FIXING TO GO ALL IN. There's some good reporting here from Spencer Ackerman. It's important to understand the U.S.-Iraqi Sunni alliance and Ayad Allawi's campaign to have himself installed as the new Iraqi Pinochet as components of the conservative push to start a war with Iran.
"Indications that hardliners within the Bush administration are (again) pushing for war with Iran casts new light on the recent alliance of convenience between the U.S. military and Sunni insurgents in Iraq.
Sectarianism in Iraq is such that the U.S. inching closer to Sunni tribal leaders creates an incentive for Iraqi Shiite politicians to inch closer to the Iranians.
A crucial figure here is Ayad Allawi. In his recent op-ed urging the parliamentary overthrow of Maliki, Allawi castigated the Shiite-led government for not "telling Iran to end its interference in Iraqi affairs." His efforts to catapult himself to the top of Iraqi politics, displacing the Shiites, have now won him the endorsement of both the Baath Party and Saleh Mutlaq, the ex-Baathist leader of one of the two Sunni parliamentary blocs. Allawi's cardinal political effort to become premier is occurring in Washington, where he's hired a GOP lobbying powerhouse to promote him as a non-sectarian force for stability and an enduring U.S.-Iraqi alliance. He's cheered on comments by Democrats Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin that Maliki needs to go, which Sunnis probably read as auguring an inevitable split between the U.S. and its erstwhile, uneasy Shiite allies."
Marc Lynch commented last week on the prospect of an Allawi-led Iraq, noting that Allawi "represents an easy out for those who want to blame Maliki for problems which really flow from the nature of the Iraqi state." Lynch also points us to a column he wrote in March, in which he observed Allawi laying the groundwork for his current D.C. lobbying surge, strengthening his ties to Sunni Arab governments, and making the rounds on Arab satellite TV. Lynch wrote then:
"[Allawi's] return to power would not only fail to end the civil war - it would also signal a decisive end to democratic aspirations in Iraq and the Arab world, increase America's role at a time when most Americans would prefer to leave, and pave the way to a confrontation with Iran."
Democratic leaders who think they're being helpful by talking up an Allawi restoration should read that. The Iraq invasion, and the empowerment of Iraq's long-oppressed Shia majority, has contributed to a Shia revival in the Middle East which has huge political-historical implications for the region, most of which I don't think we've begun to grasp. There are ways for the U.S. to engage productively with this revival, but backing off of a commitment to a democratic, i.e. a Shia-controlled, Iraq is not one of them. Neither is getting into a war with Iran.