Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vague Obama statements being used to foment fears of a coup in Baghdad

Iraqi writer Fadhil Al-Rubaie, writing in the Qatari paper AlArab, says there has been a real uproar in the Green Zone ever since Obama said in his speech at his "imperial installation" (Rubaie's phrase) that "We will leave Iraq to its people." This was immediately followed by a statement by the Iraqi minister of defense to the effect that the Iraqi armed forces are 90% ready to deal with an American withdrawal, but that didn't calm things down, because everyone realizes that there are very serious gaps in the independent abilities of the Iraqi armed forces. And the consensus reading of Obama's "responsible withdrawal" mantra is that it means "speedy withdrawal" and the corollary in the minds of many is the idea of a military coup against the Maliki administration.

Rubaie says VP and Islamic Party leader Tareq al-Hashemi went straight to the home of a former-regime Republican Guard official following the Obama speech and asked him point-blank, "are you planning a military coup, or not?"

Rubaie writes:
It appears from a number of indications that the expression "We will leave Iraq to its people" means to a number of Iraqi authorities that the Americans are on the verge of betraying their friends. This generalized fear arising from a single murky expression is practically meaningless, because American officers have said on numerous occasions that the withdrawal will be subject to facts on the ground; and Obama [already] said many times during the campaign that he wants a speedy withdrawal. So whence all of this clamor, and what is it that the denizens of the Green Zone are in fear of?

A lot is being said on this score, and it can be summarized as follows:

(1) The Iraqi armed forces are not really and truly ready to meet the requirements of an American withdrawal...and what is being said [about their readiness] is merely to calm the spirits, the facts on the ground tell the opposite story....

(2) The phrase "responsible withdrawal" can be understood as the American reponse to the decision of the Iraqi parliament to link approval of the security agreement between Iraq and the United States to the holding of a popular referendum in July, something the Americans had reservations about, because they preferred ratification without the link to a referendum. In fact the agreement was approved with the requirement that it pass a referendum, and the meaning of that is that a regional power was able to pressure the government and parliament into linking the agreement with a referendum, in order to emphasize "goodwill". Because if Obama follows through on his commitment for "change", then the referendum would work in the direction of confirming the agreement "popularly", and goodwill here would only mean the commitment not to attack neighboring countries. But if Obama puts off his commitment to change, and returns to the program of his predecessor Bush and continues with a policy of escalation instead of dialogue, then disabling the agreement becomes something plausible and possible. And in this sense, the Americans will continue between now and July to wield the "sword of rapid withdrawal", and the [proposed] bargain is with the concept of a referendum: "You cancel the referendum, and we will cancel the rapid withdrawal".

(3) This expression is being used by the Americans to send a message to Baghdad, and via Baghdad to Tehran, to the effect that Washington will not permit the rise of forces in the South and Center of Iraq inimical to its policies, via the provincial elections, and that serious developments along these lines will not be permitted. Confirmed information from the South indicates the possibility of victory by candidates that are more loyal to Tehran than to their colleagues in Baghdad, and in this context the Americans will continue to promote the "military coup" scenario, in order to prevent the rise of such forces in the South.

Obviously the phrase "leaving Iraq to its people" could mean, as the Army of the Mujahideen has says in its latest communique, that leaving Iraq to the [American] agents, in other words preserving the current policy. But it could also mean accepting other forces including "remnants of the former regime" and armed groups opposed to the occupation. So the discussion really shouldn't be about "responsible withdrawal", but rather about "turning over Iraq to its people", an expression that is susceptible of many meanings, allowing the Americans to manipulate the Iraqis, both those loyal to it and those opposed to it.

Years before the invasion, Secretary Baker said to Tariq Aziz, "Iraq will be returned to the Stone Age," but even he didn't say the country would be put back into the age of military coups.
H/t LB of Roadsto Iraq, who called attention to this article today, and reminds us of the earlier Haroun Mohammed articles that have talked about Obama representatives' meetings with people outside the political process, on topics including re-setting the political process and the shortcomings of the Iraqi military.

The Haroun Mohammed articles are dated Nov 6 and Dec 28 respectively, both on page 19 of AlQuds alArabi. (For more information you could type "Haroun" in the search box at the above left).


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