The latest Iraqi election results show former interim prime minister Ayad Allawi up by a couple seats, although he has far from a majority. I’m not a huge fan of Allawi, for reasons I discuss in this recent Wall Street Journal piece. That, however, doesn’t make the other candidates ideal either. Corruption has blighted all the major candidates. Let’s face the fact: Most U.S. aid is wasted. Little has been spent on development; much more has been spent on security and consultant salaries. The U.S. flood of money into Iraq has fanned corruption.
And while too many pundits will use one candidate or another’s ties to Iranian officials to suggest that person has always been under Iran’s thumb, that is anachronistic analysis: The reality is that as U.S. influence wanes relative to Iran, every Iraqi politician — Chalabi, Talabani, Barzani, Maliki, and even, perhaps, Allawi — will make accommodation with the Islamic Republic in order to survive. Rather than condemn the personality, we should examine more the reasons why politicians believe it necessary to pivot closer toward Tehran.
No doubt many more sectarian Shi’a and Kurds find much to distrust in Ayad Allawi. But should Allawi be given the first choice to put together a government, we shouldn’t make blanket assumptions that he will be unable to strike bargains, especially with the Kurds. It’s kind of silly to suggest that Kurdish Regional President Masud Barzani won’t deal with Allawi because he has a Baathist past when Barzani didn’t hesitate to cooperate with Saddam Hussein himself back in 1996 when Barzani believed it to be in his personal interests. Does Allawi want the premiership enough to offer Kirkuk and its revenue on a silver platter to Barzani?
While a Maliki-Chalabi-Barzani alliance would certainly be easier to put together, woe to the reporter who forgets Iraq’s sordid history and the basic caveat of its politics: Anything goes.