Somehow, it seems Ayad Allawi is shaping up (at least here at The BAG) as the anti-hero of the Iraqi election.
In my previous Iraq post, I touched on evidence that Allawi had received generous covert campaign support from the U.S. and Britain. The way CNN played the incident at the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf on Sunday, you would think the media was also lending a hand.
Following Allawi’s face saving rationalization, the CNN story plays up the candidates claim that he was the victim of an assassination attempt. Most other accounts, however, indicate that Allawi was chased out of the shrine purely on the basis of unpopularity.
If you recall, Najaf is the home base of Moktada al-Sadr, now a coalition partner in the main Shi’ite electoral slate, the United Iraqi Alliance.
Also, Najaf was the scene of a military standoff in August 2004 between
U.S. troops and al-Sadr’s militia. As the Prime Minister at the time,
Allawi, a secular Shi’ite (and ex-C.I.A. operative) stood solidly
behind the U.S. effort.
It may have been because he interrupted a funeral. (In the
third shot from the top, you can see a casket being led out the
entrance with Allawi’s contingent just beyond.) The yellow circles in
the next two shots are not thought bubbles. They are evidentiary
circles drawn to point out how Allawi and company were run off in a
hail of shoes.
I guess Allawi’s Ba’athist past doesn’t make him the most
popular guy in more religious Shi’ite strongholds. Many cultures have
unique rituals of social denunciation. In Iraq, as I’m told, the
throwing of shoes is the single worst insult that a person can make.
(images: CNN video. December 4, 2005. Najaf, Iraq. cnn.com)