Allawi, Ayad

Allawi, Ayad
▪ 2005

      On June 28, 2004, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority officially transferred sovereignty in Iraq to the newly chosen Iraqi leadership. To the surprise of many, Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiʿite and former member of the Arab Baʿth Socialist Party, was named prime minister of the interim government. He was to hold office until general elections, scheduled for January 2005, could be held. As prime minister, Allawi adopted a policy of trying to reconcile with Baʿthists who had not been involved in criminal acts during former president Saddam Hussein's regime. Allawi held out the prospect of pardon for all rebels—Shiʿite or Sunni—willing to lay down their arms, though he remained tough on insurgents and supported the U.S. assault on the city of Fallujah.

      Allawi was born in Baghdad on May 31, 1944, into a middle-class family. His father was a physician; his mother came from a well-known Lebanese family. He joined the Baʿthists in 1961 and became active in the Iraqi National Students' Union while studying at the College of Medicine in Baghdad. In 1972 he was sent to England to pursue advanced medical studies and to head the Baʿth National Students' Union there. He received a degree in neurology (1982), but he never practiced medicine, preferring politics.

      In 1976 Allawi broke with the Baʿth Party and reportedly established ties with the British intelligence service MI6. Two years later he and his wife survived a brutal assassination attempt, presumably perpetrated by Saddam's secret police. He recovered but sustained serious scars and thereafter walked with a limp. In 1979 he began organizing a political group composed of disaffected Baʿthists, which by 1991 had metamorphosed into the Iraqi National Accord (INA), a party in opposition to Saddam.

      The Gulf War of 1990–91 opened new horizons for Allawi. Seeking Saddam's overthrow, the U.S. began to look for Iraqi exiles with ties inside Iraq and by 1992 had established contact with him. He was favoured by the CIA and some other agencies as a counterweight to Ahmad al-Chalabi, then a more prominent Iraqi exile opposition leader. During the 1990s the INA was responsible for attacks inside Iraq aimed at destabilizing Saddam's regime, including a failed CIA-sponsored coup in 1996. After the U.S.-led invasion in early 2003, Allawi was chosen as one of the 25 members of the U.S.-backed provisional governing council.

      Allawi was not known for his charismatic personality; rather he was a reserved man who sought to avoid confrontation. His Baʿthist training, however, had made him a behind-the-scenes operator and a political survivor, and his INA was expected to mount a strong campaign in the general elections.

Louay Bahry

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Universalium. 2010.

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