Chalabi and Lami Ain’t Done Yet

So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami’s Accountability and Justice (De-Ba’athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq’s elections and advance their political agendas?  Not even.  Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba’athification. The list ...

So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami's Accountability and Justice (De-Ba'athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq's elections and advance their political agendas?  Not even.  Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba'athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions.

The political calculations here are transparent.  Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has the Constitutional right to except individuals from de-Ba'athification in the national interest, but presumably he won't out of fear of being portrayed as "soft on the Ba'ath" in the last days of the election campaign.   Lami's move will likely further inflame the situation, demonstrating the degradation and politicization of Iraqi state institutions and further antagonizing many Sunnis (Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said today that the Iraqi government had "failed" at national reconciliation, though a return of civil war remains unlikely, while Ayad Allawi is on the defensive over his visit to Saudi Arabia to launch his election campaign).   That polarization will strengthen the electoral hand of the more sectarian parties, including of course the one for which Lami is personally a candidate. 

The impact of this new move hasn't yet really begun to play out, but it will.   If you don't know, now you know. 

So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami’s Accountability and Justice (De-Ba’athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq’s elections and advance their political agendas?  Not even.  Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba’athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions.

The political calculations here are transparent.  Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has the Constitutional right to except individuals from de-Ba’athification in the national interest, but presumably he won’t out of fear of being portrayed as "soft on the Ba’ath" in the last days of the election campaign.   Lami’s move will likely further inflame the situation, demonstrating the degradation and politicization of Iraqi state institutions and further antagonizing many Sunnis (Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi said today that the Iraqi government had "failed" at national reconciliation, though a return of civil war remains unlikely, while Ayad Allawi is on the defensive over his visit to Saudi Arabia to launch his election campaign).   That polarization will strengthen the electoral hand of the more sectarian parties, including of course the one for which Lami is personally a candidate. 

The impact of this new move hasn’t yet really begun to play out, but it will.   If you don’t know, now you know. 

Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).

He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements. Twitter: @abuaardvark

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