Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ghosts of Iraqi Past

The New York Times has a story today about the problem of dead-end Baathists still causing problems in Iraq and in doing so dredged up a name from the past:
But the hardening of the government’s stance on Baathists seems to be dousing any flicker of optimism. In a recent message, Mr. Douri rallied insurgents of all stripes to fight American troops and Mr. Maliki’s government.
"Rallied insurgents of all stripes"-- an interesting comment. Iraq's public enemy number one has long been known to have an interest in Islamists, even before the war and despite the conventional wisdom that Saddam was too secular for al Qaeda's tastes.

While violence has been down to the point where McCain and other conservatives have proclaimed victory the latest developments suggest at least a few stumbling blocks on the road to peaceful reconciliation--Obama's best hope for a triumphant withdrawal. The Times mentioned "Mr. al-Douri" a few weeks ago in this piece by Rob Nordland that got very little fanfare in the states (mainly because the average person has no clue who Izzat al-Douri is and doesn't care since few are following Iraq anymore). But the article is worth some comment, so here we go...
The audiotape by the Hussein ally, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was deputy chairman of Mr. Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council, was broadcast on Al Jazeera on Tuesday, and an e-mailed transcript was provided separately to The New York Times by a Baath Party representative in Syria.
...who is probably the guy mentioned in today's article, a Lt. Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani.
Mr. Douri, 65, is a member of the “deck of cards” of 52 Iraqi officials that American troops distributed after the invasion in 2003. American intelligence officials say he is active in financing and organizing insurgents, including Baathists.
They say the same thing about Saddam's spoiled daughter Raghad, who is wanted by Interpol. She's also operating out of Jordan, which suggests some Persian-Arab detente in play.
“The political process is the occupation’s main project, so attack it through all means available to you,” Mr. Douri said, addressing “jihadis” in Iraq.
According to someone known to this blog working in-country the disputes are more about turf than anything else and al-Douri is above all a gangster (as was Saddam) so this fits nicely. The point here is his willingness to use religious jihadies as tools, which was one of the reasons Bush gave for going to war.
He said a Baathist government in Iraq would seek good relations with the Obama administration and “put behind them what happened in the past.”
This appears to be a veiled threat of some degree, ie, they control the level of violence but can ratchet things down if they get a good deal. But coming from a guy who has died at least twice, why would anyone believe him?
The prime minister’s statement described the bombings as “a gift of the disbanded Baath Party on the ill omen of its anniversary.” Tuesday was the anniversary of the founding of the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq from 1968 until Mr. Hussein was ousted by the Americans.
Of note were the targets of the recent bombings--largely Shiite neighborhoods and mosques on the anniversary of the Golden Mosque attacks in 2006 blamed on AQI that started the last 'civil war' (and probably contributed to at least some of the political change we've seen in America since 2006). In light of the recent attacks Iraq's announcement they had captured the phantom known as Omar al-Baghdadi--again--was probably a psyops move to calm the masses.

I'm certainly not an analyst, just an interested observer, but this looks to be a good test for the Maliki government as to their ability to put down instability, and a good test for the Obama administration in dealing with the disparate parties throughout the region. Hillary seems to be on the case.

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