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Allawi the President of Iraq? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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An important story, but not a surprising one, was published by our newspaper yesterday, quoting the New York Times. It revealed that US President Barack Obama had tried to convince Iraqi President Jalal Talibani to relinquish his position for Iyad Allawi to take his place, after the Iraqi elections that Allawi won by a slim margin over Nuri al-Maliki, yet the latter still became Prime Minister.

The importance of this story is that it shows how the US administration dealt with the future of Iraq very loosely after it had invaded and overthrown the Saddam Hussein regime. Likewise, it shows that President Obama was never confident that al-Maliki would be a Prime Minister for all Iraqis, but that “with Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite and the leader of a bloc with broad Sunni support, the Obama administration calculated, Iraq would have a more inclusive government and would check the worrisome drift toward authoritarianism under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki”, according to what was published in the New York Times. This has been proven by successive events in Iraq now, most notably the pursuit of Tariq al-Hashemi and him being sentenced to death.

The story also shows how the current US administration has dealt with Iraq very lightly, and only in order to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promise to withdraw his troops from there. This has led to Iraq as a whole falling under Iranian influence, and this is what is happening today. The importance of the story, of course, does not stop here, because it seems that the US disregard in its handling of the situation in Iraq is more serious than we thought. Washington failed to correct a fatal mistake in Iraq – sectarian political quotas – when it proposed a Shiite political figure for the presidency; Dr. Iyad Allawi. Here I must explain an important point. Dr. Allawi is, for me, far above sectarianism or any form of political reductionism, but with the sectarian political tendencies in our region he is constantly exposed to the risk of assassination, and has been threatened with that in the past. One could argue that the Kurds have no exclusive right to the Iraqi presidency, and that a Shiite Iraqi figure could assume the office, but here of course the role of Iran comes to the fore. If Allawi were to assume the presidency, all those objecting would side with Iran in Baghdad and remind him that he is a Shiite, thus reducing Iraq as a whole into sectarian politics once again.

Here we see the naivety of America, especially because at this time there was a similar proposal for Allawi to be Speaker of the Parliament. I wrote in this column warning against that idea because it would mean justifying the Shiite invasion of all Iraq’s positions, which means, in accordance with Iranian influence in Iraq, that Tehran’s allies would control all Iraq’s positions. This is something that cannot be ruled out in the future, and may rear its head once again with the approaching downfall of the tyrant of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad. Thus, the importance of the story lies in the fact that it shows how the current U.S. administration has dealt lightly with Iraq despite recognizing the danger of al-Maliki, and knowing that Baghdad would become a subsidiary of Iran. What is frightening in this story is that it seems it is not only the Republicans who handed Iraq over to Iran, it was even the Democrats!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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