David Ignatius has an intriguing piece in the Washington Post today saying that the Bush administration made a big mistake by not interfering in the Iraqi elections back in 2005. Back then it was viewed as crucial that America did not try and rig the process. Indeed, the conventional wisdom was that the defeat of America’s favoured candidate, Ayad Allawi, was actually a good thing as it demonstrated that it had been a genuine contest.
But Ignatius argues that America’s withdrawal from the contest only succeeded in leaving it open for Iran to pervert it to its own ends. He reveals that the CIA believed that Iran was spending a $11 million a week funding its favoured sectarian Shiite candidates and that just before the election up to 5,000 Iranians were flowing into Iraq to fraudulently register to vote.
The CIA did have a plan for countering these efforts. But an unusual alliance of Condi Rice and Nancy Pelosi succeeded in persuading the administration that it was crucial that America did not try and manipulate the elections. The Agency was forced to back down; even going as far as to claim back money that it had already distributed to Washington’s favoured candidates.
Obviously, it would have been preferable if no foreign power had tried to influence the results of Iraq’s elections. But considering the extent of Iran’s efforts it was probably not wise for the US to pull back completely. It is, though, a hard call as if American involvement had become public it would have fostered yet more cynicism across the Muslim world about America’s pro-democracy stance.Tags: The week that was