Sunday, November 30, 2008

A sectarian negotiating process

Mashriq Abbas in AlHayat does his best this morning to recreate the negotiating process that led to the Nov 27 vote for the security agreement. Among the things he has found out so far:

(1) There were parallel negotiations, one government-to-government which was more or less the publicly acknowledged one, and the other, unacknowledged, at the US embassy where the US talked individually with the main political parties to work out a set of "domestic calculations" that would satisfy the Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni parties respectively, enough to ensure passage.

(2) The Kurdish parties were never a problem, because of the basic Kurdish popular opinion that the US presence is a guarantee for the Kurdistan region. As for the Shiite parties (Supreme Council and Dawa that is), they went from being opposed to drafts on the basis they "compromised Iraqi sovereignty", to being in favor of the final draft on the basis "Iraq has no better alternative". The Sunni parties went in the other direction, from being at first in favor (based on the need to rein in Maliki's one-man rule and to deter Iranian influence), to being opposed on the basis there was a need for "domestic political reform" to go along with the security agreement.

(3) Post-agreement PR is a good reflection of what was done. The Shiite parties boast of "major achievements" in respect to sovereignty (supervision of US military activities and so on) in addition to the withdrawal timetable. The Islamic Party has taken credit, or tried to, for the agreement to hold a referendum on the agreement in July. The Americans were not opposed to this idea, Abbas says, and this became the division of political goodies from the process: "sovereignty" for the Shiite parties, and "referendum" for the Islamic Party.


Something is escaping me here. Maliki had been expected to find some way of waiting for a more favorable negotiating atmosphere with the Obama administration, on the obvious basis that Obama was more amenable to withdrawal than the Bush administration. Suddenly the Shiite parties were saying: We must accept the current offer, because Iraq will have no better alternative. What happened to the idea of a better deal from Obama?

Secondly, the idea that the Islamic Party's key inducement was supposed to be the taking of credit for the referendum-idea seems far-fetched. Referendum was one of the major themes of the weekly Sadrist demonstrations, and it was referred to in statements by Sistani and others as well. Referendum=bona fides of the Islamic Party doesn't seem like a very good PR fit. Could there have been other inducements offered to the Sunni parties in that non-public series of negotiations at the US embassy?

Finally, in America, the Obama policy-groupies had in recent months been outspoken in their criticism of the Bush administration for not exerting "strategic" leverage on Maliki to make political concessions to the Sunni parties. Suddenly the bloggish Obama people (Katulis, Kahl, Sam Parker, Marc Lynch and that whole group, not to mention the whole of Brookings, CAP, etcetera) have fallen completely silent on Iraq policy. What happened to their "leverage" argument?

Putting the questions together: What did the Maliki administration come to understand about the coming Democratic Party policy that made him grab for the best deal available under Bush, even though key "concessions on sovereignty" such as supervision of US military activities, and criminal jurisdiction, were clearly exposed as a sham in the McClatchy story on the eve of the vote (points on which even Sistani is now showing signs of buyers remorse).

And what made the Islamic Party decide in the final week of negotiations to support the agreement. Abbas says what was involved was a package of "domestic calculations", but all he mentions in particular is this far-fetched idea that the party could take credit for the decision to hold a referendum. Possibly there was something else. Possibly the US finally gave up on the idea of "leveraging" Maliki to make concessions to the Sunni parties, and the US decided to help the Sunni parties on its own.

Possibly this accounts for scuttlebut along these lines has surfaced in a couple of instances, both of them having a common feature: the spectre of US security support for Sunni groups in the western part of Iraq. Possibly.

Because this is what Biden had been saying: Central-government accomodations are not in the cards; there have to be separate regions by ethnicity and sect. Certainly if the US is setting itself up to supervise such a process over the coming three-year period of time (or longer), that is certainly something that would account for the silence we are hearing from the Democratic Party policy-groupies.

Brian, Colin, Sam, Marc and all of you: Would it hurt you to say it isn't so.

