Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bait and switch

The UK newspaper The Independent describes the "secret plan" by the Americans to dominate Iraq, citing clauses in a draft of the proposed bilateral agreements; but the main points were already reported in this report in AlHayat two days ago--these main points being a demand for complete freedom for American forces to enter and exit Iraq, control the land, sea and air-space, arrest any Iraqi on made-in-America terrorism charges, exemption of Americans from Iraqi legal process, and so on.

What the AlHayat piece reported, and The Independent does not, is the nature of the negotiating reaction from the Iraqi side. The AlHayat reporter says his sources indicated:
The Iraqi side posed a number of demands, including "disussions with the Iraqi government as a sovereign government, and the denial of any privileges to the American side without the agreement of the Iraqi government; the establishment of temporary American bases, whose existence would be reviewed each year, as is the case with the American bases in Turkey; the denial of movement of the Americans outside of their temporary bases without the knowledge and agreement of the Iraqi government; that financing in- and outflows for the American forces be subject to the Iraqi Central Bank; and that the American forces conduct no military operations without the written authorization of the Iraqi government".
In other words, the Iraqi side was proposing something like the Turkish model for hosting temporary American bases with annual renewal clauses, with US operations within Iraq to be permitted only subject to Iraqi government knowledge and consent.

Recall that there have been two types of "Iraqi rejection" of the agreement. The strong type is based on the idea that a military occupier can't legitimately negotiate a bilateral agreement with the country it is occupying, because the occupied country is under constraint: the occupation has to end first. This is the nature of the rejection expressed by the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq and (implicitly at least) by the Sadrist current, which includes withdrawal or at least a withdrawal-schedule along with its rejection of the agreement. This is also the type of rejection that was put to the Congressional committee yesterday by Khalaf al-Alyan (Ulyyan) and Nadeem al-Jaberi. Alyan is National Dialog Council and Jaberi is Fadhila, and both are decidedly outside the government. The NYT account of their appearance yesterday didn't mention that, (nor did this other blog-account), thus helping foster the impression that their strong-form rejection was the consensus, even in the Green Zone.

The weak type of rejection, on the other hand, relates to particular clauses, and tries to restore a semblance of "sovereignty" to the Iraqi side, via these types of "knowledge and consent" provisions and so on. It is in that context that we should read what happened on Tuesday when Hakim visited Sistani in Najaf and spoke to reporters afterwards. He said Sistani only deals in generalities, not specifics, and there were four points that should be kept in mind in the negotiations, namely: National sovereignty; transparency; national consensus [using the word for a general "coming together", and not the word for a "referendum"]; and exposure [using the word for "displaying" something to someone, and not the specific word for "agreement"] to Parliament. And the details, how are they to be handled? Here's what Hakim said:
There is substantial agreement in general views between us and the marja'iyya. and the details are left to the government and to the other parties that are involved in the arena. We are working in agreement with the general view of the marja'iyya.
So: Differences in detail between the American "free hand" demands, and the Iraqi government's "knowledge and consent" ideas will be negotiated by "the government and the other parties that are involved in the arena". Based on a list of general principles that could hardly be more vague. Even Sistani's latest (reported) principle of parliamentary "exposure" seems, on this reading to be perhaps a little less than reassuring, particularly given the mysterious disappearance of the earlier hints about a referendum.

Meanwhile, the big media and others are touting the Ayatollah Sistani as the best hope for a satisfactory outcome.

As an exercise in US info-management, this is looking more and more like a classic case of bait and switch. For Iraqis, this is shaping up to be the same old story: Nationalists on one side, and Maliki/Hakim and their support-group on the other.


Blogger William deB. Mills said...

I wonder what the probability is of a broad nationalist front uniting Sunnis and Sadrists emerging in Iraq to oppose this new security arrangement...

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Lysander said...

Badger, given all you have read and learned over the years, what is your prediction? Would you say that 10 years from now Iraq will have come to grips with an extensive American military presence? Has Iran been out played in the end? Have Hakim, Badr, and dawa been flipped over to the American side? Are Nasrallah's speech and the various anti sofa Press TV articles a sign that Iran is trying to pressure their former clients to resist?

5:03 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I think over the past couple of years, what has been happening is (1--outside the GZ): groups have pulled away from a type of fighting where other Iraqis could end up in their firing-line, and in effect waiting for a better time and the opportunity for a better focus. Some (not all) of the Awakenings seem to have this in the back of their minds; the anti-AQ movement is based in large part on this; and for Sadr it is an article of faith. One result has been an easing in what was originally (or at least a few years ago) the assumption of latent sectarian hatred. Some of us said if that existed at all it was ephemeral, and we were right. And (2--inside and outside the GZ) what you now have is a variety of groups that are opposed to the occupation and that have a variety of different ideologies and tactical stances. Some are politiians and some are not; some are on the fence. And lo and behold, just when they need a galvanizing issue, to focus on, we get the US push for a long-term treaty by July (or whenever). I could be wrong, but I don't see the formation of a "broad front" in any very organized sense, or even the need for that. What I see is more of a rainbow coalition, if you will pardon the expression, where the principle will be "from each according to his abilities (and his predilections)..." People forget, how it used to be, but you don't have the Sunni groups denouncing the Shiite groups any more, or even mutual denunciations between GZ-participants and non-GZ-participants. You just get acknowledgments that people and groups are different, and do things differently. And the thing is, you can go with just that as long as there is a clear focus, as there is now.

5:07 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I was working on that as an answer to WdeBM and I hit the publish button when I was aiming for the preview button, but I guess it's probably the best I can do on that score anyway.

Answering Lysander's question would be tougher, because something that far out in time is bound to end up having a lot of wishful thinking in it, or else the opposite. Just taking it from the short-term end, particularly re Iran: A little while ago Sadrists were complaining that Iran wasn't opposing the treaty, now Iran clearly is opposing the treaty, and so it goes. The Badr/Dawa group won't sign this treaty but they might sign another one somewhat like it. They're professional agents, that's what they do. So on that level, anything could happen, depending on US-Iran relations. So what happens on that level, I can tell you frankly, I haven't learned a thing. Nothing would surprise me (except for them to side with the Iraqi nationalists of course). And since they are essentially exiles without a broad domestic base, it hopefully doesn't matter that much anyway.

It does seem that you're right about Iran weighing in against the proposed treaty at this point. But who can say what might change their attitude?

The real issue is with the weight of the Iraqi people, and I just don't see how the US is going to be able to maintain any kind of a blatant presence in the country after all they have done to that country and its people. No matter what kind of a deal the Badr/Dawa people cut, and with whom.

The reason longer-term speculation doesn't get me much beyond that, is that while I can't see the US being able to continue going around Iraq blowing up houses with suspicious people in them, killing people who don't slow down for their checkpoints, and so on, I can still see them trying for some kind of a deal based on their undoubted destructive capabilities and willingness to blackmail, and I have no idea what kind of professional agents they could find who might go for that. But it's something I try not to think about, unless it becomes necessary...

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Lysander said...

Thanx, Badger. For the U.S., Iraq is simply too important. They will only leave kicking and screaming and clawing at the door.

The question is how useful is the American presence in the mind of the Marja'ya. Do they see a benefit or do they just fear the backlash?

9:41 PM  
Blogger badger said...

you've got me there, maybe both, depending on the circumstances of the time... Weaseling out on you here...I'm baffled by them.

5:16 AM  

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