Saturday, August 23, 2008

Keeping up with the news

A Sistani representative made semi-cryptic comments on the bilateral security agreement, but which to my ear suggest the Najaf establishment is on board with a relatively non-specific provision for troop-withdrawals. Here are the bits that Aswat alIraq reports:

Aswat AlIraq: A representative of Ayatollah Sistani, Ahmed al-Safi said in his sermon in Karbala yesterday that the bilateral agreement that is expected to be signed with the United States "should take into account the long-term future of Iraq, and not just the immediate present." He said the agreement includes "mechanisms" and it includes also [word here that means purport, meaning or significance, implying a contrast between outward mechanisms and inner meaning]; and what concerns us is the purport."

He also said: "There is no doubt that the Iraqi authorities have national feelings, but this agreement is of the utmost importance to Iraqis, and it its purport should not focus on just one point of view only; that would be insufficient".

He urged the authorities to take into account the need to avoid "shackling Parliament with an agreement that would make it impossible to solve the problems the country is going through."


Azzaman quotes an unnamed member of the Diyala provincial council to the effect there is a new militia operating in Baquba linked to the governing parties in Baghdad. Their story begins like this:
The Diyala provincial council said yesterday that militias linked to the governing parties in Baghdad are active within the areas of operation of the [official] government forces. A source in the council, who didn't want to be named, said a new armed organization (militia) calling itself the "chosen brigades" is operating to prevent dislocated families from returning to their homes in Baquba...

[The source specified districts where these groups are operating, and adds]: "The appearance of armed groups in areas that the security forces have insisted are 100% secure is an indication of a serious breach that we can't be silent about".


As for the Rice discussions with Maliki and others: AlHayat says the main thing that happened was that Rice showed herself willing to "bargain" in the following sense: She would agree to withdrawal dates of some description being included in the agreement, "in exchange for concessions by the government on the issue of the powers of [the US forces]". As for the dates themselves--2009 for exit from cities; 2011 for exit of combat troops; then 2014 for complete exit from Iraq--it is worth noting that this is the pattern predicted in the July 29 summary by AlHayat. The dates are roughly the same, but the meaning is different, particularly in the following sense: The period 2010 (or 2011) to 2014 is being described by the sources today as a period leading up to "complete withdrawal", but what the earlier summary said was that
this was to be a period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated, and that the three-year period to 2014 ( or a five-year period as the Americans were asking) was to be a period of guaranteed continuation of American bases etcetera, the actual period, which could be longer but couldn't be shorter, to be negotiated during that period.

This is of course in addition to all the other ambiguities respecting the meaning of "withdrawal from cities", "combat troops", what the "timelines" really mean, and so on.


McClatchy, which earlier attributed the famous Diyala raid to a "rapid reaction force" on what an American military official described as a rogue operation, today quotes the Iraqi interior ministry operations chief as follows:
Abdul Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman who's serving as the interim commander of police in Diyala, described the emergency response unit as a counterterrorism force that's nominally under Interior oversight but with its own chain of command. The name of its leader and the size of its force are classified, he said.


Blogger Nell said...

a counterterrorism force that's nominally under Interior oversight but with its own chain of command. The name of its leader and the size of its force are classified

In the 1980s, there was a plain English name for units of the Salvadoran military "nominally under oversight of X but with its own chain of command": death squad.

1:31 PM  

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