Daniel Pipes- Contributor
Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum, a member of the
presidentially-appointed board of the U.S.
Institute of Peace,
and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Sun and The
Jerusalem Post. His most recent book, Miniatures:
Views of Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics (Transaction
Publishers) appeared in late 2003. His website, DanielPipes.org,
the single most accessed source of information specifically
the Middle East and Islam, offers an archive and a chance
to sign-up to receive his new materials as they appear. [go
to Pipes index]
an Iraqi Strongman Emerging?
Achieving a stable government...
[Daniel Pipes] 5/11/04
The battle of will now underway in Fallujah between Iraqis and
Americans will, I expect, increase. Further, I predict Iraqis
will prevail, and I do so on the basis of two presumptions: Iraqis
don't want Americans to rule them; and Iraqis care much more
about the future of their country than do Americans.
For the sake
of argument, let's assume my reasoning is correct, the American
abandons its goal of "a free and
peaceful Iraq," and coalition forces prepare to leave Iraq
on less-than-optimal terms. What would then be the least-bad
Having the central government control the entire country and
patrol its borders, contain radical ideologies and ethnic tensions,
and not attack neighbors. Further, it would ensure reasonable
freedoms, permit the economy and culture to develop, dispatch
oil and gas to the outside world, and move toward increased political
Fine, but how to achieve this?
I began arguing
a year ago, first on television, then in writing, that Iraq
needs "a democratically-minded Iraqi strongman," returning
to this theme again and again in subsequent months. He would
combine several features:
- No history
of criminality or atrocities during the Saddam Hussein era;
- No radical
ideological beliefs, Islamist, Baathist, or other;
- A recognized
to the tools of power; and
- A power
base that is not restricted to the Sunni, Shiite, or Kurdish
populations, making him
eligible to become
the whole country.
Who might fit these criteria? A high ranking military officer
not incriminated by the previous regime's butchery, someone
who could establish working relations with the coalition
he defies it and works to extrude it and rule Iraq.
weeks ago, this was a job description which no one appeared
Then came the news, at first blush dismaying, that ex-Major
General Jassim Mohammed Saleh al-Dulaimi, 49, a Fallujah native
and reportedly a relative of Saddam Hussein, is heading the Fallujah
Protective Army, a brand-new Iraqi force working with the coalition
to help avoid a confrontation between it and insurgents in Fallujah.
Consisting of 1,100 volunteers, mostly disgruntled former officers
and enlisted soldiers from the Fallujah region, it is tasked
with staffing checkpoints and theoretically reports to the U.S.
As Mr. Saleh
took command on April 30, the stocky general with a Saddam-style
mustache wore his Saddam-era uniform, complete
with maroon beret. In a scene broadcast across Iraq, he shook
hands with Marine commanders and had the old Iraqi flag raised,
to the cheers of onlookers. He set the tone immediately by declaring
an intent to impose security and stability in Fallujah "without
the need for the American army, which the people of Fallujah
As his forces
took up position, they celebrated what they saw as a victory
the withdrawing American forces. "We won," exclaimed
one of them to the Washington Post. "We didn't want the
Americans to enter the city and we succeeded."
seems to be popular in Fallujah, where his arrival met with
Residents flashed the V-for-victory gesture
and mosque P.A. systems gloated over the American retreat. The
Associated Press quotes a policeman saying, "We have very
much respect for General Saleh. He was a real officer and is
an observant Muslim. He did not harm anyone."
has filled many senior positions; one former general recalls
as a divisional chief of staff in the Republican
Guard, commanding the army's 38th Infantry Division, the whole
Iraqi army's infantry forces, and the Al-Quds Army. One of his
relatives adds that Mr. Saleh was not political and so did not
rise in the Baath party. Indeed, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Brennan
Byrne said that Mr. Saleh had opposed Saddam's regime and paid
a "steep personal price."
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard
Myers said that
Mr. Saleh "has not been vetted yet
and probably won't be the one in command." Later, news came
that another ex-major general, Mohammed Latif, would probably
replace Mr. Saleh as head of the Fallujah Protective Army.
plus the abrupt appearance of Messrs. Saleh and Latif, suggests
that the race to fill the position of strongman
has begun. I cannot predict who will eventually fill it but I
can ˜ sadly ˜ say that someone of their general description
represents the realistic best hope for Iraq. CRO
first appeared in The New York Sun
2004 Daniel Pipes