Who Is Iyad Allawi?

The perpetual reinvention of reality proceeds apace, as neocons who once gave expression to the Bush administration’s most extreme rhetoric now pose as "moderates," – and these same neocons insist the Iraq war was a great success after all. They point to the recent Iraqi elections as proof of their redemption – even as their former pet, Ahmed Chalabi, rises from the political graveyard to become Iran’s chief spokesman and agent. It’s one of the richest, and perhaps most revealing, of the many ironies generated by the invasion of Iraq that the Che Guevara of the neocons has morphed into the handmaiden of the mullahs.

As tempting as it might be to elaborate on this theme, it would be a diversion from what is really the main news coming out of the election, and that is the political reincarnation of Iyad "the Executioner" Allawi. A former top Ba’athist official who fled in the early seventies, he didn’t resign from the party until 1975. He claims to have quit due to the increasing dominance of Saddam Hussein, but Hussein didn’t take complete power until President Al-Bakr resigned in 1979.

News stories reporting Allawi’s come-from-behind narrow victory over the parties aligned with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki invariably describe him as "secular," which really only means godless. Reuters hails Allawi as the personification of "hope for secular Iraq," and yet the Ba’athist party was also secular, and "cross-sectarian," as reporter Paul McGeough puts it, and that doesn’t make him one of the good guys, as the following from the Sydney Morning Herald makes all too clear:

"Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

"They say the prisoners – handcuffed and blindfolded – were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security center, in the city’s southwestern suburbs.

"They say Dr. Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they ‘deserved worse than death.’ The … informants told the Herald that Dr. Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister’s personal security team watched in stunned silence."

It was a "secular" execution, embodying all the ruthlessness of a Saddam Hussein, which bothers our CIA not at all: he’s their boy, and has been since his defection. Allawi was a principal figure, second only to Chalabi, in the network of Iraqi exiles who did so much to lie us into war. It was his group, the Iraqi National Accord, that funneled "intelligence" which gave Tony Blair the idea Saddam could launch his "weapons of mass destruction" on 45 minutes notice.

Allawi’s role as an instrument of US foreign policy goes way back. A 1996 CIA-backed plan to overthrow Saddam and install Allawi in his place turned into the Middle Eastern version of the Bay of Pigs: Iraqi intelligence had planted agents inside the ranks of the dissident Ba’athist officers who formed the core of Allawi’s support.

Allawi served as the Iraqi face of the occupation during the reign of Paul Bremer, first as puppet "defense minister" and then Prime Minister. It was only a few days before the occupation forces officially handed Allawi the keys to his new kingdom that the execution of the six prisoners took place. It was said at the time that this helped Allawi in Iraq, as it proved he had the sort of ruthlessness required to maintain a strong Iraqi central state.

Today the same centrifugal forces that threatened to rip apart the country in the wake of Saddam’s defeat are stretching the national fabric to the breaking point: the country has become a battlefield between the US and Iran, in a war that hasn’t quite yet reached the shooting stage. With the Iranians backing Maliki, there can be little doubt the Americans provided the Allawi forces with substantial aid, as they have in the past.

The Iranian-backed Maliki government – whose installation, in another one of those dark ironies of the invasion, was due to US force of arms – has done everything it can to neutralize the Allawi coalition’s razor-thin margin of victory, such as arresting successful candidates, etc. However, the Allawi-ites are no angels, as their leader’s personal history illustrates. In the end, one has to ask: is this what all those people died for – so that a thug not named Saddam Hussein could place his boot on the throats of the Iraqi people?

"His strongest virtue is that he’s a thug" says neocon (and ex-CIA analyst) Reuel Marc Gerecht, and Obama’s CIA apparently agrees. If Gerecht and his friends had had their way, Iraq would have been handed over to Chalabi long ago, but Allawi will do. This way both the neocons and the Obama-ites can claim the "credit" for yet another US "victory" – one that old King Pyrrhus would surely recognize.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].