Friday, November 21, 2008

The treaty (and the Sunni MP cave)

In exasperation, Parliament Speaker Mashaadani, flanked by bodyguards, adjourned the Parliament until today. The footage painted the Sadrists as creating a combative atmosphere.
On Thursday, no fighting broke out and lawmakers approved a second reading of the law. It needs to go to a third reading before a vote.

That's from the Los Angeles Times' Middle East blog Babylon & Beyond's "This SOFA is no love seat." And not only is the title a pun, a Three Stooges reference is made in the first sentence of the blog post. As you can see the journalistic institution of the Los Angeles Times takes issues very, very seriously.

Let's move over to the Times of New York because a friend with the State Dept has already phoned this morning to say, "Told you so." (And friends at State did tell me so.) Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell offer "In Baghdad, Debating Post-U.S. Outlook"

"To be clear, it is not the treaty that is the problem," said Aala Maki, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party that has suggested it might not vote for approval. "What will be built on the treaty, that is the problem."
[. . .]
But the Sunnis, and others, are worried that the agreement will leave too much power to Mr. Maliki's government, given that only two years ago elements of the government-run Iraqi police force were functionally little more than Shiite death squads.
The major Sunni parties, after several days of mixed messages, have largely come together and demanded a series of guarantees from the government and the Americans in return for their support. This list of demands, which they gave to Mr. Maliki on Thursday, includes amnesty for most Sunni detainees in American custody, more Sunnis in government agencies and widespread reform of the Iraqi security forces.

To be clear, the Sunni MPs are attempting to line their pockets and offering token resistance.

Noted here Wednesday:

What a load of crap. Don't get your hopes up re: Sunni objection. Though Tariq Hashimi may veto it, talk of Sunni opposition in the Parliament itself isn't being taken seriously by the US State Dept which sees it as those politicians wanting to be sure to get their "cut of the take". It's common knowledge in Parliament that some members of the cabinet were 'rewarded' (bought off) for their support and friends with the State Dept tell me that Sunni objection in Parliament is nothing but an effort to ensure that the "palm greasing" continues. For that reason, we're not going to pay a great deal of attention to what Sunni lawmakers say this week*. The only real Sunni hope for the death of the treaty is that someone's greed isn't satisfied and they dig in their heels.

The Sunni 'objection' is about the Sunni lawmakers setting their end up. And, yes, the State Dept was correctly reading that.

Shi'ite objection is real (in the Parliament -- Shi'ite, Sunni, et al objection outside of the Parliament is real period).

AP's Hamza Hendawi reports the demonstration Moqtada al-Sadr called last week took place today following prayers in Baghdad and that the Bully Boy of the United States was "burned" in "effigy" "in the same central Baghdad square where [US shipped in exile] Iraqis beat a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein with their sandals five years earlier" and the Bush stand-in was also "pelted . . . with plastic water bottles and sandals" and it "held a sign that said: 'The security agreement . . . shame and humiliation'."

The vote on the treaty masquerading as a SOFA is supposed to be attempted on Monday. Robertson and Farrell note in their article (New York Times):

Even some Kurds, who pledge support for the pact, are concerned about a post-American Iraq. Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker, said members of the Kurdish coalition were privately mulling whether to draw up their own list of demands.

Kurds received their concessions ahead of time and apparently are seeing the cash flying around and wanting a little more for their own pockets.

We'll again note this from the American Freedom Campaign:

Does this sound right to you?
Next week, the Iraqi Parliament is expected to vote on whether to approve an agreement setting the terms of the ongoing military relationship between the United States and Iraq. So far, so good. A legislative body, representing the people of a nation, shall determine the extent to which that nation's future will be intertwined with that of another.
Of course, one would expect that the United States Congress would be given the same opportunity. That, however, is not the case. Or at least it is not what the Bush administration is allowing to happen. Shockingly, the Bush administration is not even letting Congress
read the full agreement before it is signed!
We need you to send a message immediately to U.S. House and Senate leaders, urging them to demand the constitutional input and approval to which they are entitled.
The administration has asserted that the agreement between the U.S. and Iraq is merely a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and therefore does not require congressional approval. Yet the agreement goes far beyond the traditional limits of a SOFA, which typically set the terms for bringing materials and equipment into a nation and outline the legal procedures that will apply to members of the military who are accused of crimes.
Believe it or not, the current agreement contains terms that will actually give Iraq a measure of control over U.S. forces. No foreign nation or international entity has ever been given the authority to direct U.S. forces without prior congressional approval - either through a majority vote of both chambers or a two-thirds vote in the Senate in the case of treaties.
If this agreement goes into effect without congressional approval, it will establish a precedent under which future presidents can exercise broad unilateral control over the U.S. military - and even give foreign nations control over our troops.
Congress must take immediate action. Unfortunately, they are about to adjourn for at least a couple of weeks. But it is not too late for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a statement, signaling their strong belief that Congress will not be bound by and need not fund an agreement that has not been approved by Congress.
Please send an E-mail encouraging such action to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid immediately by clicking on the following link:
This is truly a dire situation and we hope that you will join us in calling for action.
Thank you.
Steve Fox

Campaign Director
American Freedom Campaign Action Fund

On the treaty, AP's Matthew Lee reports:

Pentagon and State Department officials notified companies that provide contract employees, like Blackwater Worldwide, Dyncorp International, Triple Canopy and KBR, of the changes on Thursday as the Iraqi parliament continues contentious debate on a security deal that will govern the presence of American forces in Iraq after January.
That so-called Status of Forces, or SOFA, agreement, which gives the Iraqi government only limited jurisdiction over U.S. troops and Defense Department civilians, excludes Defense Department contractors, two officials said.

The e-mail address for this site is

the new york times
campbell robertson
 stephen farrell
the los angeles times
american freedom campaign