Meet the New Iraqi Leaders

These are not America’s puppets. This is a terrific list and really good government, and we’re very pleased with the names that emerged.

Condoleeza Rice, National Security Advisor

The selection of Ghazi al-Yawer as the president of “sovereign” Iraq has been spun by the mainstream media as a victory for the more independent-minded members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council over the Coalition Provisional Authority (i.e., U.S. occupation regime) headed by Paul Bremer III, as well as Lakhdar Brahimi, special adviser to UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan. The latter two are said to have strongly favored octogenarian Adnan Pachachi (whose father, uncle, and father-in-law were all Iraqi premiers) for the largely ceremonial post. Sunni nationalist, former foreign minister (in the 1960s), long-time resident of the United Arab Emirates and London, adviser to of Jordan’s King Abdullah, leader of the Iraqi Independent Democrats Movement, fluent English-speaker, frequent traveler to America and reliably pro-U.S., Pachachi seemed to enjoy greater popularity than al-Yawer and for that reason might provide the new (puppet) government greater legitimacy.

Bremer is depicted as lecturing the IGC on the superiority of his candidate, the one also favored by Brahimi (whose daughter, by the way, is engaged to marry a son of King Abdullah), and delaying the vote by a day to get his way. However, the story goes, the IGC showed surprising independence (during negotiations described as “bitter,” “frantic,” and “grueling”), insisting on al-Yawer, whom the Americans only reluctantly accepted to fill the job, after Pachachi, offered it, declined citing “elements in the Iraqi political class who were against me.” (Subsequently, Pachachi has blamed his rival and long-time CIA operative Ahmad Chalabi—now on the outs with the Bush administration and accused of serving as an Iranian spy—for sabotaging his candidacy through a “shabby conspiracy” to depict him as “a puppet of the U.S.”

President Bush states simply that Brahimi, as assigned, made the selection. “I had no role in picking, zero,” he said June 1. “It was Mr. Brahimi’s selections.” But Brahimi for his part asserts, “Bremer is the dictator of Iraq. He has the money. He has the signature. Nothing happens without his agreement in this country” CNN on the other hand, cites an Iraqi-American businessman, who says that since the Governing Council selected al-Yawar instead of Pachachi “I don’t think it’s really a puppet government.” That lets the U.S. off the hook and allows CNN to declare confidently: “The bottom line: Iraqis politicians took control of this process.”

Then there’s the (more important) prime minister’s position. Brahimi initially wanted Hassain al-Shahristani, a devout Shiite close to Imam Ali al-Sistani (whose support could be crucial to U.S. plans) and nuclear scientist imprisoned under Saddam Hussein. He fit the bill specified by Washington: “a Shia Muslim who was not too close to any faction or party, but also not so much of a technocrat that he had no political standing.” But initial reports in Washington that he had been chosen for the post were contradicted by Brahimi after al-Shahristani allegedly turned down the offer. Reportedly his Persian surname was an issue. Instead (again) the Governing Council had its way and chose, with enthusiasm, Dr. Ayad Allawi, a British-educated neurosurgeon, secular Shiite, and leader of the Iraqi National Accord, again showing its independence from the U.S. (But asked about the selection, Brahimi states diplomatically, “The Americans were governing this country, so their view was certainly taken into consideration. Whether Dr Allawi was their choice, whether they manoeuvered to get him, you know, in position— that, I think, you better ask them.”) The Guardian reports he “was taken off guard” by the selection that Bush, as noted above, attributes to him.

Okay, anyway, so who are these Iraqi-chosen independent helmsmen of sovereign Iraq? Ghazi al-Yawer, civil engineer, nephew to the chieftain of the powerful Shammar tribe and descendent of Iraqi parliamentarians, studied at Georgetown University in the United States and then in Saudi Arabia, where he lived in exile for two decades. He was (is?) vice-president of Hicap Technology, a telecommunications and perimeter security systems company in Riyadh. With flowing gown and Arab headdress, he may strike a more sympathetic chord among Iraqi nationalists than Allawi, who prefers western suits. He has been depicted repeatedly as “a critic of the occupation,” and indeed criticized the first draft of the Anglo-American UN resolution supporting the establishment of an interim regime in Iraq. The plan, he declared “falls short” in failing to restore full sovereignty to Iraq, and by allowing only limited control over U.S. troops in the country. He has condemned U.S. tactics in Fallujah and stated that the U.S. is responsible for the deplorable security situation in the country. “We blame the United States 100 percent for the security in Iraq. They occupied the country, disbanded the security agencies and for 10 months left Iraq’s borders open for anyone to come in without a visa or even a passport.” But he has also stated “We should remember our friends who fell during the battle to liberate Iraq” and expressed opposition to attacks on U.S. and other foreign troops. Since his position is largely ceremonial, his criticism of the opposition may actually serve the latter’s interests, by providing a show of harmless dissent abetting the global projection of a Free Iraq.

