Monday, April 27, 2009

Weaseling out of the 'requirement' to leave Iraq cities

Lastly, in every war, everyone and all sides make at least one mistake…what might that have been for MNF-I?

Well, (taken aback but laughs) there might have been more than one…but the two I remember as I go back to the beginning of the war (and I was here then as well) was the disillusionment of the Iraqi army in the beginning and then the 'debaathification.' I mean they were just bad decisions.
And I think, in my opinion, that was the first step (towards) spiraling violence. Those are probably the two biggest mistakes. And the last one (and I am not going to answer another question) was Abu Ghraib (the US detention facility). The fact is that we don’t expect that of ourselves. That's not who we are. That's not what we stand for. And yet…we allowed that to happen. And we have been correcting that ever since.

That's the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, speaking Rahul Sharma and Foreign Editor Anand Sagar for "'We Have Made Mistakes in Iraq': General Odierno" (Khaleej Times). The article is excerpts and Odierno notes, as he has repeatedly, that US forces may remain in Iraq after June 30th. The treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement 'requires' that US forces leave Iraqi cities by June 30th -- all Iraqi cities. His remarks are similar to (a) what he's stated all along (even when people haven't wanted to hear it) and (b) the are not at all similar to remarks made Saturday by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zerbari in their joint-press conference. Asked if it would "still be possible to withdraw US troops as planned from cities by the end of June," the response were:

Hillary Clinton: General Odierno briefed me and members of my delegation this morning. And his view is my view, that these are tragic and terrible events, but they do not reflect any diversion from the security progress that has been made. They are certainly regrettable and horrible in terms of loss of life. But the reaction from the Iraqi people and the Iraqi leaders was firm and united in rejecting that violence, and refusing to allow it to set Iraqi against Iraqi, which is obviously one of its intended goals. And with respect to any matters that are going on in the United States, I think we'll wait and see what happens. I don't want to be prejudging or commenting on anything until it does happen. But I think the strong relationship that the United States and Iraq have in our partnership on all levels is in a very positive framework and will become more so as we work together on specific issues and find solutions to the problems t hat confront Iraq as they make this very courageous transition into security and stability and sovereignty and self-reliance, and that's what we're going to be focused on. Thank you very much.

Hoshyar Zerbari: Just add to what Secretary Clinton has said actually on this issue, on this question. I personally don't believe that these deadly attacks was (inaudible) government determination to pursue its plans to (inaudible) the country. Yes, we have, indeed, certain timeline for withdrawal from the population center and the city centers. But we are doing our utmost, and we are coordinating very closely with the multinational forces to ensure that there is no vacuum when that happens, and that security is viable to certain extent. But this ultimately would be an Iraqi responsibility. As for the aim of this attacks, actually, if you look back most of them were Iranian (inaudible) innocent, soft targets that have been targeted by these terrorists in Diyala and (inaudible). And our condolences also to go to their families and to the government. And we are doing our utmost really to protect them and to ensure that they carry out their religious duty as it should be.

The press conference in full is up at the US State Dept's website, "Near East: Remarks With Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari." Did you find an answer in that? No, you did not. Yet Amy Goodman claims today during her headlines that Hillary stated they would stay in Mosul and parts of Baghdad in this press conference. Read it in full, no such statement was made. Is the transcript incomplete? I've seen video of the press conference, there was no mention of what Goodman's claiming this morning. What was made, a statement that whatever outlet Goody reads missed, was the following early on by Hillary:

The end of the United States' combat presence in Iraq by 2011 will mark the beginning of a new phase in our country's relationship. As we draw down militarily, we will deepen our civilian cooperation in accordance with the strategic framework agreement. We will work on development and diplomatic initiatives and a regional agenda that includes border security and refugees.

That was not in reply to a question. That was in her opening (prepared) remarks. We saw Hillary dance away from the specific question she was asked about withdrawing from US cities by the end of June (as did Zebari). Hillary knows how to avoid a question she doesn't want to answer. She also knows how to say what she means. The US combat presence in Iraq will end in 2011? Really? August 2010 was the supposed date. Are more dates being kicked down the road? Is Barack playing kick the can yet again?

For those thinking Goodman's confused the press conference with the town hall, you can go to the State Dept website and read "Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at the Town Hall Meeting with PRT Leaders and Iraqi Partners" but you won't find the issue of withdrawal from Iraqi cities at the end of June raised. I have no idea where Goodman's getting her information and she didn't source it. But Hillary did not declare that the US would remain in Mosul and Baghdad after June 30th. I happen to believe they will remain but that doesn't change the fact that Hillary didn't say that in the press conference with Zebari.

The Corpus Christi Caller Times editorializes on the topic of the departure from Iraqi cities and the SOFA today in "We may miss the deadline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq's cities:"

Under the agreement between Washington and Baghdad, U.S. combat troops would be out of Iraq by August 2010. After that, up to 50,000 - one third of the present U.S. forces - would remain with a non-combat role. All 140,000 U.S. troops are supposed to be gone by the end of 2011. The decision on whether to keep U.S. troops in Iraqi cities would be made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; it would be a tough call, given that a majority of Iraqis want U.S. troops out of the country.
[. . .]
We have every confidence in our military leadership in Iraq. Gen. Odierno arrived in Iraq in April 2003, soon after the invasion, and he led the division that ultimately captured Saddam Hussein. He was number two to Gen. David Petraeus when the surge turned looming defeat into something closer to victory. His worst day in Iraq, he said in an interview, was when he got a call that his son, Tony Odierno, a lieutenant, lost an arm in a rocket attack in 2004.
That we may miss the June 30 deadline is disappointing, but we need to be flexible and recognize that the general calling the shots knows what he's doing. The currents in this unnecessary war may ebb and flow, but the most important thing is that we stick to the broad parameters of our own withdrawal plan - combat troops out by August 2010 and all troops out by the last day of the year of 2011. Then we can put the entire Iraq War episode under the chapter heading of "Never Again."

In this morning's New York Times, Rod Nordland's "Exceptions to Iraq Deadline Are Proposed" explores this topic:

The United States and Iraq will begin negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities, focusing on the troubled northern city of Mosul, according to military officials. Some parts of Baghdad also will still have combat troops.

On the record, Maj. Gen. David Perkins confirms to Nordland that this may be the case for Mosul. There is nothing in the article about Hillary Clinton stating anything about staying in Mosul or Baghdad, for any wondering if that's where Goody got her information.

The article does note that Camp Victory ["Camps Victory, Liberty, Striker and Slayer, plus the prison known as Camp Cropper"] and "Camp Prosperity" will not be closed or turned over to Iraq according to Maj Gen Muhammad al-Askari. Yes, the SOFA calls for something different but al-Askari says they're making exceptions even though the SOFA 'requires' otherwise. For the mammoth Camp Victory, it is in Baghdad and out of Baghdad, for example, so al-Askari says they consider it out of Baghdad.

At some point, Americans convinced the SOFA means the end of the illegal war (years from now) might want to pay attention to how malleable the treaty has been thus far with 'requirements' regularly being disgarded.

And you're only surprised if you haven't been paying attention.

Bonnie notes Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Hard Work" went up yesterday.

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