An open letter

Jihad and Change Front, a group dating from Sept 2007 whose biggest participant is the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution, issued an open letter to the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMSI) and to a list of Shiite religious authorities, all of whom--the Sunni AMSI and the Shiite authorities--have recently issued fatwas against the signing of the security agreement with the Americans. The letter begins as follows:
We are not surprised by what happened on November 27 in the so-called "Chamber of Deputies", because a person has sold himself for money and the fleeting glory of the occupation, will naturally find it easy to sell anything and everything, including even his religion and the nation in whose bosom he lives--still we were hoping for two things: First, that not all of them would go over the cliff into the abyss, but that some portion of them would be able to save themselves; and secondly that there would be some who would take into account the various fatwas and warnings that have been issued on all sides, urging religion and country, and staying with the ummah and the loyalists, and a few did respond and stand against the threats and the inducements, leaving an honorable record of themselves, and they will be rewarded.

What happened was treason and a contemptible commercial bargain entered into by the weak of spirit. What was sold was history and the ummah and religion; the price was a few dirhams and an illusory (or fraudulent) authority; and the seller was the enemy of the ummah; but the deal was done...

We say to those who signed: The history of your signing is the same history in which the forces of the occupation and of the Allawi government stormed the city of Jihad and the great mosques of Falluja, emptying and killing thousands with white phosphorus, destroying houses and mosques and seizing everything; and yet instead of you dressing in black and remembering what happened, instead you party and you rejoice with the enemy, and you reward him for what he did. What a black fate awaits you! How shameful is your world, and how ignominious and remorseful will be your end!

On this occasion, while we take pride in the fatwas against the agreement and the signing of it, we also here request their authors to take up their writing again in strength and guide us in how we should deal with those who have signed the agreement, promoted it, and gone against all of the fatwas. Permit us to remind you of the hadith in the life of the prophet [on how to deal with the "heads of the political process", in which in answer to a question, the prophet said they should be "cut off"] and ordered everyone to avoid them, even to the point of their families not mingling with them. What then can be said with respect to us, in dealing with these people who have resolved to make war on the mujahideen and to call them terrorists, and giving to the invading occupier the right to kill us, and making common cause with our enemy against us.

We promise you that we will continue the struggle against the occupying aggressor, until he leaves diminished and in disgrace, in his failure and his depravity.
Addressees, in addition to AMSI, are: "Dr Abdul Karim Zaydan; Sayyid Hussein Fadhlullah; the religious authority Sayyid al-Haeri; Sheikh Dr Abdul Malik al-Saadi; the religious authority Sheikh Mohammed al-Yaakubi; the thinker professor Mohammed Ahmad al-Rashid"

(Thanks as usual to LB of RoadstoIraq for calling attention to this and posting the link)

Friday, November 28, 2008

A threatening scenario

Meanwhile, Arab writers point out that there is instability in the four-party governing coalition (two Kurdish, two Shiite) following ratification of the security agreement with the US, just as there was before, Maliki able to continue relying on his American henchmen, just as before.

Nor is there any immediate wager on what happens by or to the armed resistance. But there is this:

According to a document that Malaf Press attributes to a think-tank owned by the Islamic Party of Iraq (an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood), that party is getting ready to try and negotiate a deal with the Americans to set up, and give them control over, a "Sunni district" in western Iraq, to be patrolled by an IPI militia aiming to "weaken the resistance" and in particular to wipe out the Baathists that are being supported by Syria, and other undesirables, including AQ. The document refers to this as an attempt to gain a foothold for a "liberal Islam" in the country, something that they would be selling to the Americans as a reason they should be supported in this. Moreover, the document says the IPI base should be persuaded of the necessity for good relations with Israel, and the establishment of an Israeli embassy in Baghdad.

You get the picture. This is either a very unusual written confession of collaboration with the foreign occupier by a party that publicly holds the opposite positions: No sectarian federalism; unity of all trends in and out of the political process; looking forward to the exit of the Americans, not to working with them. Or what is obviously very much more likely, this is a Portrait of the Collaborationist Party drawn up by the resistance in order to flush out this collaborationist movement (assuming it exists somewhere in the IPI). The trigger for this, no doubt, was the fact that the IPI voted with the Maliki coalition for the US security agreement.

There is no way of telling whether the scheme outlined in this possibly bogus document actually represents a scheme or more generally an ambition on the part of anyone in the IPI or elsewhere to promote the idea of such a Sunni region in the western part of Iraq. The only recent echo of such a thing was in the recent op-ed by Haroun Mohammed, in which he said some Sunni groups had been approached by people on the Obama side of things (this was pre-US-elections) with the idea, among other things, of reworking the whole political process since Bremer, and setting up a new national army using somewhere in the west as a base.

If there is any scrap of merit in either story, then what it means is that some Sunni groups have gotten a whiff of American willingness to travel down the road of a Biden-plan style partition of the country. And if there isn't any merit in either story, what it means is that some in the resistance are prepared to use that threatening scenario as a talking point for mobilizing against collaborationists in the IPI and elsewhere.

I confidently predict: The suits in Washington will have nothing to say about this. They of course know nothing about this, never heard of it ...

(Another hattip to the all-seeing LB at RoadstoIraq for noting the MalafPress item).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Last Christmas for the dollar ?

This is a day late, but it seems like maybe the right time to start talking about the dollar. There's no question that the people who have been talking for much longer than anyone else about the unsustainability of American policy from a financial point of view are the Japanese financial writers who contribute to the Nihon Keizei Shimbun, where the impossibility of the US keeping up the escalating twin deficits--fiscal and trade--has been a topic of dicsussion for a couple of decades at least. Which also highlights the fact that it is easier to be right about the inevitable direction of a market, than it is to figure out the timing.

So if you're trying to time the dollar-crash--and who isn't, these days--you might want to pencil in this from page 17 of the Nikkei yesterday (that would beThursday Nov 27). In a more or less routine market-reporting piece, the writer says there are signs the dollar may have topped out against the euro and the GB pound, adding: "This is because the FRB has announced a new financial measure that could amount to as much as $800 billion, and anxiety about the financial soundness of the FRB is starting to emerge." He notes that it is repatriation of foreign investments by US funds and others that has been responsible for the recent dollar-strength, adding: "But if confidence in the dollar is shaken, it is possible that there could be a turn [to dollar-selling] against the euro and other currencies."

US stocks and the dollar this week went in opposite directions in reaction to the $800 billion scheme. The Dow rose for three days in a row, but the dollar was sold off, dropping to 1.3 dollars to the euro for the first time in three weeks; and dropping to its lowest against the GB pound in two weeks. He quotes two people: Senior market economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank who said: "Attention is starting to be paid to the danger of the FRB balance sheet being impaired." As a result of its activities this year, the FRB balance sheet, which was less than $1 trillion at the beginning of the year, is now approaching $3 trillion. (It is a problem not only of size but also of quality. You are supposed to already know that the paper the FRB has been buying from financial institutions and lending against in recent times is not all, shall we say, of the very highest quality). US goverment debt, gold, and cash represented 90% of its assets at the beginning of the year, and that proportion is now only a little over 20%, the journalist notes, elaborating on the Mizuho person's comment.

The other person he quotes is the Tokyo chief foreign exchange strategist for Barclays Bank, who said there is another dollar-weakening factor here. The additional dollar-liquidity caused by these FRB operations makes interest rates drop, making the dollar less attractive. And he said in particular this latest ($800 billion) scheme "is going to be the occasion for a turn to dollar-selling."

The journalist concludes: The "Lehman shock" in September triggered a wave of dollar-repatriation, and as the year-end approaches, we can expect additional dollar-repatriation, this being also a seasonal phenomenon.
But a lot of people think that once this seasonal factor is behind us, the low-interest dollar, to the extent it has recently been bought against the euro and the pound, will be that much more prone to fall (against those two currencies). And also: If there is a turn to dollar-weakening, then the yen-rise/dollar-drop that up to now has been proceeding in a step-by-step way, could get an additional impetus.
So there you are. As far as I know, no one has suggested that if there really was any caving-in on the part of the US government vis-a-vis Iraq it might have had to do with crisis-avoidance owing to their consciousness of the dollar being on the brink. I'm not suggesting it either, I'm just saying.

