The Obama administration wants Americans to believe their Iraq policy is a success even as Baghdad is heading off a political cliff that favors Iran.
President Barack Obama came to office "more interested in keeping his 2008 campaign promise to bring the troops home than the long-term success of our efforts there," said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). Obama withdrew most of our troops and advisers in Dec. 2010 leaving that country in bad hands.
Sen. Inhofe, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continued "Now, the Iraqi leader that the Obama administration supports, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, threatens to turn the country away from democracy." The senator warns "If Iraq fails; history will find it due in part to President Obama's failed foreign policy there."
Obama supporters understand the domestic political risks associated with Sen. Inhofe's warning. That prompted Democratic Party operatives to launch an Iraq public opinion survey to create a positive perception of Maliki, Obama's man in Baghdad.
Last month Iraqi and international media took the bait and reported the survey's results as good news for Maliki and by association Obama. For example, the New York Times reported a plurality of Iraqis felt the country was going in the right direction and Iraq Daily News reported Maliki's popularity has risen to 53 percent, an increase of 19 points since Oct. 2011.
Obama loyalists hosted and conducted the survey. The National Democratic Institute, which commissioned the survey, is led by Democrat Party luminaries like Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. NDI is funded by institutions like the United Nations Democracy Fund and pro-Obama foundations like George Soros's Open Society Institute.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), which "specializes in political polling and campaign strategy," conducted the survey. GQRR's client list includes the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, Democrat political candidates, and overseas progressive leaders.
The DNI/GQRR survey is likely skewed to make Maliki appear falsely popular, a clever way to deceive the American public and to protect the president.
Tyler Harber, international pollster and a partner at Harcom Strategies said "The GQRR survey analysis isn't exactly forthcoming. The sampling … could potentially skew the results toward the opinions of more urban areas" which favor Maliki.
Reidar Visser, an Iraqi affairs expert and fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, is also skeptical about the GQRR survey. "In the past, such Iraqi opinion polls have proven highly unreliable as forecasters of issues," Visser told niqash.org's Cathrin Schaer.
Polls aside, there is a lot happening in Iraq that Obama's supporters don't want American voters to know about.
First, Iraqi sectarian violence is back with a vengeance. Last week was the most violent since March 2010 with almost one hundred non-suicide bomb attacks that left more than 107 dead and hundreds more injured.
Stephanie Sanok, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Associated Press the absence of American forces combined with the government divisions and weak Iraqi security have emboldened the militants.
Iraq's political crisis is markedly sectarian which fuels the violence. Maliki is leading the sectarian attack by sidelining his political opponents and refusing to share authority such as in the case of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.
On the day the U.S. withdrew from Baghdad Maliki's security forces surrounded the residences of prominent Sunni politicians including Vice President al-Hashemi, to arrest him on charges of running death squads. But Hashemi escaped to northern Iraq and sectarian violence has since skyrocketed.
"It is very troubling the Maliki-led government is operating on cultivating sectarian tensions and executing policies to suppress democracy at the expense of the Iraqi people," said Vice President al-Hashimi from his exiled refuge. He continued, "Iraqi politicians must put the past and our differences behind us to improve the lives of our people."
But Maliki isn't putting past differences behind him. Rather he is resurrecting memories Iraqis associate with their former dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Second, the DNI/GQRR survey found most non-Shia Iraqis believe Maliki has too much power and 64 percent say he acts like a dictator. Iraqis have good reason to associate Maliki's actions with their former dictator.
The prime minister is consolidating personal power as did Saddam Hussein says British scholar Toby Dodge who outlined Maliki's power grab at a forum hosted by the National Defense University and reported in Foreign Affairs.
Maliki completely transformed Iraq's security and intelligence forces to be at his beck and call, explained Dodge. The prime minister retained the title and role of defense and interior ministers, controls all high-ranking appointments, and created special counter-terrorism brigades that report directly to him. These special forces, which some Iraqis label fedayeen [Arabic for "those who sacrifice"] al-Maliki, remind them of Hussein's fedayeen Saddam which performed the dictator's dirty work.
The prime minister also tightened control over intelligence services. Today, as in Saddam's time, Maliki has six separate intelligence services watching each other and everyone else, according to Dodge.
Maliki consolidated judicial power under his thumb. Dodge said Maliki brought the supreme federal court under his direct control and eliminated watchdog agencies set-up by the U.S. to oversee elections and fight corruption.
"Maliki's consolidation of his grip on the country's security forces, while manipulating the courts and rule of law for his own political gain, go hand in hand with the disturbingly close relationship he maintains with Iran," said Mark Alsalih, senior advisor to Iraqiya, a Sunni-dominated political party.
Finally, Maliki is dangerously close to Iran's leaders because he owes his job to Tehran's mullahs.
Iran helped engineer Maliki's ascent to the prime ministership in December 2010 by bringing Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc into Maliki's fold, which ended a nine-month political stalemate with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi, who won the most seats in the 2010 election.
Now Maliki barks to Tehran's commands. He supports Iran's rogue allies like besieged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad by defending the dictator's violent crackdown and even signed trade deals with Syria to appease Tehran.
Iraq's economy is wide open to Iran as well. Maliki signed more than 100 economic agreements with Iran and now Iranian companies work inside Iraq on major reconstruction projects. For example, Iraq, Iran and Syria signed a $10 billion natural gas deal to construct a pipeline originating in Iran and extending to Syria.
There is official discussion about an even closer relationship. Iran's first vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi called for forging a full union between Iran and Iraq, according to al Arabiya News, which Maliki hasn't rejected. Maliki in fact told the Islamic Republic News Agency "Iraq is interested in comprehensive expansion of relations with its good neighbor, Iran."
That relationship is rapidly maturing. This April Maliki received a red-carpet welcome in Iran where he met key leaders including Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, who said he sees a bright future for Iraq. But Maliki's most interesting meeting was with Mahmud Shadrudi, an Iraqi who is a member of the Iranian Guardian Council.
That visit fueled speculation Maliki's Daawa party might adopt Shadrudi as a collective marja, "religious reference." That's important because Shadrudi belongs to the school of the Iranian revolution and advocates a leading role for the clergy in government much like Iran. Does Maliki entertain the idea of remaking Iraq in Iran's image?
President Obama's Iraq policy is a total failure which skewed surveys can't cover-up. Thanks to Obama, America is a victim of its inaction in Iraq and the Iraqi people are saddled with an Iranian-friendly dictator, and U.S. national security is degraded.
By Robert Maginnis