Sunday’s Observer newspaper in the UK carries an interview with the previous interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. In it he admits that human righta abuses are as bad, if not worse, than under Saddam Hussein.

People are doing the same as [in] Saddam’s time and worse,’ Ayad Allawi told The Observer. ‘It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.’

Allawi’s motives are fairly clearly to undermine the assertion that will be made by the Bush administration as a smokescreen to let them withdraw nearly half the troops they have in Iraq. The article gives a hint at what might be behind this:

Allawi’s supporters struggled in last January’s elections, where they were eclipsed by Shia religious parties, some of which have been implicated in the violence.

Recently, however, his reputation has enjoyed a resurgence as he has tried to build alliances with Sunni political groups ahead of next month’s national elections.

The article goes on to explain how several of his political friends have been killed. Allawi is in personal danger and has even ordered his own bodyguards to fire on official Iraqi police if they approach without prior notice.

Previously we thought that there would be three main factions involved in the civil war to follow pull-out, namely the Shia, Sunni and Kurds all keen to retain power in their own areas. Allawi could be the focus of a fourth, those in favour of retaining a unitary Iraq.

In saving his own skin, Allawi has kicked away one of the last justifications the Bush (and to a large extent) Blair administrations have for the initial invasion and the continued presence. Ironically his comments might hasten the withdrawal of the foreign forces he seems desperate to retain.

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