Al-Yawer is participating in the Group of Eight meeting in Georgia. Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia were also invited but declined to attend, considering the invitations demeaning. This is because they came in connection with the “Greater Middle East Initiative” (supposedly for “democracy”) that Bush has been peddling since the fall of 2002, and which plainly represents interference in sovereign states’ affairs. Al-Yawer’s presence shows his willingness to join such reliables as Jordan, Tunisia and Bahrain in contributing legitimacy to the trumpeted “democratic” Initiative, which is really, of course, a neocon-initiated “regime change” project. “We’re pulling for him,” said Bush in Georgia. “I’m going to thank him for having the courage to stand up and lead and tell him that America will help him.” In turn, al-Yawer says, “We are working together. These people are in our country to help us.” Almost sounds like a cozy relationship.

What of Ayad Allawi, the more important figure? He is even more Washington’s stooge, by common report a longtime MI-6 and CIA operative. A Baath Party member from his teens, he studied in Britain in the 1960s, when, according to a classmate quoted by al-Jazeera, he “spent his time dealing with assassins, doing the dirty work for the Iraqi government, until his time was up and he became their target.” He became a “close aide” to Saddam Hussein, but had a falling out with the Iraqi leader by the 1970s, after which he went into exile in Britain and made his services available to MI-6. There, in 1978, he narrowly escaped death in an assassination attempt. He forged a relationship with the CIA; according to Samuel R. Berger, national security adviser in the Clinton administration, “Unlike [Ahmad] Chalabi, he was someone who was trusted by the regional governments. He was less flamboyant, less promotional.”

The CIA and MI-6 backed Allawi’s organization, the Iraqi National Accord.

The Washington Post (June 8) cites “several former intelligence officials” as stating that that organization “intent on deposing Saddam Husseinsent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990’s to plant bombs and sabotage government facilities under the direction of the C.I.A.”

Former CIA officer Robert Baer recalls that a bombing during that period “blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed.” In the mid-1990s, Baghdad claimed that terrorists had exploded a bomb in a movie theater, producing many civilian casualties; CIA officials state that Allawi’s group was the only such organization engaging in bombings and sabotage at that time. It almost sounds as if the new Prime Minister has a background in terrorism.

In 2002, Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord received attention when it passed on to the British government a report that Saddam’s regime could fire germ warfare missiles as far as Cyprus within 45 minutes of giving the order. Published in a dossier in September 2002, the report helped prepare British public opinion for the Iraq war. In January 2004 a New York spokesman for Allawi acknowledged this was in fact “a crock of shit.” Almost sounds like the new Prime Minister is a bald-faced liar. And then there’s the story about that supposed top-secret, hand-written memo by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service revealed to the world last December. I have referred to it as “the neocons’ dream memo” since it implausibly describes a three-day “work programme” undertaken by none other than Chief 9-11 Hijacker Mohammed Atta at a Baghdad base of Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal in 1991, and refers to a “Niger shipment” of some unspecified material arriving in Iraq via Libya and Syria.

Who confirmed the authenticity of the memo, released through the Iraqi Governing Council? Why, none other than Dr. Allawi! And since each element of the putative al-Tikriti memo had been already debunked by U.S. intelligence, and only kept afloat by the most duplicitous of the neocons, it almost sounds like the Prime Minister is an especially shameless bald-faced liar and abject puppet of his imperialist sponsors. (Interesting, too, that it first appeared in The Daily Telegraph, owned by Conrad Black, and part of the Hollinger Group on whose board of directors sits Richard Perle, Black buddy and leading warmongering neocon.)

In his speech to the nation following his appointment, Allawi thanked the occupation “led by the Americans who have sacrificed so much to liberate us.” (Other new government officials have avoided such effusive language, knowing how it grates on the sensibilities of average Iraqis.) He declared that the nation will need further help “in defeating the enemies of Iraq.” I must doubt that this gentleman is in any way less useful to the ongoing imperialist project in Iraq than Mr. al-Shahristani might have been had he been appointed to the post, or that al-Yawer is appreciably less useful than Pachachi might have been. While their compatriots accused of complicity in “insurgency” against an illegal invading force are paraded naked, smeared with excrement, piled into naked pyramids, raped and murdered, these gentlemen are generously accorded the veneer of dignity. Such dignity is necessary to confer some credibility, and thus compensate for the credibility gap unexpectedly produced by the unfortunate exposure of the occupiers’ true face. So Allawi and al-Yawer, the face of Iraqi sovereignty, no puppets, mind you, but men (in Bush’s words) “with the courage to stand up and lead” with America’s courageous help.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900.

He can be reached at:

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: