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Fred Barnes Speculates About the Assassination of Nouri al-Maliki.

Reported by Marie Therese - August 25, 2007 -

OK. So maybe Sen. John Warner (R-VA) only asked that 5,000 troops be returned home for Christmas. It was still enough to make the pro-war crowd at FOX News quake in its boots, as evidenced by the lengths to which Fred Barnes, Jeff Birnbaum and Charles Krauthammer went yesterday to downplay the importance of Warner's backpedaling and the pessimistic outlook of the just released NIE report. During the August 23rd edition of Special Report grim faces, twitching hands and sour expressions were the order of the day as the Panel tried to spin straw into gold. However, during Friday's edition the pressure of creating silk purses out of sows' ears finally got to Fred Barnes. He went off the deep end. At one point in a discussion about the failures of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq, Barnes reminisced about the Vietnam War and the U.S.-backed assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem, then seemed to indicate that he would favor such action against al-Maliki. Charles Krauthammer jumped in to save his colleagues' bacon, but the cat was already out of the bag. With video.

Early in the segment FOX News mentioned the fact that Iraq's former Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, has hired a Washington lobbying firm to argue his case as Nouri al-Maliki's replacement.

They did not tell their viewers that it is the Republican lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, which was founded by now-Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour, formerly Chairman of the RNC. Barbour sold his interest in the firm, but his name remains on it and his connections to it remain deep.

At first Fred Barnes spent a good deal of time nervously spluttering the GOP talking point of the day, i.e. that Democrats and the press have changed the focus of the coverage in Iraq to the political failures of the al-Maliki government while ignoring the big successes of the military surge operation.

Jeff Birnbaum gently reminded Barnes that it was the NIE report that came to the conclusion that the "modest" success of the surge has been far outweighed by the inefficacy of the al-Maliki government.

Foreshadowing his later, far more inflammatory comments Barnes said: "I'm waiting for somebody to come up with a way in which - uh - one, he can be ousted other than through an election and then you hear about people like Ayad Allawi who has hired a lobbying firm in Washington ..."

According to Iraq Slogger.com:

[Barbour Griffith & Rogers] International's president is Robert Blackwill, the one-time White House point man on Iraq, holding the title of Presidential Envoy to Iraq in 2004.

Blackwill worked closely during that time with Allawi, who was appointed Iraq's interim prime minister with the U.S. government's blessing.

IraqSlogger has learned BGR's work for Allawi includes the August 17 purchase of the Web site domain Allawi-for-Iraq.com.

In recent days, BGR sent hundreds of e-mail messages in Allawi's name from the e-mail address DrAyadAllawi@Allawi-for-Iraq.com.

Slogger's article continues:

Using the new Allawi e-mail address, BGR distributed the Allawi op-ed to U.S. Congressional staffers and others in Washington -- a development first reported by Congressional aide Daniel McAdams on Lew Rockwell's blog.

That BGR-purchased Allawi e-mail address was also used to distribute comments from Democratic Senator Carl Levin calling for Maliki's resignation.

Phone calls to BGR today seeking comment were not returned.

On its Web site, BGR describes itself as a "privately-owned Republican firm," and its founders and top executives include recently-departed Bush administration veterans, one-time Republican party leaders, and major Bush campaign contributors.

Allawi is not new to the world of Washington lobbyists.

In 2004, while interim Iraqi prime minister, Allawi spent nearly $400,000 with the Washington lobbying firm of Theros and Theros.

Allawi's relationship with BGR apparently is relatively new, however, because official Justice Department and Senate lobbyist tracking records provide no indication of the BGR-Allawi relationship.

BGR's Web site, which identifies dozens of BGR clients by name, makes no mention of Allawi.

The quote, mentioned above, made by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) was brought up during the August 24th edition of Special Report. Bret Baier, the panel and the rest of American media missed something, however. As Juan Cole points out on his blog, Informed Comment, it wasn't WHAT Levin said about al-Maliki, it was WHERE he said it from that ticked off the Prime Minister and resulted in his angry retort!

"PM Nuri al-Maliki responded to Senator Carl Levin's (D-Michigan) call for him to be unseated, and Bush's failure to support him on Tuesday by unwisely getting hot under the collar and saying he can find other friends in the world to support his endeavor. I predicted that Levin's unwise and inappropriate comment (in a conference call with Tel Aviv!-- Americans have no clue about Middle Eastern politics) would elicit an angry response. Levin managed to make it look as though he were ordered by the Israeli government to see al-Maliki gotten rid of because he was making economic deals with Syria (thus strengthening the latter). I underline that such an interpretation is unfounded, but that is how many in the region see it. Levin is usually sure-footed and careful on Middle East issues, including especially Iraq, so I can't understand why he wants to appoint himself secretary of state all of a sudden. (Source: Informed Comment)

Cole, a noted Middle East expert, also reported Friday on yet another story, this one from "knowledgeable sources" in Damascus, Syria. These sources claim that there is an American-backed military coup in the offing in Iraq.

