Iraq's election campaign has become a violent microcosm of the political, ethnic, national and religious currents underlying Middle East politics. A study of the warring elements stirring the political pot in Baghdad discovers the true dynamics behind the making of decisions, the fixing of elections and a who's who of Islamist terror players, including al Qaeda. A serious watcher will see Saudi Arabia forking out large sums to finance Damascus-instigated terrorist atrocities in Iraq and its choice of Syria as bedmate for predetermining the outcome of Iraq's pivotal election on March 7.
On the surface, the campaign is fought ferociously between three major camps: To one side, Shiite Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of the Dawa party which is allied with the second major Shiite faction, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq. Both are working hard to tone down their religious character and rebrand themselves as Iraqi nationalists. This coalition is challenged by the popular Iraqi National Alliance, headed by the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.
But the Maliki-led bloc is fighting just as hard to delegitimize the Sunni factions. The prime minister objects to ex-Baathists who were followers of the late Saddam Hussein running for election. Iraqi Sunni leader, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, accuses him of using this argument as a pretext for blocking due Sunni representation in parliament.
Last week, the campaign was postponed in the wake of a court decision that overturned a ban on hundreds of candidates, most of them ex-Baathists, and left a cloud of confusion over who was running and who was not.
Some voices are demanding that the election be postponed until the mess is cleared up.
Some senior Baghdad politicians blame the disarray on foreign meddling in the election race, accusing the Obama administration of putting its weight behind prime minister Maliki and Tehran of backing his Shiite opponents, the Sadrists.
Saudi-Syrian cooperation based on Lebanese model
But DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iraqi and Middle East sources name Saudi Arabia and Syria as the most proactive meddlers. Normally at opposite ends of the Middle East radical spectrum, the two have struck a bizarre, pragmatic pact for bringing about Maliki's downfall. Neither is averse to activating terrorists to achieve this end.
Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian president Bashar Assad cooked up their conspiracy at two summits in Damascus on Oct. 7, 2009 and Riyadh on Jan. 13. They agreed their intelligence assets would join forces to accomplish regime change in Baghdad and arranged a division of labor.
The two rulers felt their Lebanon experiment was a good model to follow in Iraq. Their combined efforts in Beirut compelled prime minister Saad Hariri, head of Lebanon's majority party, to form a national unity government, with Iran's surrogate, Hizballah, over the objections of both parties.
After dictating the Lebanese prime minister's reconciliation with his father's accused murderer, the Syrian president, Saudi General Intelligence Director Prince Moqrin Bin Abdalaziz is trying to bully the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose father Kemal was another victim of a Syrian assassination plot by Bashar's father Hafez in March 1977, to go cap in hand to Damascus.
How long can Jumblatt hold out?
The Saudis want to rid Iraq of Shiite rule
The Saudis want Maliki out to prevent a strong Shiite regime rising in neighboring Baghdad. They fear his Shiite-dominated administration would become a model for imitation by the millions of Shiites in the oil kingdom and other Gulf nations and might even support those minorities' demands for regional independence or broad autonomy.
The Syrians do not want to see a strong centralized government of any ilk as their next-door neighbor and rival in Baghdad.
The Saudis are reported by our sources as putting up the cash for the get-rid-of-Maliki operation. The money goes to Damascus and funds the operations mounted by Baathist and al Qaeda terrorist from Syria against Shiite pilgrims in Iraq, claiming thus far some 500 lives and injuring thousands.
The object of these attacks is to undermine the Maliki administration's control of security, bring about his defeat at the polls and create in its stead a weak central government headed by figures who, like government heads in Beirut, will defer to their masters in Damascus and Riyadh.
Among those figures are Iyad Allawi,a former prime minister and leader of the secular Shiite Iraqiya list, which is acceptable to Sunnis; Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who headed the Iraqi Transitional Government in 2005-2006 and served as one of the two Vice-Presidents of the Iraqi Interim Government from 2004 to 2005.
Shiite Jaafari was a senior spokesman of Maliki's Dawa, but became one of his most outspoken opponents after leading the party faction which split Dawa and joined forces with Sadr's National Alliance.
Washington turns a blind eye, focuses on exit
The Obama administration is totally focused on a clean exit of American troops from Iraq by September of this year and therefore turns a blind eye to Saudi funding for the Baathist and al Qaeda terrorists striking Iraq from havens in Syria.
The Saudi-Syrian terror plot against the Iraqi prime minister – and Washington's non-intervention to stop it -raise two problems:
1. Their Saudi and Syrian handlers do not enjoy total control over the Sunni Baath and al Qaeda networks. Washington has no guarantee that once off the leash with plenty of money and munitions, they will not turn against American troops.
2. After US forces successfully accomplish their withdrawal, what kind of Iraq will they leave behind? It promises to be a land in the grip of crippling resurgent terror and endless feuding among its communities around an enfeebled central government.