David Ignatius and Kori Schake make a good point about the Iraqi election results: the big loser, at least for now, is Iran. Ignatius notes how hard the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force worked to derail the electoral ambitions of Ayad Allawi and to engineer a victory for the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shiite religious combination of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists. Iran was widely seen as responsible for the De-Baathification Commission’s attempts to disqualify many Sunni, secular candidates, and, Ignatius reports, “A U.S. military commander told me in February that Iran was sending $9 million a month to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and $8 million a month to the political party of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.”
Obviously the Iranian strategy failed, as Allawi’s Iraqiya slate came out the top vote-getter with 91 parliamentary seats, followed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition with 89 seats. The Iraqi National Alliance was a distant third with 75 seats.
As Schake notes, the results suggest that “Iraqi voters don’t want Iran running their government or having sway in their society.” Allawi was the most anti-Iranian candidate. Maliki may well have lost votes because, writes Schake, he “is seen — rightly or wrongly — as more susceptible to Iranian influence.”
These are all, of course, only preliminary conclusions. It is still possible that Iran may regain the edge in post-election camel-trading that it lost in the actual vote. Allawi will struggle to form a government, and if he fails, Maliki will get a shot. Both sides have an obvious incentive to woo at least one of the Shiite religious parties by making who knows what kinds of concessions. The obvious alternative would be for Maliki and Allawi to form their own coalition — a nationalist unity government –but that would be hard to pull off because they can’t stand each other.
Stay tuned. It’s hard to predict what will happen. In some ways, that is the highest tribute we can pay to Iraq. In how many other countries in the Middle East is it so hard to know in advance who will rule after an election? In most countries, the voting is a mere formality to ratify the authoritarian status quo. Not in Iraq. It is emerging as a genuine democracy, but it now faces a major test. As has been noted by many experts, the true test of a political system is whether power can shift peacefully from one party to another. It will be the reaction of the losers, more than the winners, that will set the tone in Iraqi politics and help determine the ultimate success or failure of its democratic experiment.
When word first came that Major Nadal Hasan had been in contact with a radical imam in northern Virginia, we were told he was doing “research.” It was quite a research project, according to ABC News:
United States Army Major Nidal Hasan told a radical cleric considered by authorities to be an al-Qaeda recruiter, “I can’t wait to join you” in the afterlife, according to an American official with top secret access to 18 e-mails exchanged between Hasan and the cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, over a six month period between Dec. 2008 and June 2009.
“It sounds like code words,” said Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a military analyst at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies. “That he’s actually either offering himself up or that he’s already crossed that line in his own mind.”
Other messages include questions, the official with access to the e-mails said, that include when is jihad appropriate, and whether it is permissible if there are innocents killed in a suicide attack.
“Hasan told Awlaki he couldn’t wait to join him in the discussions they would having over non-alcoholic wine in the afterlife.”
The Pentagon has opened not one but two internal reviews and declined to participate, at least for now, in the congressional investigation. But given the exquisite concern for diversity above all else, as so vividly displayed by Army Chief of Staff General George Casey days after the attack (“And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse”), one wonders if the Army is capable of sizing itself up.
For example, the Washington Post reports that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was at it again. He expressed concern “over the possibility that the incident could lead to suspicion against ‘certain categories of people,’ apparently referring to Muslims. ‘In a nation as diverse as the United States, the last thing we need to do is start pointing fingers at each other,’ he said.” Hmm. It would seem that the point of an investigation is precisely that — to finger those people responsible and to note their ideological motives. It seems there is great squeamishness about doing that, though. Maybe it’s time for an 11/5 Commission. That’s what we did after the last terrorist attack.
The Washington Post, through an interview conducted by a Yemeni journalist, has gotten an earful from imam Anwar al-Aulaqi, the radical cleric whom Major Nadal Hasan sought out. Seems that Hasan was seeking “spiritual guidance” and that the two had a chummy e-mail relationship. Why yes, we’ll have to find out how it could be that no one “sensed a potential threat” given that “U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted e-mails from Hasan.”
This should be of interest to those who think this has nothing to do with Islam:
Aulaqi said Hasan’s alleged shooting spree was allowed under Islam because it was a form of jihad. “There are some people in the United States who said this shooting has nothing to do with Islam, that it was not permissible under Islam,” he said, according to Shaea. “But I would say it is permissible. … America was the one who first brought the battle to Muslim countries.”
The cleric also denounced what he described as contradictory behavior by Muslims who condemned Hasan’s actions and “let him down.” According to Shaea, he said: “They say American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should be killed, so how can they say the American soldier should not be killed at the moment they are going to Iraq and Afghanistan?”
Keep in mind that Aulaqi in now safely lodged in Yemen — where we are now depositing Guantanamo detainees. Maybe it’s time to reintroduce “Islamic fundamentalism” or “Islamic jihadism” into our government’s official lexicon.
Rep. Frank Wolf has sent a letter to the Justice Department and issued a press release questioning the release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, especially “in light of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood where the alleged shooter reportedly has ties to a radical cleric now living in Yemen.” Yes, that is correct. Wolf’s press release explains:
“The American people have a right to know who these detainees are and what acts of terror they were engaged in,” Wolf wrote. “If the public had this information, they would never tolerate the release of these men back to unstable countries with a sizeable al Qaeda presence.” …
“If the administration does not halt these pending releases immediately, it could be responsible for creating a new revolving door of terrorism that will cost American lives,” Wolf wrote today. “The security of the American people could be at risk because of the administration’s relentless pursuit of a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010.”
“Why has the administration made basic information about these dangerous detainees so highly classified that it cannot be shared with the American people or the media?” Wolf asked. “I have reviewed the materials. These are dangerous individuals. To release committed al Qaeda terrorists back to Yemen under these conditions would be an act of gross malfeasance that undermines the safety of the American people.”
In his statement, Wolf also raised the red flag about Anwar al-Aulaqi, “the radical cleric now living in Yemen who has ties to Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal M. Hasan and also mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers.” Wolf does not subscribe to the view that Hasan was simply suffering from post-traumatic stress:
“As the facts surrounding the Fort Hood attack have emerged, it is becoming clear that anyone who is cited in the 9/11 Commission Report — as al-Aulaqi was on page 221 — as a ‘significant’ contact for 9/11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar should be considered a ‘significant’ connection to Hasan,” Wolf wrote. “Al-Aulaqi has subsequently praised Hasan’s attack stating on his Web site: ‘Nidal Hassan is a hero. … Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal,’’’ according to a translation.
Really, if not for the appalling decision to move 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for a trial — that will soon devolve into a three-ring circus in which the U.S. and its defenders are in the dock — the decision to export the Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, where they can hear the same pearls of wisdom that inspired Hasan, would be tops on the list of “most outrageous things” the Obama team has done recently. But there is always plenty of competition for that distinction.