Allawi heading for defeat, says Kurd official

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Mohammad Tawfiq, a leading Kurdish official, said on Wednesday the government of Iyad Allawi appeared to have no coherent plan to improve security and that Mr Allawi was unlikely to remain in office after the January 30 elections.

“For a lot of people in Iraq, the Iraqi government exists only on television,” he said. Mr Tawfiq, a leading member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two main Kurdish parties, said Mr Allawi's government had, with US support, fed violence by reversing Washington's earlier policy of removing known Ba'athists from official positions.

“De-Ba'athification went on seriously for only three or four months,” he said. When it ended, in April, Ba'athists began to plan violent actions to gain further concessions, said Mr Tawfiq. Mr Allawi's government and the previous US-led administration had allowed the Ba'athists to gain “inside information”, through penetrating the new Iraqi police force, which the Americans had mistakenly reconstituted “from the bottom up”, said Mr Tawfiq.

“Co-operation and co-ordination” between the Ba'athists and radical Islamists was based on the Ba'athists providing “money, weapons, transportation and safe houses” while the Islamists provided suicide bombers.

Mr Tawfiq said he expected the policy of de-Ba'athification to resume under a new Shia-dominated government after the elections.

“A Shia government may come up with a clear-cut plan, but co-operation of the people in the [Sunni Arab] region is still needed,” he said. “If we have a plan to destroy the terrorist organisations, then the population of that area will co-operate. These organisations are frightening people.

“The Ba'athists are knocking on doors and telling people not to vote, and there is no police force or security people to fight them.”

Mr Tawfiq was cautious about predicting the result of January 30 election, stressing the lack of reliable polling data, and the possibility that bombings, especially in Baghdad, would deter voters.

But he did not expect Mr Allawi's Iraq List to win enough support for him to remain in office. “What I can say is what I hear from people, from Baghdad, the south, and Mosul,” he said. “The feeling is that he will not get enough votes to form the new government.”

The joint list of the two main Kurdish parties would win between 75 and 85 out of 275 seats in the new assembly, he predicted.

Although he predicted the largest block in parliament would go to the main Shia list backed by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shia cleric, Mr Tawfiq said the secular Kurdish parties did not expect Iraq's new prime minister to be a cleric. Instead, the new assembly might choose a layman such as Ibrahim al-Jaafari, of the Dawa party, or Adil Abd al-Mahdi of Sciri, rather than the Sciri leader, Abdulaziz al-Hakim. The Kurds were also confident the Shia parties would support the inclusion of a federal Kurdish region in the new Iraqi constitution to be drawn up by the assembly before a referendum.

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