As U.S. military sees finish line in Iraq, Allawi has doubts

Scott Sadler Contributor
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Every day there’s a new development in the Iraqi election dispute and more frequent, fresh attacks. “I really don’t know how it will end,” said former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. He may not see the finish line but the U.S. military does. “We are on track with our responsible drawdown plan,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, a U.S. military spokesman.

Mr. Allawi’s efforts to become Iraq’s next leader received a boost last week when the election commission affirmed their original vote count. That’s right, the recount is done. The vote stands. It stood after the results were announced but the outcome wasn’t what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki thought it should be. Mr. Allawi won 91 seats compared to Mr. Maliki’s 89 seats, both men short of the 163 seats needed to govern outright. Another important sign was a rejection by the appeals court over the disqualification of nine winning candidates.

Despite assurances from the United States and the United Nations of no election fraud, Mr. Maliki insisted upon a recount of the Baghdad vote. “I hope that all political blocks are satisfied now that the electoral process was honest and all allegations of fraud and forgery were totally incorrect,” said the commission spokesman. The commission’s news “removed a stumbling block in the long-delayed process of forming a new government,” said The New York Times, but it still doesn’t answer the question of who will become Iraq’s next Prime Minister? “The impasse over who will be the prime minister will likely continue for months,” wrote the Christian Science Monitor. In comments on Saturday, Mr. Maliki dismissed the rush to form a government. “I say we should not bow to the pressures of time and make a big mistake,” he said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Maliki’s party, State of Law coalition and the conservative Shiite Iraqi National Alliance (INA) agreed to unite to form a government, just four parliamentary seats shy of a ruling majority. The coalition is fragile and still could rupture. Mr. Allawi is not going to stand by and allow “the will of the Iraqi people to be confiscated.” Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, told Reuters News Agency of “our constitutional and electoral right to form the government and to name the prime minister.” Then, there’s the question of Muqtada al-Sadr’s influence in the process. The U.S. Embassy is also weighing in “to the realization that Prime Minister al-Maliki, or at least his political bloc, will come out on top and form the next government,” according to Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy.

Mr. Allawi has every right to begin the formation of a government. It is critical the Sunnis not be overlooked. However, Mr. Maliki continues to fill the atmosphere with political rhetoric that is not helpful. “I say to our brothers in Iraqiya list: You are wasting your time and delaying the political process,” the Prime Minister said. Now, that’s the pot calling the kettle black.

While Mr. Maliki continues to play politics, worrisome signs are brewing that “the middle class is losing heart” and reports that Iran is “seen as using influence to help Maliki stay on,” according to The Los Angeles Times. What has Mr. Maliki promised Tehran? Is this the “democracy” the people of Iraq expected when they cast their votes? Two and a half months have passed and the road to forming a government is as bleak now as it was then.

Scott Sadler is an experienced communicator with an in-depth expertise with crisis communications who has served in senior level positions in the federal government, Capitol Hill, and in a military theater of operation.