Possibly not a fairy-tale ending

Friday November 28

AlQuds alArabi concludes its lead editorial, on the Iraqi-US security agreement, like this:
The situation in Iraq following this agreement might not be any better than it was before, in fact it could get worse. Because the resistance is there, and is likely to escalate. And it wouldn't be surprising to see the beginnings of unity between the Sunni and the Shiite resistances, against the background of this agreement.

Also, it is still plausible to think that it was a change in the Iranian position, or more precisely a blunting of the sharpness of its opposition to it, that greatly contributed to the passage of this agreement in Parliament, because otherwise how was the governing coalition able to gather all of this support for it?

Is this an indication of a coming Iran-US agreement, to be launched in Iraq? Or have the Iranian wagers in this matter been mistaken?

The coming days will give us the answer to these and other questions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The "center-left" and the Iraq-agreement scam

Wednesday, November 26


WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials said Tuesday — just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.

These include a provision that bans the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.

Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes.

"There are a number of areas in here where they have agreement on the same wording but different understandings about what the words mean," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

That's pretty clear: "Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the oficial English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes." I, the military occupying authority, sign an agreement with you the occupied country, and I wait until after you have signed it to tell your people, or my people, what I think it means. Nice.

This was not only so as to not let the Iraqis know what the American interpretation is going to be, it was also to block discussion in America.

A U.S. official, however, said the aim was also to head off any debate in the U.S. media. The administration fears that any discussion "may inadvertently throw this thing of the rails," said the official, who couldn't be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters.
Here are three of the points on which the American interpretation is going to be something of a surprise:

Among the areas of dispute are:

  • Iraqi legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops or military contractors who kill Iraqis on operations. The agreement calls for Iraq to prosecute U.S. troops according to court procedures that have yet to be worked out. Those negotiations, administration officials have argued, could take three years, by which time the U.S. will have withdrawn from Iraq under the terms of the agreement. In the interim, U.S. troops will remain under the jurisdiction of America's Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • A provision that bars the U.S. from launching military operations into neighboring countries from Iraqi territory. Administration officials argue they could circumvent that in some cases, such as pursuing groups that launch strikes on U.S. targets from Syria or Iran, by citing another provision that allows each party to retain the right of self-defense. One official expressed concern that "if Iran gets wind that we think there's a loophole there," Tehran might renew its opposition to the agreement.
  • A provision that appears to require the U.S. to notify Iraqi officials in advance of any planned military operations and to seek Iraqi approval for them, which some U.S. military officials find especially troubling, although Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, all have endorsed it.

"Telling the Iraqis in advance would be an invitation to an ambush," said one U.S. official, who said the Iraqi government and security forces are "thoroughly penetrated by the insurgents, the Iranians, the Sadrists (followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr) and ordinary folks who just sell scraps of intelligence."

The administration has sought to assuage such concerns by arguing that the pact doesn't require the U.S. to give the Iraqis detailed information about planned operations, two officials said. For example, they said, the administration interprets the agreement to mean that U.S. commanders would merely need to inform their Iraqi counterparts that they plan to launch counterterrorism operations somewhere in an Iraqi city or province sometime during the month of January.

In plain language: (1) You can have some criminal jurisdiction under a scheme that will to be determined in discussions that will be dragged out over the coming three years, during which time we will continue to have jurisdiction. (2) We won't use your territory to attack any other state, but we can invade another state if it is hot pursuit or legitimate self-defence. (3) We will inform you of our military operations, but in terms so vague the information will be meaningless to you.

Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings says he and others have been aware of this issue of opposite interpretations (and obviously keeping their mouths shut about it). McClatchy puts it this way:

Specialists who follow the Iraq war said they were aware of the differing interpretations. Michael O'Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, a center-left research group in Washington, said there are "these areas that are not as clear cut as the Iraqis would like to think." He said the two governments "have agreed to punt together on a number of important issues."
"The two governments", perhaps. But not the people in either case. Not the American people, who think this is something to be supported based on the suppression of information about their own government's interpretation of it; and certainly not the Iraqi people, to whom those three points would be anathema.

Marc Lynch, in defence of the government's duplicity and the silence of himself and others, says: "important part here isn't witholding of text - it's the clearly divergent interpretations of key passages intentionally left vague." Slippery, that Marc. What McClatchy is telling us is that the withholding of the text was precisely to suppress that discussion about "divergent interpretations". A topic that McClatchy tells us "specialists who follow the Iraq war" have said they were aware of, but who kept their months shut. And now we know the reason why. It was ultimately to prevent Iraqis and Americans alike from knowing what is being done in their name.

The vote scheduled for today (Wednesday) has been postponed until tomorrow at the earliest. The Iraqi political parties are working on a "charter for political reform" and perhaps a proposal for a referendum six months after parliamentary approval, both ideas no doubt aimed mainly at giving the Sunni parties cover for a yes vote.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's US ally Talabani up to ?

There are at least two different versions of the talks that led to postponing the Parliamentary vote until Wednesday. According to the Kuwaiti paper AlWatan, citing unnamed high-level sources that were at these meetings, the process went like this:

(1) It became apparent that a simple majority (half the Parliamentary membership plus one) wasn't going to do the trick, partly because of the fact some of the Shiite UIA members were taking the Sistani injunction to heart, namely that this had to be an approval representing the assent of all parts of Iraqi society. And the simple-majority idea was based on a simple Kurdish-UIA combination. So the Sunni parties and others would have to be brought in.

(2) At talks held at the invitation of Talabani, that started Friday, representatives of the Sunni parties noted that the agreement(s) with the US would have the effect of solidifying existing governing arrangements, so that the time is now for realization of those changes that the Sunni parties have long been calling for (including constitutional amendments and an executive authority that would be "balanced", in contrast to the current one-sided authoritarianism).

(3) In addition to the Sunni parties, there was participation by the Fadhila party, the Iraqi List, and even the Sadrist parliamentary leadership in discussions about what would be necessary, outside the actual content of the agreements, to satisfy the current opponents of ratification.

The AlWatan piece also notes remarks by one of the Sunni-party leaders to the effect that the Americans have made commitments along these lines, and the Sunni parties are still waiting for those commitments to be made good. He said if the Americans are going to be saying that would represent intervention in internal Iraqi issues, then what was the 2003 toppling of the prior regime all about, not to mention all of the subsequent American intervention in the internal Iraqi processes (establishing the constitution, involvement in government-formation talks, etcetera).

(This is the first I have heard about "commitments" along these lines by the American government. But recall that there was a reference by AlQuds alArabi op-ed columnist Haroun Mohammed to talks between Obama people and Iraqi groups outside the political process that included a reference to going back over everything that has been done by the Bush administration from the days of Bremer to the present, in other words revising the entire political process, or at least that is what these groups thought they were hearing).

There is another version of the Talabani talks that started on Friday, and it is provided via remarks by Iraqi List parliamentarian Osama Najafi, reported by Azzaman. Najafi said he and others rejected a proposal by Talabani to pressure Maliki by threatening to form an alliance between the Kurdish parties and the Sunni Arab parties, on the basis that they both have grievances against Maliki (the immediate grievances being the Kurdish resistance to Maliki's formation of "support councils" in the areas bordering Kurdistan region; and the Sunni concerns about the release of thousands of Sunni prisoners), and that whether Kurdish or Arab they are both Sunni.

Najafi said: "[What Talabani was proposing] was an attempt to unite a number of politicians under the rubric of 'Sunnis, whether Kurdish or Arab', and this is a truly dangerous thing at this juncture, when we are starting to turn back the sectarian momentum..." (The Kurdish Alliance has denied any intention of toppling Maliki).

