Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Exit and Legacy of Ali Faysal al-Lami

Posted by Reidar Visser on Sunday, 23 May 2010 14:31

Hopefully the Iraqi judicial authorities will not opt to wait for the All Clear from the politicians to certify the election results, since the weekend has been a pretty ordinary one with the usual wide-ranging array of predictions as to when the new Shiite alliance will become a kutla in its own right with a leader and a name – and a premier candidate. Estimates varied from “very soon” to “within 10 days”; in other words an echo of the situation in July 2009 and indicating that agreement is not even close. Unless Ayad Allawi of Iraqiyya and Nuri al-Maliki can agree to cut through the crap and meet in private, the intra-Shiite process can take many, many weeks, and that is before they even begin talking to the Kurds.

So in the meanwhile, here are a couple of reflections on the last grand stand of Ali al-Lami, the de-Baathification director who now seems to have been abandoned even by Ahmed Chalabi and his other list allies in INA as they instead focus on reaping the fruits of his efforts to repolarise Iraqi politics along sectarian lines. Recent evidence cited by  Al-Hayat but not really analysed in detail by the paper reveals many fascinating clues about the flawed jurisprudence that has guided the de-Baathification committee in its work to exclude selected political opponents and generally whip up an atmosphere of sectarianism and distrust prior to the 7 March elections.

Perhaps the most fascinating feature of the interview is that Lami repeats his intention to appeal the decision whereby 9 recently de-Baathified candidates were reinstated by the special appeals board for de-Baathification cases. This is remarkable not only for the fact that the two relevant pieces of legislation, i.e. the accountability and justice law of January 2008 as well as the IHEC regulations for certification of entities and candidates, both say the decisions on appeals in these matters cannot be appealed to any other authority. It is also what Lami said himself when he was successful with his previous batch of 52 post-election exclusions and there was talk about intervention by the presidency council: These decisions cannot be appealed, viz.

وأضاف اللامي أن  قرار الهيئة الانتخابية في المفوضية بإلغاء أصوات 52 مرشحا من المشمولين بإجراءات المساءلة والعدالة هو قرار نهائي ولا رجعة فيه”، مؤكدا أن “هذا القرار غير قابل للطعن لأنه صدر من هيئة تمييزية

Other interesting nuggets of information in the article include the justifications offered by the de-Baathification authorities in their attempts to exclude individuals. For the first time, the name of the State of Law candidate that was attacked by Lami in the last batch of exclusions is actually mentioned – Jabbar Abid al-Qurayshi who ended up as the second best SLA vote-getter in Wasit (and whose exclusion, if implemented along with that of Jamal al-Batikh of Iraqiyya, would have given the last seat in the governorate to INA instead of SLA). What’s more, the piece of evidence offered in support of his exclusion is simply that he received a medal from the Baath party in 1999 and held a job at the mudir or director level in 2000 – neither of which suffices for exclusion under the accountability and justice act.

Turning to the Iraqiyya candidates, the evidence used by the de-Baathification committee and obtained by Al-Hayat also contains documents showing that a female member of Iraqiyya in Anbar had been a member of the Baath at the ‘amil (active) level. But again, that is quite irrelevant with respect to the de-Baathification legislation, which does not pertain to this kind of junior membership. The same problem applies to the attempted exclusion of Labna Rahim, who had a membership at the firqa level. Again, the accountability and justice act expressly allows for the return to service of bureaucrats who held this rank of membership except for the presidency and certain sensitive branches of government. Aliya Nusayf was even sought excluded because she had been a trainee member of the Baath!

Finally, the evidence obtained by Al-Hayat reveals an attempt by the de-Baathification board to incriminate Iskandar Witwit in aiding counter-insurgency operations in 1991 (even though he at one point was accused by the Baathists for having sided with the rebels). Whatever the truth of the matter, the key point is that the Iraqi constitution of 2005 implicitly states that participation in counter-insurgency operations in 1991 does not in itself disqualify anyone from serving as a member of the Iraqi parliament. This is so because the requirements for membership of the presidency council make it clear that the president and his deputies must fulfil the requirements of a parliamentary deputy, “and, additionally, must not have participated in repressing the 1991 uprising”. The language of the constitution would in fact have been meaningless if a deputy could also be excluded solely on the basis of counter-insurgency activity in 1991.

Lami’s flawed arguments will likely meet with the ridicule they so abundantly deserve. More worrisome is the fact that he will also be construed as a loner, while the international community will rush to support the people that benefited from his actions and their attempts to form a “government of national unity” of ethno-sectarian leaders. The lasting legacy of Ali al-Lami is in fact a monumental one: Through de-Baathification, he created pressure on SLA and terrorised Iraqiyya supporters south of Baghdad and made a normal, issue-based coalition-forming process in Iraq next to impossible.

20 Responses to “The Exit and Legacy of Ali Faysal al-Lami”

  1. observer said

    Regardless of the sectarianism that has been agitated by Lami and company, the street in the south has not become as polarized as the politicians would wish it to be. My encounters in the south have consistently shown that people are smart enough to understand the machinations and motivations behind the charges and counter charges. To the surprise of many, people in general, are not happy with the talk of SLA joining with INA. The divide seems to be the Sadrists. Those who like Sadrists do not mind the joining, provided that Maliki is not the PM. On the other hand, people who voted for SLA because of their dislike of Sadrists are wondering why Iraqia and SLA are not joining??? Some even pronounced regret that they voted for SLA given the rapprochement with Sadris.

    I am sure that the pronouncement of Barazani that Iraqiia should get first turn at forming a government somehow passed unnoticed given that it was accompanied by a judgment that the elections were sectarian in nature after all. But for me, it is significant that Barzani would say that Iraqia has first right given that the Kurdish alliance has indicated its alignment with INA.

  2. AS said

    Is there a case for criminal charges against him?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    I guess the problem then is, what do you do with all the people who participated in the nauseating chorus of “Dusturi, dusturi” [constitutional] while Lami was at his height in Feburary? They include a lot of high-ranking politicians…

  4. Jason said

    Observer, that is what I have been thinking/hoping – that the people that voted for SLA want little or nothing to do with the Sadrists, which continues to give me hope. I honestly don’t believe they can work together, now any more than before the election. They are really far apart when it comes to the day-to-day running of the govt.

    I would be interested to receive an update on the respective views of the SLA and Sadrists’ performance at the local and provincial levels. That is the incubator where future leaders are being sorted out.

  5. Francis Brooke said

    Mr. Visser:

    “participation in counter-insurgency operations in 1991”

    This remarkable formulation tells any informed observer all they need to know about your understanding of southern Iraq and the current political situation.

    Francis Brooke

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Mr. Brooke, various supporters of Ahmad Chalabi keep sending me flame comments from time to time but I don’t publish them if they are anonymous/have fake e-mails and don’t engage with the substantive content of the posts. But since your e-mail address seems genuine I’ll assume you are who you say you are. To your comment, I try to avoid stereotypical language that only serves to reiterate established clichés, so, unlike your friends, I do not always write “the heroic Shabaniyya revolt”. (Just for the record, I have frequently referred to it as a “revolt”.) Similarly, I do not always talk about “the young, firebrand radical Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr”, even though American journal and magazine editors often force me to describe him that way.

    I’d be curious to know whether you think that the fact that you yourself for so long received money from Chalabi might have influenced your own appreciation of the situation in Iraq? Also, and more importantly, it would benefit the readership of this blog enormously if you could comment on the specific points brought up in the article, i.e. the incongruence between the evidence presented by the accountability and justice board and the actual constitutional and legal framework of de-Baathification.

  7. Ali W said

    “participation in counter-insurgency operations in 1991″

    Reidar you stated that the constitution does not dissallow somoen who took part in the operations against the Iraqi people in 1991. Fine.

    Were is our morals, because idiots wo did not mention it in the constitution means that we should allow people like that in our parliament.

    I’m sorry Reidar, I respect your opinions, but I clearly beleive that you are very detached from the majority of the Iraqi people, and that their suffering does not mean much to you.

  8. Reidar Visser said

    Ali, you are effectively saying the constitution is just for fun, and you are prepared to ignore it when it does not suit your own preferences.

    BTW I would be interested in your thoughts on the cases of Yusuf al-Hububi (2009 Karbala), Abbud al-Eisawi (Najaf) and Jabbar al-Qurayshi (Wasit). Was it correct of Maliki to cooperate with these people with past ties to the Baath (though not higher than firqa level apparently) or not?

  9. Ali W said

    Reidar, I do not beleive the SLA would allow members of the Baath who “took human life, or aided in such thing” to be apart of their list. However I beleive Allawi would.

    Yousif Habubi was in Administration and was well known not to have participated in any crimes, there are no suspicion in that regards.

    I have always stated that I dont beleive we can have a true democracy until the Baathists and Wahabi terrorists have been eliminated.

    Although i believe in democracy and wish it for my people, i would not want it if it will bring back the baath party.

    Sunnis have Defense minister, deputy PM, Vice President, Head speaker of Parliament and other ministries, and still they cry secterianism. That also has to stop, until then Reidar, there will never be a true democracy in Iraq.

  10. Jason said

    Speaking of allowing criminals to participate in government. Is Sadr not guilty of murdering a fellow Shiite cleric? is Chalabi not a convicted felon?

  11. Reidar Visser said

    Jason, I don’t think Muqtada has been convicted for anything but I suppose what you are thinking of are the accusations against some other Sadrists for having taken part in the murder of Abd al-Majid al-Khoei in 2003, and also against Hakim al-Zamili for being behind abductions of senior Iraqi politicians.

  12. Jason said

    Ali, “Although i believe in democracy and wish it for [Iraqi] people, i would not want it if it will [put Iranian proxies in power].”