"There is serious talk of a military commission (majlis `askari) to take over the government. The parties would be banned from holding positions, and all the ministers would be technocrats, so to speak. . . [The writer indicates that attempts have been made to recruit cabinet members from the ranks of expatriate technocrats.]

The six-member board or commission would be composed on non-political former military personnel who are presently not part of the government OR the military establishment, such as it is in Iraq at the moment. It is said that the Americans are supporting this behind the scenes. (Source: Informed Comment)

It is interesting to read that rumors of a coup d'etat are flying around the Middle East just as they are here!

But, I digress. Let's get back to Special Report!

Charles Krauthammer mentioned the memo leaked last year written by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley in which Hadley expressed the Bush administration's displeasure with al-Maliki. When substitute host Bret Baier later referred to the fact that members of the administration were displeased with al-Maliki, Barnes seemed confused, even though the reference had occurred just moments before. He covered his gaffe by blaming Democrats like Carl Levin.

Barnes was not having a good night. He openly contradicted himself at one point. Right at the beginning of the segment he said "Why is Maliki suddenly the big story? It's because the press and the Democrats want to talk about it rather than the surge." When Birnbaum referenced this statement later, he retorted petulantly "I didn't say it was just the press. I said it was the Democrats and the critics of the war in Iraq."

Undaunted, Birnbaum forged ahead, stating that the NIE report postulated that the al-Maliki government had six to twelve months before it would collapse.

Charles Krauthammer took up the verbal cudgel, saying "Look, despite how the Maliki issue is being used here politically, he has to go. He's a disaster, not just because he's weak but because he may not be our friend. He said earlier in the week, when he was in Syria when he heard about what Senator Levin had said about ousting him, 'Well, we have our friends in the region.' He means Syria and Iran. We should have been working to undermine him for at least all of this year. ... And it isn't undemocratic. Iraq has a parliamentary system. In every parliamentary system in Canada or Britain or elsewhere if you lose the confidence of the Parliament, you go."

Comment: So, let me get this straight. Al-Maliki is a bad leader because he doesn't dance to the tune played by the United States and instead tries to forge alliances of mutual benefit with his neighbors, one Shi'a (Iran), one with a Shi'a government ruling over a Sunni population(Syria)? *

Then Barnes stepped into the abyss when he said this: "... [al Maliki] is a dud. Look he hasn't done a good job and I'm sure privately President Bush is furious at how little he's done in reconciliation and other things. On the other hand, you know, we went through this in Vietnam, when they - when the U. S. conspired to get President [Ngo Dinh] Diem murdered actually and then that's a - a sequence of people after that who could not lead. (Birnbaum was clearly distressed by this and off camera there was a feeling of movement by Krauthammer even though you couldn't see him) Look. If there were some other - if there were some obvious leader there, Charles, I would say 'Good, let's go ahead with it.'"

Krauthammer responded immediately, saying "I'm not going to have him shot" - thus acknowledging that he believed that Barnes was calling for assassination. He then concluded "if we want success in this war, he has to go. We've got to work on that and Ayad Allawi is an alternative."

Barnes tried to rehabilitate himself by exclaiming "Let's succeed in the war and then six months from now, worry about Maliki."

COMMENT

Oh my, oh my, oh my!

Is there a connection - financial or otherwise - between Barnes, Krauthammer and BGR?

How much pro-Allawi lobbying money is changing hands in Washington these days and who's on the receiving end of it?

More importantly, where did Ayad Allawi get the $300,000 retainer he paid to BGR to use on his behalf? According to reports I've read he does not have that kind of money. So, it seems that, unless he won the lottery, someone or some organization is fronting him the dinero to carry on his campaign.

In the course of my Google searches for this post, the name of one organization popped up time and time again - The Council on Foreign Relations. This group has a long, long, very familiar list of names associated with it. Any one of them could be the source for the $300,000. Or none of them.

Click the links to read a who's who of the power elite:

CFR #1

CFR #2

CFR #3

Those lists make for some interesting speculation, don't they?


* Post corrected 8-25-07 3:19 PM EDT - Syria is predominantly Sunni, but ruled by a Shi'a government. Hat tip to "Taget" for the catch. - MT