“Iraq to arrest Ahmad Chalabi after Eid,” Reuters, http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=658423, 22 January 2005.
Allegations of dirty tricks fly before the Iraqi elections
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iraq’s interim defence minister says the government will arrest Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi after the Eid al-Adha holiday on suspicion of maligning the defence ministry.
“We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defence ministry and defence minister,” Hazim al-Shaalan told Al Jazeera television on Friday.
The satellite channel quoted Shaalan as saying Chalabi would be handed to Interpol over his conviction in absentia by a Jordanian court in 1992 of embezzling millions from Petra Bank, whose 1989 collapse shook Jordan’s political and financial system.
Shaalan told London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published on Friday he would order the arrest after Chalabi accused the defence minister in an interview of stealing $500 million from the ministry and posted documents on a Web site accusing Shaalan of links to Saddam Hussein’s government.
This sounds very political. And stupid. And it might work.
Both Chalabi’s speech and Shaalan’s rants are examples of negative campaigning. Chalabi’s anti-military-clique patriotism had led him first to oppose the Ba’athi government, and then to ally himself with Iranian forces. Chalabi’s early purging of Ba’ath officials shows his true fears — that a sufficient number of Ba’ath in the Iraqi army and bureucracy could launch a bloddy coup and reestablish the Sunni order as a fait accompli.
Note that I said a Sunni order, not necessarily a Ba’ath tyrannt. The INA (Iyad Alawi’s party, part of The Iraqi List) is composed primarily of Ba’ath officers who eventually fell out with Sadaam Hussein. They are also patriots. They see Sunni predominance over Iraq as “natural” and blame Saddam for being paranoid and stupid.
The Iraqi List and the INA has to prevent a Untied Iraqi Alliance landslide. If the UIA, the “Shia” party in Iraq, winds a landslide the Sunnis may be shut out for ever. Suppose that the UIA gains only two-thirds of the Shia vote, or 40% of the total possible vote. Presuming that all Kurds vote for the Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of the UIA and KU would have 60% of the seats. But for the Iraqi List it gets worse, because Sunni turnout will be depressed by boycott moves. If half of the Sunnis boycott a UIA-KU alliance that gains 60% of the possible vote gains 66.7% of the seats.
A UIA-KU alliance is quite likely. In its own sphere, each could take extreme positions and rely on the other for support. KU could demand autonomy, Kirkuk, and revenue from Kurdish oil, UIA could demand a military alliance with Iran and some form of Sharia in the Arab lands, and each would vote for the ohter. In the scenario above, this could be accomplished in spite of any Iraqi List efforts, and in spite of a Sunni opposition.
Hence, the dirty trick. The Iraqi List is trying to paint the United Iraqi Alliance as “the foreign candidates.” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s Iranian birth and accent are talked about, as it the very Iranian Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (part of the UIA). By publicly descring Chalabi as a Jordanian, and worse a Jordanian thief, the Iraqi list is trying to drive this point home.
I don’t like dirty tricks. But I’m happy Iraqis are fighting with words, not bullets. The Iraqi elections are monumental in Iraqi history, and they are the way to resolve this dispute.