Sunday, August 26

Ayad Allawi returning to Iraq

He told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that he would be traveling first to "Iraqi Kurdistan" then to Baghdad to fight for his political position.

Wolf questioned Allawi about David Ignatius's claim (made in an op-ed in today's Washington Post) that Allawi is receiving financial support from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Allawi denied the claim, adding in amusement that he only wished he could be receiving funds from those quarters.

(Ignatius also wrote that Allawi was not receiving financial help from the United States, which I think is correct.)

When Wolf asked about the $300,000 Allawi is reportedly paying a Washington lobbying firm, Allawi replied that he is not making the payment. He said the contribution has come from an Iraqi supporter of his party and their anti-sectarian stance. He said that he could not name the supporter who must remain anonymous.

Allawi also pointed out that other Iraq political parties are spending many more times that amount on purchasing media outlets - TV stations, satellite time, press, and so on.

Allawi refused to be drawn into criticizing Maliki; he said that the problem is not with one person but with the "system" of sectarianism. Throughout the interview, he returned to the anti-sectarian theme.

Allawi also said that a drawdown of US troops in Iraq could realistically occur within 2 to 2-1/2 years provided the Iraqi government worked in "partnership" with the US one.

Over at NBC's Meet the Press, Richard Engel repeated what he said last week, which is that Maliki's government is on the verge of collapse. Engel believes the government will collapse; he said that it could be replaced by a series of weak governments.

Also, Michael Gordon, the author of Cobra II, told Tim Russert that he will be publishing his observations on the surge in next week's New York Times magazine. He said that he saw progess from the counterinsurgency strategy. He also said that the strategy of the US military forming alliances with Sunni tribes is having success and that building up these coalitions is still in the early stage, but promising.

Interestingly, Gordon said flatly that the US military is not arming the Shia or Sunni militias in Iraq.

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