The decision today by the Iraqi Islamic Party to take part in the gestating Iraqi government is important news, but not good news. There’s at least an outside chance that the IIP’s decision was partly the result of a U.S. covert operation by the Pentagon.
First of all, the news. The Iraqi Islamic Party is a branch of the international Muslim Brotherhood, the same fraternity that runs Hamas and the organization in Egypt that just won a big bloc of seats in the new Egyptian national assembly. It’s a Wahhabi-inspired, back-to-basics fundamentalist party that does, indeed, want to create the worldwide Muslim caliphate that President Bush is constantly warning us about. It is Sunni, and in the recent elections, the IIP was the mainstay for the Iraqi Accordance Front, one of the main Sunni parties in the Dec. 15 elections. the IIP-led Accordance Front represented the religious Sunnis, while another bloc represented the secular (and neo-Baathist) Sunnis. It is at least the third time that the IIP broke ranks with the opposition: when it joined the earlier Iraqi interim government, when it decided in October to support the constitution draft, and now its decision to join the Shiite-led coalition.
The IIP decision angered its erstwhile allies, as expected. Reported the AP:
"We were shocked today when we heard that our brothers, who signed agreements with us yesterday to discuss just the fraudulent elections with the Kurdish leaders, instead were discussing forming a national unity government," Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, told The Associated Press.
What’s interesting here is an apparently covert relationship that has been developing between the IIP and the Pentagon, in part through the secretive Lincoln Group, the PR firm that planted paid propaganda in Iraqi media for the DOD. The New York Times revealed yesterday that the Lincoln Group also had Sunni Iraqi clerics on its covert payroll:
Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could help craft messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency, according to a former employee.
Since then, the company has retained three or four Sunni religious scholars to offer advice and write reports for military commanders on the content of propaganda campaigns, the former employee said. But documents and Lincoln executives say the firm's ties to religious leaders and dozens of other prominent Iraqis are aimed also at enabling it to exercise influence in Iraqi communities on behalf of clients, including the military.
"We do reach out to clerics. We meet with local government officials and with local businessmen," Paige Craig, a Lincoln executive vice president, said in an interview. "We need to have relationships that are broad enough and deep enough that we can touch all the various aspects of society."
It isn’t clear if the Lincoln Group was dealing exclusively, or even primarily, with Muslim Brotherhood-linked clerics. But it ought be noted that one of Lincoln’s paid consultants, according to the Times, was Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. And Rubin is a co-thinker of AEI’s Reuel Marc Gerecht, who is on record (in his book, The Islamic Paradox) saying that the Muslim Brotherhood ought to be a main partner of the United States in the region.