Crocker: Iraqi PM Maliki’s Turn Towards Dictatorship Is “In U.S. Interest”

Another new Wikileaks cable on Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki provides some insight into U.S. intentions in one of its newest client states. The diplomat writing the cables is Ryan Crocker, just recently appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan. He talks about Maliki’s turn towards authoritarianism and how his tactics and behavior have served to benefit U.S. interests there on the whole.

A key question posed by Maliki's evolving hold on
levers of political and security power is whether the PM is
becoming a non-democratic dictator bent on subordinating all
authority to his hand or whether Maliki is attempting to
rebalance political and security authority back to the center
after five-plus years of intended and unintended dispersal to
(and in some cases seizure by) actors and power structures
outside Baghdad.
[...] First seen as weak, ineffective, and ill-informed
about the political and security structures put in place
since Saddam's fall (Maliki was not a participant in the
governing bodies set up during the CPA), Prime Minister
Maliki was by the fall of 2008 being widely criticized - by
leaders of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) and other Sunni
politicians, by the Kurdish political leadership, and by
fellow Shi'a from outside Maliki's Da'wa Party -- as
autocratic and excessively ambitious, with the long-term aim
of becoming a new strong man dictator.  The "political reform
resolution," passed by parliament in conjunction with its
approval of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and Strategic
Framework Agreement on November 27, 2008 (reftel), amounted
to a manifesto of grievances against the Prime Minister that
had been growing among his coalition partners, and the
opposition, throughout the year. 

The document urged the Maliki Government to adhere to
the Constitution, to commit to a democratic federal system,
to share power with the legislature, to professionalize and
depoliticize the security forces, to guarantee a free
judiciary, disband "unconstitutional structures" within the
government, and release prisoners eligible for amnesty or
held without due process, among other demands.

Details are given about Maliki’s incessant corruption, nepotism, and over-reliance on security forces to get his way. And what does the U.S. think of this turn to centralized authority and strong-arm security tactics? It’s in the U.S. interest.

The critical progress on security and stability made
over the past year, while underpinned by the U.S. military
surge, owes much to Maliki's leadership and restoration of
central government authority.  It is in the interests of the
U.S. to see that process of strengthened central authority

There is a caveat thrown in there about doing this in a more “sustainable” way that reflects strong “institutions rather than personalities” and a “consensus national vision” among Iraq’s main groups. That is, so long as the main groups don’t interfere with our interests in Iraq. For example, to act as a check on Iran, to give primacy to American business, not interfering with U.S. military occupation and operations, and ignoring any part of Iraqi public opinion that contradicts U.S. imperial dictates.

U.S., Saudi Oil Influence in Yemen: Dictating Who Gets to Be Dictator

The Cato Institute’s Malou Innocent, writing at the National Interest‘s Skeptics blog, directs us to a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable detailing Saudi Arabia’s plan “to build, own, and operate a pipeline that bypasses the straits of Hormuz—and hence, the Islamic Republic of Iran” with the only remaining obstacle being “Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

The cable reads, in part:

A British diplomat based in Yemen told PolOff that
Saudi Arabia had an interest to build a pipeline, wholly
owned, operated and protected by Saudi Arabia, through
Hadramaut to a port on the Gulf of Aden, thereby bypassing
the Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf and the straits of Hormuz.
Saleh has always opposed this. The diplomat contended that
Saudi Arabia, through supporting Yemeni military leadership,
paying for the loyalty of shaykhs and other means, was
positioning itself to ensure it would, for the right price,
obtain the rights for this pipeline from Saleh's successor.

This makes it clear that there is probably a lot more going on under the surface in Saudi Arabia’s (and in conjunction, U.S.’s) holding of Saleh in Saudi Arabia, despite being released from the hospital (the reason for his presence there). Saleh, it seems, has been prevented from returning to Yemen to continue his rule. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been helping to prop up Saleh’s regime for years, but the U.S. has called for his resignation since widespread anti-government protests in Yemen nearly killed him. And apparently, the two regional superpowers want him out, and to control who succeeds him, for very different reasons than have been reported. The aim is to make Yemen a more obedient vassal state, not to earnestly respond to country-wide protests against Saleh’s rule.

Bypassing the Straits of Hormuz would be a strategic win for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, further isolating Iran and ensuring more direct control of the flow of oil.