Thursday at the Iraq Commission came to belong to the Kurds, but started with a heavy dose of frontline experience from Dr. Ali Allawi, until recently an adviser to the prime minister of Iraq but now very much out of love with the current government. Allawi was questioned for an hour and his politeness was slightly disconcerting, especially at the end. Paddy Ashdown's style as chair is rather different to Margaret Jay or Tom King - he likes to sum up the evidence.
The only problem is that his disarming "now I don't want to put words in your mouth" often means that is exactly what he is about to do. A couple of witnesses have shot back, with: "That is not what I am saying at all." Dr Allawi simply agreed. The summary is important because Allawi's evidence was multidimensional and not reducible to a simple headline.
What will be reported is Allawi's support for the notion that foreign troops are no longer serving a useful political purpose but rather hindering the development of the Iraqi political process. What might be lost is the sense that the withdrawal of foreign troops has to be linked to a change of policy. That change of policy must be the abandonment by the Americans of the emphasis on a strong central government and a revision of the constitution and an embrace of the existing constitution and the regional solution based on subsidarity. This regional solution, retaining a unified Iraq but with a weaker central government, has to be underpinned by regional powers' endorsement. The alternative is the sectarian seizure of control in the separate regions, something more likely to lead to partition.
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