Najafi said this idea of non-confidence in Maliki on this basis is a dangerous one, "but he didn't rule out the possibility that some parties, which he didn't name, would withdraw confidence from Maliki, adding 'what Talabani wants is to draw us into a dispute with Maliki.'"

So what's going on? Is there an effort to twin ratification with constitutional amendments in a single Parliamentary deal, aimed at producing the kind of national consensus that Sistani has been talking about, as the AlWatan piece suggests? Or is this better described as a sectarian initiative by Talabani to threaten Maliki and his Shiite support-parties with being toppled by an all-Sunni coalition including the Kurdish and the Arab parties? Or is it something else?

Note that (1) the Democratic Party policy groupies are doing an excellent job of keeping their mouths shut at this critical time; and (2) as far as the conventional story-telling is concerned, this is a case of a certified "political process" working as it should with inter-party negotiations and so on, all to be confirmed in a parliamentary vote by the representatives of the people. It is like saying that the American financial system works via credit creation by certified financial institutions, so you continue talking about "pumping liquidity into the system" when all you are actually doing is pumping liquidity into the banks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Crime and Punishment

Saturday November 21

Haifa Zankana, in her regular AlQuds alArabi op-ed today (p. 19, if you need to use the archives) compares Maliki's deal with the Americans to the sale of indulgences by the Church of Rome in the 16th century (this came to a head when when Leo X, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, short of money for the rebuilding of the Basilica, ordered the stepped-up marketing of indulgences for sin as a fund-raising measure, scandalizing Luther among others). The difference with Maliki, she writes, is that absolution is offered not just to individuals for their sins, but to the entire British-American criminal project including the unprovoked attack on the country in 2003, and the destruction, killings and other crimes that followed. It's the same idea, and all of the collaborators with the Maliki government are in on it.
The differences between the various groups in the Maliki government are like the differences between the person that brings the knife to the killer, the person that puts it through the heart of the victim, and those others who stand aside in satisfaction. The differences are superficial, but the essence of the participation in the killing of the Iraqi homeland is without excuse. The bankrupt Pope and Church of the [16th] century sold indulgences to collect wealth, at the expense of religion, moral principles and values. What we have here is the occupation government headed by Maliki selling to the occupation forces, not only the future of Iraq [he noted earlier there is also a long-term strategic framework agreement included in the package] but also indulgences for the killing of a million and a half Iraqi martyrs, all in exchange for their acquisition of wealth, the slaking of their thirst for revenge, and the chance of being granted asylum in the countries of the occupation once they are expelled from by their own, and by their own people.

Because their fate, which they themselves have chosen, is within the womb of the occupation, and they are linked to it by an umbilical cord, which will be severed on the day that [the occupation forces] withdraw.
It is also worth noting that the parties that are expected to vote together in Monday for ratification of the agreement(s) are themselves already at loggerheads, with Barzani threatening Talabani (for not being tough on Maliki's creation of support councils in territory Barzani considers his), who in turn is threatening Maliki (with the possibility of replacing him with a "government of national unity(!)", who for his part accuses the whole presidency council of ignoring the constitution in permitting Kurdish oil contracts and so on and so forth. Links at RoadstoIraq. It is almost as if the gang was starting to come apart of its own accord, ahead of time, in anticipation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Observations on the security agreement

Monday Nov 17

A day after the Sunday Nov 16 announcement of approval by the Maliki cabinet of a version of the bilateral security agreement, the only published version* I've seen of the text is, oddly enough, by the Iranian Fars News Agency (h/t to RoadstoIraq); and Fars leads its story this way:
The latest "revised" text of the security agreement which America wants to have signed, and which the Iraqi government affirmed today after broad American pressure and threats, confirms American admission that Iraq has the sovereign right to demand the withdrawal of the American forces from that country at any time.
This refers to Article 24 section 4:
The United States acknowledges the sovereign right of the government of Iraq to demand the withdrawal of the forces of the Unites States from Iraq at any time, and the government of Iraq acknowledges the sovereign right of the United States to withdraw its forces from Iraq at any time.
Simple as that.

