Independent Iraqi politics, 2006

Reading [Blair Unbound](, Anthony Seldon’s political biography of Blair since 2001, I’ve been struck by how forcefully it confirms the view much of the outside world had of Number 10 in that time. Namely, that everything was driven by personalities rather than policies, with Blair rarely hearing — let alone listening to — the outside world.
[Naturally]( I’ve been paying particularly close attention to the treatment of the Iraq war. This was the first political event I was deeply involved in, and re-viewing it as history provides a chance to see what I interpreted correctly and falsely at the time. Generally, the lesson is I was most likely to be right when I was at my most cynical.
A good example of this is the casual way in which Blair and Bush controlled Iraqi politicians — including elected politicians, whose democratic selection was one of the last remaining justifications for their war.
So, when Nouri al-Maliki’s selection as Iraqi Prime Minster in early 2006, replacing Ibrahim Jaafari,
[most reports]( treated it as a decision made by Iraqis. Relatively few journalists discussed it as a selection determined by the Americans. [I did](, correctly cynical for once, mainly because I had been paying attention to [Helena Cobban](
>The US and British governments…have been using the power of their countries’ military position inside Iraq to try to subvert the results of the December election by pursuing a determined campaign against the nomination of Ibrahim Jaafari as Prime Minister.
Now it is safely in the past, Seldon is free to show that the cynics had it right:
>[Blair] became convinced that al-Jaafari should, in the interests of Iraq’s future, step down. But how? Al-Jaafari did not want to relinquish office, and so the full weight of the Bush administration would be required to shift his view….Blair told Bush that he had asked Straw to go to Baghdad to ‘bang heads together’ and suggested that Rice join him….Straw and Rice were unable to dislodge al-Jaafari during their visit, but, in making clear that they spoke with the full authority of their bosses, they made their point. Sawers and the NSC’s Megan O’Sullivan remained behind to maintain the pressure. Blair kept in close contact with them, and on 20 April, al-Jaafari eventually stepped down.

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