  13. Kermanshahi said

    Reidar & Ali W, I’d like to add that 1991 wasn’t exactly “counter-insurgency” it was more of a major massacre against civilians and while all regular Iraqis in the security joined the uprising, it were the hard-core Ba’ath loyalists which stayed loyal. Therefore, there should be no excuses, everyone who participated should be punished by law rather than being allowed to join the government.

    Jason “Although i believe in democracy and wish it for Iraqi people, i would not want it if it will put [American] proxies in power.”

  14. Ali W said

    Jason, nor do I, however the biggest danger from a shia point of view is the Baathist.

    And as long as the shia feel repressed in other Arab countries, feel marginalised by other Arab countries, still have Wahabi Imams calling us this or that, and who still support the insurgency, it will be natural to go to Iran for support.

    The shias voted in large number to those those who are not close to Iran, whilst the sunnis voted in large numbers to those who are close to the Baath and Saudi Arabia.

  15. observer said

    Francis, and Ali,
    to claim that ali lami and ahmad chalabi flared the DeBaathification flames to protect democracy is hot air. It is purely politics intended to serve Ahmed in particular who has a history of putting his personal goals ahead of the country’s interests, and justifying it to himself and his minions/cronies based on his presumed intelligence and knowledge. He has the same regards to the constitution as Saddam had (recall what Saddam said about laws in 1974)

    Thanks to the campaign of DeBaathificaiton, the election campaign had nothing to do with the lack of services and lack of improvement in oil production, electricity, etc. and it all served to re-polarize Iraq. Ahmed should get the Melosovic Prize for demagoguery.

    Give us all a break and do not pretend to have a monopoly on the moral high ground. Come to the south of Iraq and live with the people here and then come and give us lessons as to what “my people” should have in terms of political systems and who leads us. What we need in Iraq is not Iranian Proxies, nor American proxies, but we need IRAQI LEADERS who think of Iraqi interests. No hyphenated Iraqis, as in Sunni-Iraqi, Kurdish-Iraqi, etc., need apply

    for the record, this observer is a she3a with an Ayatallah for a grandfather!!!

  16. mostafa said

    Hi Reidar,
    Why did the Americans Arrest Ali Allami for about a year in an unknown place without any charge?

  17. Salah said

    it was more of a major massacre against civilians and while all regular Iraqis in the security joined the uprising, it were the hard-core Ba’ath loyalists which stayed loyal. Therefore, there should be no excuses; everyone who participated should be punished by law rather than being allowed to join the government.

    As 1991 war veteran, moved to Kuwait in the last month before US strike and saw and heard many stories in southern Iraq by colleges who were caught in that “major massacre against civilians “ or my family members and friends in Hilla city south Baghdad 90km.
    1991 defiantly caused massive civilian death but the core of that was “Quads Force” from Iran unfretted in southern Iraq with weaponry when things went ugly by killing Iraqi military personal who caught after unorganized withdraw from Kuwait in the way home. They put on fires governmental offices and public service like schools, hospitals, land registration authorities and other places with wide speared looting all of that happened during what you call “major massacre against civilians “ . If this happened in any state from US, UK, or Iran what will be the reactions by those governments?
    Let not forget latest Iran does the peaceful opposition uprising what irons’ Mullah done although it was peaceful uprising /demonstration look what they done what if that uprising did same acts like in Iraq 1991 what Mullah will do?

    Let to those who keep raising this issue looking of the half the empty glass by reminding them the massacre was done by US forces after the ceasefire the withdrawal Iraqi troop from Kuwait on the way back toward the Iraqi boarders US fighters, B-52 carpet-bombing the long line of Iraqi troops moving on “The Highway of Death”. That incident cause the death of hundred of thousand of military personal were most of that personal from southern Iraq (70% of Iraqi army from southern Iraq). However if we count the bombing power which some sources masseurs equal up to the 20 Nuclear bombs like the one thrown oh Hiroshima to the deployed Uranium on Iraqi cause must horrific and massacre to Iraqi civilians which had effect hundred of years to last.

  18. Salah said

    Why did the Americans Arrest Ali Allami

    The two version of the both sides of his story:

    My Testimony on ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’
    by Ali Faisal Al-Lami,
    General Director of the De-Baathification Committee
    Posted: September 29, 2009 11:11 AM

    Iranian elephant in the Iraqi room
    By Sreeram Chaulia

  19. mostafa said

    I am sure now that you are longing for Saddam’s days, so it is normal to be mad at the new iraqi system that is trying to be really democratic and just.

  20. Salah said


    Instead of discussed the truths w3hate happened you went to insulting which common in these day of very “democratic” that is why the soundless pistols used and gang killing very ordinary matter in Iraq today. that’s why civilians innocent killed thrown on the streets just because said something that you and your ilk can defends so 240 journalists killed, tens of hundred innocent Iraqi killed just speaking unhappy with your democracy.

    It’s ok today for you & ilk’s will last no longer than tyrant 35 years let waited and see and then your history will be very black and ugly.

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