So on the face of it, this seems to moot the whole issue of fixed-date withdrawal-schedule versus conditions-based withdrawal-schedule, because it ackowledges that withdrawal happens whenever either government demands it--"at any time".

That's on the legal side of things, and it could well explain why Hakim, currently in Tehran, sent a message to his Supreme Council people to support the agreement (according to Azzaman this morning). (And why Fars leads its story in the way it does, as in effect a capitulation by the Bush administration).

Likewise, on the political side, there is somewhat striking language in the text that also supports this idea. Here's Article 4 section 1:
The government of Iraq calls on the forces of the United States for temporary assistance in its efforts to preserve security and stability in Iraq, including cooperation in undertaking operations against AlQaeda and the other terrorist groups, [against] outlaw groups, and against the remnants of the previous regime.
There is no reference to the rule of law here, only these labels, reflecting in effect an amalgamation of the Bush-era rhetorical GWOT approach, with the Supreme Council Saddamist-under-every-bed fixation.

Something similar happens when the text deals with the turnover of prisoners from the Americans to the Iraqi government. Article 22 section 4 says the Americans undertake to provide all the information they have on prisoners they hold, and to turn over to the Iraqi authorities those against who there are proper arrest orders issued "in the usual way", and to release the others in an organized and secure fashion--"unless the Iraqi government requests otherwise pursuant to Article 4 of this agreement". Article 4, as noted above, is what you could call the GWOT/Saddamist-under-every-bed declaration of joint venture.

* Lazy me! The text is right there on the front page of the GreenZone paper AlSabaah this morning, and it seems to be identical to the Fars Agency text.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More pattern recognition

I'm sorry I haven't actually responded to anyone on the prior thread, but I do take it all to heart. Anyway, posting something every couple of months or so seems about right...And possibly in fact a better way of keeping track of the main points this time around.

Since the US presidential election, Barzani has returned to Iraq from Washington with a belligerent announcement to the effect that unless the Iraqi government signs the agreement with the US, there will be civil war. Also since the election, Haroun Mohammed has written in AlQuds alArabi that Obama people have been speaking to groups "outside of the political process" assuring them that an Obama administration would be prepared to revise everything that has been done by the Bush administration, "from the Bremer administration down to the present day," and even hinting at a willingness to help in the training of a new Iraqi army based in some secure area in the western part of Iraq (Thursday, Nov . 6, p.19)

Meanwhile, in the Maliki camp, there has been a sudden shift from stalling in hopes of a better deal from Obama, to this latest position that any alternatives--including waiting for a "better" deal from Obama--will be worse.

Recall that the beautiful minds on the Democratic Party side have been talking about the need for "strategic conditionality" in bilateral US-Iraq negotiations, without mention of any specific points of leverage apart from either withdrawal or the threat of withdrawal. What the Barzani statements and the Sunni rumors suggest is that there has been a completely different bargaining-point in the background: If an agreement is not signed, according to this pattern of threats, Barzani's Kurds would revolt against the Iraqi state, and Sunni groups "outside the political process" could supposedly, according to these rumors, hope for some kind of US help in organizing a new Army in Anbar. In other words: If an agreement isn't signed, the Americans would help to dismantle Iraq from the north and from the west, creating conditions that could only be addressed in one way: Institution of the Biden Plan for a three-part partition of the country.

Naturally, this is all bluff and puff. Or is it? Did it seem that way to the Maliki camp? To put the question another way: What other factors could have motivated the Maliki camp to now--suddenly--take the position that they need to grasp this last opportunity for an acceptable deal--that conditions, in other words, will be worse, not better, for this would-be nationalist government under an Obama administration?

(And of course, for those who are hard to convince without pictures, there was the visit of to the GreenZone of John Negroponte in the last few days: Not the Negroponte of MIT with the computers, but his brother, the one with the Honduran death-squads on his resume).