Alawi's fight for Iraq

NY Times:

Ayad Allawi has seldom spoken publicly about the night more than 30 years ago when a pair of ax-wielding assassins turned his London bedroom into an abattoir.

Now, determined to counter charges by his political enemies that he won Iraq’s national elections by appealing to Baathists, and locked in a struggle with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to assemble a government, he offered up that story in the middle of an interview on Monday.

“I was sleeping, you know, I just opened my eyes by sheer luck and saw a shadow by the bed,” he said, describing the early morning hours of Feb. 4, 1978, when he was living in Kingston upon Thames as an exile and medical student after breaking with Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

Mr. Allawi said he kicked out at the man there just as he swung an ax, nearly severing Mr. Allawi’s leg. A bloody struggle ensued, his wife jumping on one of the men’s backs, Mr. Allawi wresting one of the axes away and attacking back, until the second attacker chopped at his head. His wife, Ettor, later died of her wounds. Mr. Allawi was so badly wounded that they left him for dead, though not before he yelled at them as they left, as he recalls it, “You tell Saddam I am going to survive this, and I’ll take your eyeballs out.” He laughs nervously now at how brutal those words sound from long ago.

It is a story that seems designed to resonate with Iraqis who remain suspicious of a man who attracted a large percentage of the Sunni vote, and who needs to thwart the efforts of Shiite coalitions that threaten to combine to preclude him from again becoming prime minister. He and Mr. Maliki are each trying to assemble enough seats to win a majority in the 325-seat Parliament.

Mr. Allawi’s attackers were never found; he said that Scotland Yard told him they were Iraqi intelligence agents. It took him a year and 10 operations to recover from that 1978 attack, as well as another year of physical therapy. Later on there were a series of failed attempts by his exile political group, the Iraqi National Accord, working with the C.I.A., to overthrow Mr. Hussein.

Along the way, he became a rheumatologist, working as a specialist in spinal surgery during his exile in London. When the Americans occupied Iraq, he was appointed as the country’s interim prime minister in 2004, but he then finished a distant third in Iraq’s first national elections, in January 2005.

Now Mr. Allawi’s surprising comeback has pitted him against Mr. Maliki, whom he defeated by a 91-89 plurality, even though the country’s Accountability and Justice Commission — formerly known as the De-Baathification Commission — invalidated the candidacies of hundreds of his supporters, claiming they were former Baathists, and the government’s antiterrorism forces arrested several of his candidates.

He confirmed that the commission was trying to invalidate another 10 of his Iraqiya list parliamentary winners, which potentially could cut away his narrow plurality. The commission says that means their seats will be canceled, while Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission maintains Iraqiya will be able to replace those who are removed with others from their alliance. The matter seems likely to end up in court.


If the Shia invalidate his candidates they will also be invalidating the legitimacy of any Maliki government in the eyes of Alawi voters. That would be a very dangerous thing to do and would destabilize Iraq's government. It would be seen by them as a move for sectarian political cleansing. They are already close to that with there conduct toward many of his candidates before the election. To come back after the fact and deny him his victory would only prove the point to many.

Maliki and his supporters would be better off trying to work with Alawi to form a unification government.


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