The first Iraqi to address the US Congress, Allawi on Thursday said "we are succeeding in Iraq", and thanked members of the congress for "your brave vote in 2002 to authorise American men and women to go to war to liberate my country, because you realised what was at stake".

 

Allawi emphasised that nationwide elections planned for January 2005 will go ahead as scheduled and "will be free and fair. And though they won't be the end of the journey toward democracy, they will be a giant step forward in Iraq's political evolution".

"They will pave the way for a government that reflects the world, and has the confidence of the Iraqi people," he added.

Elections under occupation

But Arab analysts labelled Allawi's speech and his highlighting of national elections a farce.

"What elections under occupation?" asked Mustafa Bakri, editor of the weekly Egyptian news magazine al-Osboa.

Bakri believes a country occupied
cannot have free and fair elections

"Iraq is not free nor is it stable. There is nationwide chaos. Its infrastructure has been destroyed and its wealth pillaged and plundered by the US occupation," he told Aljazeera.net.

Bakri said elections must be all-inclusive and not leave out any sector of Iraq society.

Only hours after Allawi's speech, US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld raised the possibility that some areas of Iraq night be excluded from elections scheduled for January if security could not be guaranteed.

 

"Let's say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn't because the violence was too great," Rumsfeld said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

 

"Well, so be it. Nothing's perfect in life, so you have an election that's not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet," he said.

 

Well-tailored

 

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry disagreed.

 

"The United States and the Iraqis have retreated from whole areas of Iraq," he said.

 

"There are no-go zones in Iraq today. You can't hold an election in a no-go zone."  

 

Bakri also believed Allawi's speech on democracy for 15 of the 18 governorates "is merely covering up the reality in Iraq".

 

"Allawi is mimicking Bush's fantasy that Iraq is an oasis of security. This speech is neither for the Iraqi people nor world opinion, but for the US voter.

Analysts allege Allawi's speech was
designed to aid Bush's re-election

 

"The speech was expected and the response from Congress was expected," he told Aljazeera.net.

 

Other analysts also believe the nature of Allawi's speech and its intended audience served White House election year gambits.

 

"It's the spin that the White House likes to put out," Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report, told CNN shortly after the Allawi speech aired.

 

"It was well-tailored to the needs of the Bush administration."

 

A different story

 

The most severe criticism, however, came from Kerry, who claimed Allawi's speech was an attempt to put the "best face" on an Iraq campaign that is out of control.

 

"The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story."

 

Kerry also charged that Allawi's speech was in stark contrast to statements the interim prime minister made in recent days.

 

"I think the prime minister is obviously contradicting his own statement of a few days ago when he said that terrorists are pouring into the country," Kerry said.

 

No choice

 

But Dr Walid Kazziha, political science professor at the American University in Cairo, believes Allawi may have had no choice.

 

Bakri: Allawi (L) showed his loyalty
to those who brought him to power

"[Allawi] knows what is going on but in front of his master Bush, can't say anything else.

 

"His speech was so similar to all Bush speeches … he is doing a Bush election speech," he told Aljazeera.net.

 

The speech may yet prove effective, however, as it reinforces the White House notion that Bush is in control of the Iraq situation.

 

"Coming from the Iraqi prime minister, the speech will give Bush credibility and simultaneously undermine the Kerry campaign," Kazziha said.