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Allawi cites ‘dictatorship,’ Iranian control in Iraq

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2012

Iraq's former prime minister says the United States is ignoring an "emerging dictatorship" in his country, telling The Washington Times that Iran is "swallowing" Iraq and dictating its strategic policies.

Ayad Allawi, who served as prime minister from 2004 to 2005, accused Iran of meddling in Iraqi politics to the point that Tehran "is becoming the dominant feature of Iraq," and claimed that some U.S. officials "concede secretly" that "Iran won, got the best advantage of what happened in Iraq."

Mr. Allawi made the comments amid political and civil upheaval in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in December. At least 52 Iraqis were killed Tuesday in bomb attacks across the country, and Iraq's vice president is eluding arrest on terrorist charges that are widely seen as politically motivated.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda attacks like those Tuesday have raised questions about Iraq's internal security as Baghdad prepares to host a long-delayed Arab League summit Tuesday that is expected to address the threat of a civil war in Syria and messy transitions in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

"To be honest, people speak about Arab Spring," Mr. Allawi said. "What spring is this?

"Spring is associated with green, renewal of life. We are having blood pouring everywhere in the region and destruction and dismemberment of countries, and chaos is happening."

Broken deal

Mr. Allawi headed the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc in Iraq's 2010 elections. The bloc won two more seats than Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law alliance, but Mr. al-Maliki was able to form a government under a 2011 power-sharing deal.

That deal, which gave several ministries to Iraqiya, was supposed to have given Mr. Allawi control of a new strategic policy council, but the former premier declined the post when Mr. al-Maliki refused to cede it much authority despite what he called U.S. guarantees.

"The policymakers promised to support this, but ultimately and unfortunately, none of this has happened, and the United States forgot about this power-sharing completely," Mr. Allawi said. "I think the United States deliberately is taking Iraq out of the screen because there is a gross failure in Iraq."

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "We strongly disagree with [Mr. Allawi's] characterization of our relationship with the government of Iraq and the role we have played to keep the Iraqi political process on track."

Ms. Nuland said the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad continues to work as a "broker" in Iraq's political realm and the U.S. remains committed to helping create a "unified, peaceful and democratic Iraq."

The day after U.S. troops left Iraq, judicial authorities there issued an arrest warrant for another Iraqiya leader, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, on charges that he ran anti-Shiite death squads during the bloodletting that followed the U.S.-led 2003 invasion. Mr. al-Hashemi, who denies the charges, has taken refuge in the Kurdish-controlled north.

Mr. Allawi said he is consulting with other power players, including radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, about next steps.

He suggested three ways out of the political crisis: early elections, "full-blown partnership" or replacement of Mr. al-Maliki with another premier from the ruling National Alliance. If none of this occurs, he said, he would encourage countrywide "peaceful demonstrations" against the government.

'Iran won'

Mr. al-Maliki's Shiite-led government has long been accused of tilting toward its powerful neighbor, Iran - the object of Western sanctions over its secretive nuclear program, which Iranian officials deny is geared for making a weapon.

Mr. Allawi assailed Iran's meddling in Iraqi politics, saying the Islamic republic has begun "swallowing Iraq and is becoming the dominant feature of Iraq." He said some American officials "concede secretly" that "Iran won, got the best advantage of what happened in Iraq."

He also said a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities should be "abolished as an idea" because it would cause regional instability. But he added that Iran's regime "needs to either change its behavior completely, significantly, radically, or the regime needs to be changed."

Mr. Allawi said he hopes dialogue with Iran could persuade its leaders to take a new course.

"If they don't, then it is important to support the opposition inside Iran - to support them politically, to support them with their media, to support them in any possible way, to give them acknowledgment, to give them political assurances, to give them political support in international forums," he said.

He said that approach would mirror the one he recommended to U.S. policymakers in the run-up to the Iraq War.

"Unfortunately, there were policymakers who were saying that the solution is removal of Saddam [Hussein] by force and immediately pushing a button and creating democracy in the country," Mr. Allawi said. "And we have seen now, it's the 10th year, and we don't have democracy. In fact, we have an emerging dictatorship."

Mr. Allawi demurred when asked whether he would head Iraqiya in the next elections, tentatively slated for 2014. "I don't know; it depends," he said. "Maybe I'll be arrested by the government or killed or assassinated."

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