Thursday, August 07, 2008

"Withdrawal" issues

Hani Khalaf, who will be the new head of the Arab League mission in Baghdad, is on a preliminary one-week exploratory visit. Among the interview remarks he made to AlHayat is the following relating to the Iraq-US negotiations for a security agreement. He said:
We are not yet aware of the nature of the agreement, and the Arab League hopes that the agreement will not affect the group of regional equilibriums or Arab interests or Arab national security by establishing permanent military bases. On the principle of brotherliness it is possible for the Iraqi government to make the Arab League familiar with the clauses [of the agreement] that are important for regional security, before signing of the agreement.
Suggesting first of all that he thinks an agreement will be signed, and secondly that the Arab League has no firm idea what is in it, and is concerned first and foremost with the issue of American military bases in Iraq and their impact on regional stability.

He isn't the only one with the Iraq-US security agreement on his mind. There was an AP story today (Thursday July 7) that goes like this:
Iraq and the U.S. are near an agreement on all American combat troops leaving Iraq by October 2010, with the last soldiers out three years after that, two Iraqi officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. U.S. officials, however, insisted no dates had been agreed.
Which, when you compare it with the earlier accounts in AlHayat and AlSabaah suggests where one of the problems lies. The AlHayat reporter said the timetable is going to be for US troops to withdraw to bases by 2010, not to withdraw from Iraq by that date. This, in all probability is what is concealed in the expression "withdrawal of combat troops", and no doubt it is what is on the mind of the Arab League representative: Iraqi government agreement to continuing American military bases in Iraq, if they are anything but withdrawal-stations, will have regional-security implications, so the League would like the Maliki government to be more forthcoming about what it is about to sign.

Americans should be worried too, because what the AP story reflects is an uncritical acceptance of the idea that "withdrawal" has its normal meaning, not the presumed Bush/Maliki meaning of "withdrawal" to bases.

More broadly, the AP story also touts the idea, citing Iraqi sources, of complete withdrawal (not just "combat troops") by three years after the 2010 date. But what the AlHayat reporter said is that a process of negotiating complete withdrawal and/or a permanent treaty would begin in 2010, and what is currently at issue is the length of a guaranteed post-2010 period of continuing US troop presence, whether three years as the Iraqi side wants, or five years as the US side wants.

The AlHayat piece has been studiously ignored by the netroots/expert conglomerate. And when the AlSabaah piece got into the food-chain yesterday and today via Kevin Drum and others, they studiously avoided telling their readers that the paper is a GreenZone mouthpiece and the piece should be read as Maliki-administration spin.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to your AP story, the two sides are still far apart. Maliki is forced to insist on specific dates; the US wants at any price to avoid them (as, of course, it is not planning to withdraw). That's a canyon a mile wide.

12:50 AM  
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7:07 AM  

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