Tuesday, February 24, 2009


There are a couple of odd coincidences in the recent report about Carole O'Leary's meeting with former-regime officers in Amman. The first is the invitation said to have been offered to the ex-officers to "offer their views and proposals for restoration of security and stability in Iraq", with the promise that these ideas would be reported to the Obama administration. The coincidence is that it isn't the first time that Americans are reported to have offered to serve as conduits between people outside the Iraqi political process and--not the Maliki administration, but--Washington.

Back in December, it was reported that two delegations representing the recently-elected Obama met with a variety of Iraqis, including academics and military people, and suggested to them that they should start thinking about alternatives to the current Iraqi political setup. The Obama representatives criticized the sectarian underpinning of the current political system based on religious and ethnic muhasasa. And they stressed Obama's good faith: he had been against the war, he has promised troop-withdrawal, and he will keep that promise.
And based upon that, these Obama representatives said, the incoming Obama administration] wants persons who have not been involved in the political process, and who have also not been involved in the resistance, or in political organizations or blocs--to present new political proposals that will serve Iraqis and will not cause damage to the Obama administration or cause it embarrassment in front of the American people or world public opinion. And the delegates stressed during talks with people who met with them, that Obama's advisers and assistants understand that the current political process in Iraq since April 2003 is completely mistaken and cannot be repaired or patched up, and they are convinced that the ideal solution would be to end it completely, but they are concerned about the effects of a coup against it, and they are wondering what would be the best alternative if it were to be ended.
Their interlocutors were asked to mull this over, for a while, because in the meantime, in the early months of the Obama administration, it will likely be preoccupied with the economic crisis, and hence likely to focus on Iraq only later in the year. This is the gist of report by Haroun Mohammed in AlQuds alArabi on Dec 28, citing the reports of various of his friends and acquaintances who were at these meetings. (See also his report on a previous set of meetings along the same lines, in the same paper on November 6, in which the Obama emissaries offered particular criticism of the incompetence of the existing Iraqi armed forces).

So that is the first coincidence: The former officers O'Leary is reported to have met with are a sub-set of the group of interlocutors Haroun Mohammed talks about (persons not in the political process and also not in the resistance), but surely one of the most potent of those groups, and the one most likely to strike fear into the hearts of the Maliki administration and its supporters. But the message in essence is the same: Tell Washington--not Baghdad--what you think should be done to establish stability.

The second coincidence has to do with O'Leary herself. Although her bio stresses human-rights activism, she is also a strong supporter of the Biden Plan (as "correctly understood") with respect to the eventual structure of Iraq. You can see this most clearly in the text of her April 2008 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the invitation of its chairman Senator Biden, where she criticizes the "media and the pundits" (ouch!)who she says have distorted the Biden plan, in order to make it appear that it would inevitably be tantamount to partition. In her "core stipulations" at the start of her presentation, she includes the assumption that by the year 2012, there will be at least one other multi-province federal region, besides Iraqi Kurdistan. She puts it like this:
Under the Amended Federal Regions Law, at least one new federal region will have been created in Iraq, bringing the total number of regional governments to at least two (the Kurdistan Regional Government, plus a "Kufa" Regional Government that combines Najaf, Karbala and Qadisiyya, with Babil and Wassit soon to hold referendums on whether to join the new region.
We have drifted off into the twilight zone here, and she doesn't seem to have explained how this hypothetical Kufa Region is supposed to have come into being in the first place. What she does say is this:
We are not yet at the point where we can talk about an Arab vision of federalism for Iraq. Rather, an education campaign is needed to debunk the idea that "federalism for Iraq" is a conspiracy by the US aimed at dividing Iraq and stealing its oil.
So there you have the second coincidence: The civil-rights activist, who canvasses the policy views of former-regime officers, is also a militant supporter of the Biden plan for more multi-province federal regions.

Of course, to get to an "Arab vision of federalism for Iraq, there will have to be "an education campaign."

I don't know if this is the same thing Biden himself was getting at when he told the American-owned Radio Sawa last month, remarks summarized by an Iraqi writer like this:
Without preamble the American government's radio station AlSawa reported this: "American vice president Joe Biden said America plans a much more aggressive program vis-a-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation", and referring in the same report to strong criticism by Biden of the Iraqi leaders because they "have not yet solved their political differences". And he added: "We are convinced that we [Washington] must have a much greater involvement in Iraqi affairs, not only in the commitment to reduce the size of our forces in an organized way, but also in showing much more aggressiveness in pressing the Iraqi leadership to resolve their political issue, which could lead to lack of stability in Iraq following the withdrawal of the American forces."
The establishment of conduits between Washington and "those outside the political process" and particularly the senior former-regime officers, with the coup/no-coup overtones, certainly answers to Biden's idea of Washington's "much greater involvement in Iraqi affairs". That could account for one of the above-mentioned coincidences. But with respect to O'Leary's "education campaign" respecting an "Arab vision of federalism for Iraq" I think we have to admit we are still, shall we say, uneducated.

(I feel duty-bound to note in passing that in the 1960s the American University had direct experience acting as a front for the CIA and the Pentagon. Or so the Wikipedia tells us:
In the early 1960s, the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency operated a think tank under the guise of Operation Camelot at American University. The government abandoned the think tank after the operation came to public attention.)


Anonymous Alex said...

an education campaign is needed

As soon as I hear that kind of phrase, I run for the hills. As you yourself say, Badger.

2:07 AM  

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