to
justify invading Iraq. He is responsible for having
Mutlaq, along with hundreds of other candidates,
eliminated from the election on the mostly fraudulent
grounds that they are or were loyalists of Saddam
Hussein’s Baath party.
Along with Sunni leaders, his targets also include
secular nationalists, and the two most important
candidates who have been banned are leading members of
cross-sectarian alliances, which raises fears that
Iraq could be drifting toward a Shiite autocracy.
Another leading Sunni political party, the Iraqi
Islamic Party, blames the US for opening the door to
“Iranian influence” in Iraq, as well as for the
National Dialogue Front’s (NDF) decision to boycott
the March polls.
“We in the Iraqi Islamic Party are surprised to read
statements from the US regarding the negative Iranian
interference in internal Iraqi affairs,” the party
said in a February 22 statement, expressing its
“sorrow” over the NDF’s decision to boycott.
“We ask: Who made Iraqi land an open theatre for
regional and international interference? Who is
legally and ethically responsible for the violations
of Iraq?,” said the group’s statement.
Threats and accusations are being hurled by the Iraqi
government as well as the opposition.
On February 20, As-Sabah news reported that Maliki has
claimed external money is being introduced to Iraq in
order to change the result of the upcoming elections.
On February 21, the Al-Jarida newspaper reported that
Mutlaq gave this as a reason for his decision to
boycott the elections: “Following the statements made
yesterday by the commander of the American troops in
Iraq, General Ray Odierno, and those of US Ambassador
to Baghdad Christopher Hill, I believe that the
Justice and Accountability Committee is run by foreign
sides, namely Al-Quds force in Tehran. Therefore, the
Dialogue Front has announced its boycotting of the
The Quds Force is a special unit of Iran’s Army of the
Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. The Quds has been
described as a group whose primary mission is to
organize, train, equip and fund foreign Islamic
revolutionary movements, and they report directly to
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
As a result of all of this, international observers of
the upcoming elections in Iraq have lowered their
expectations for the poll. Few diplomats in Baghdad
now talk of “free and fair elections.” Instead, the
new publicly stated goal is to have a “credible
election”; yet, even that seems doubtful at this
On February 23, the Al-Arab newspaper carried an
opinion piece by Fadel al-Rubaie. “Political observers
are assuring that the post-elections stage will be
much more dangerous than the current one
(pre-elections) because the conflict will erupt
between the different powers and on more than one
front,” wrote Rubaie before he went on to discuss much
of the aforementioned political machinations between
the candidates and parties.
For these reasons, as well as other volatile issues
like Kurdish control of Kirkuk in the north and the
issue of federalism in Iraq, Rubaie’s conclusion is
ominous: “For all those reasons, it would be
delusional to say that the magical solution to Iraq’s
predicament resides in the elections, since quite the
contrary, these elections could open the gates of