In the Arena

The Anti-Chalabi

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While some forces in the U.S. government, neoconservatives mostly, were touting Ahmed Chalabi as the great Iraqi Hope during the years before the Iraq war, the C.I.A. favorite seemed to be Iyad Allawi–a secular Shi’ite, former Baathist, whom Saddam tried to have assassinated (with an axe). And while Chalabi has emerged as Tehran’s man in Baghdad, Allawi leads a nationalist coalition that may well finish first in tomorrow’s voting. You’ve got to love his pitch:

“There is no difference between a Kurd, an Arab, a Turkmen. There is no difference between a Muslim or a non-Muslim. There is no difference between a Sunni or a Shiite.”

In fact, Allawi’s nationalism may not be as important as the fact that he seems to be a tough guy–there are urban legends about him personally assassinating prisoners when he was prime minister a few years ago–in a nation that seems to like tough guys. But it is a hopeful sign that the leading candidate in tomorrow’s election is more intent on uniting Iraq than dividing it.