Saturday, August 28, 2010

Iraq: Muri al-Maliki's terror warning

The AP's Laura Jakes reports that Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki has put the country on its highest level of alert for terror attacks.  That groups opposed to his government - and to the US presence in Iraq, which is going to be substantial for at least a couple of years - have been resorting to terror attacks in recent months is, of course, no secret; and we can expect many more to come.  As Jakes notes, some Iraqis received the news of the alert with cynicism, given the obvious frequent failures of the Iraqi security forces to prevent such attacks.

And I have to wonder about the timing of the alert.    Maliki specifies a threat from "an al-Qaida front group and members of Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party [who] are collaborating to launch attacks "to create fear and chaos and kill more innocents."  Much of this is code for "Sunnis" - who happen to be the chief supporters of the Iraqiyya party led by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shia, former (US-appointed) prime minister - and former Baathist - who is also Maliki's chief rival for the prime minister's post in the current struggle to form a new government after last March's elections.  It's safe to assume that Allawi has Maliki plenty worried, especially since Allawi has been courting the most popular (and populist) religious Shii politician, Muqtada al-Sadr, with whom he recently met in Damascus under the kind auspices of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (who happens to lead a government with a Baathist core and ideology).  Muqtada leads his own faction within the larger Shii party, INA (Iraq National Alliance), with which Maliki has been hoping to ally his own State of Law party in hopes of forming a new government that might leave him in as prime minister.  But Muqtada hates Maliki for having sent Iraqi forces to smash his own militia in Basra in 2008.  The situation is, as they say, complicated.

Might Maliki be trying to score political points against Allawi by issuing the terror alert in order to spin up the fear factor against the Sunni threat - which includes, by implication, Allawi and his Sunni supporters in the Iraqiyya movement?

By the way, one might remember that such tactics have worked before.  In the days after 9-11, as the Bush administration was ramping up its WMD rationale for invading Iraq and pushing the Patriot Act and other measures that tweaked constitutional rights and liberty in the name of national security, Bush's Homeland Security people frequently issued "yellow alerts."  Ostensibly, they did so to warn us of what they deemed imminent threats.  But as many noted at the time, those warnings were likely also intended to scare us all into shutting up and going along with the program.

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