Thursday, June 23, 2011

Extending US military presence, a dog's absence stops the presses and more tales from Iraq

Today Al Sabaah reports that a "tentative deal" has been reached on keeping US soldiers ("a limited number") in Iraq beyond 2011 according to an unnamed "senior" US source. This was addressed, according to the source, by President Jalal Talabani and US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and would cover only the US military forces being shoved under the State Dept umbrella. As addressed here many times before, they would still have the same duties. But they would be under the State Dept and not the Defense Dept. Their presence would be covered by the Strategic Framework Agreement and would not need an extension of the SOFA or a new treaty. The article notes that Jeffrey is also meeting with MPs to press for an extension of the SOFA. If that's confusing, the State Dept umbrella is choice 2. The preferred choice of the White House is an extension of the SOFA. But either way, US forces are not leaving Iraq.

On the preferred choice, Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that a member of Parliament's Committee on Defense and Security has told the paper that "lack of readiness" on the part of Iraqi forces will be used to explain the SOFA being extended. The article cites numerous press reports (Arabic press, the US press has ignored these reports) on the talks and secret meetings that have taken place over extending the US military's stay in Iraq. The Dialogue Front is said to be a firm supporter of extending the US military presence while Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) is said to be playing it close to the vest and insisting he must have answers from DC before he makes a decision. The article runs through the other players. (As noted here before, the Kurdish officials want the US military to stay.)

While these discussions continue (some say a deal has already been reached on extending the SOFA), Alsumaria TV reports, "Basra provincial council voted on a decision to prevent US Forces from entering the province, Al Sadr Front's Ahrar Bloc said on Wednesday. Basra provincial council called to withdraw US Forces from Basra International Airport and affirmed that the council's decision stipulates compensating damaged citizens from US military operations."

The Iraqi political scene is one of stalemate and foot dragging. A story that best telegraphs that? Al Mada reports reports that journalists were not allowed access to the day's hearing due to the fact that a dog was 'out sick.' (Actually, the contract with the security company had expired.) The dog detects bombs. Dar Addustour covers the story here.

This morning the Iraqi press is full of reports that Ayad Allawi is not ill -- Al Mada here, Dar Addustour here and Alsumaria TV are only three examples. Dar Addustour not only notes the denial that Allawi is ill but also quotes Iraqiya insisting the rumors are attempts to disempower Iraqiya and to disrupt life on the Iraq street -- to discredit the political slate in the eyes of the people. Dar Addustour also notes that State Of Law has already broken an agreement to cease attacks in the press (see yesterday's snapshot for more on that).

Nouri attempts another power grab in the meantime. Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri has ordered the Electoral Commission to leave the Kurdistan region and walk out on UNHCR. The Electoral Commission has said no and responds that only Parliament has the authority to stop UNHCR work.

On Barack's speech last night, Jason Ditz ( observes, "On the ground in Afghanistan, however, it doesn’t seem like a drawdown, and the troops aren’t expecting any major change. Rather, they are expecting long deployings and a long occupation in an already decade-old war." And we'll note this from Sherwood Ross' "Obama Talks Afghan Drawdown, But No Words About 865 Foreign Bases" (OpEdNews):

President Obama may claim he's got to go slow in drawing down U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan but what's his excuse for keeping open 268 U.S. bases in Germany? Is he expecting an attack by the Red Army? There are folks living well on those 268 bases at public expense as well as the military contractors supplying them.
No other nation begins to operate even a tiny fraction of the 865-plus bases the Pentagon runs overseas to, depending on your viewpoint, (a) protect America from dangerous potential enemies who are lurking everywhere, or (b) to dominate the rest of the world. And since 95% of all overseas bases located in somebody else's country are operated by the USA, millions of people suspect (b) is the answer; indeed, foreigners fear Uncle Sam might subjugate them.
Should Americans care? Only if they don't mind spending $140 billion a year. That's what it's costing them. The U.S. Conference of Mayors the other day voted to shift Pentagon spending of $126-billion a year from Middle East wars to our struggling cities. But we'd get an even bigger savings by removing the ring of steel with which the Pentagon has girdled the planet.

We'll close with this from an interview with Noam Chomsky at Information Clearing House:

That means that western democracies prevented the emergence of democracies in the Arab world?

Chomsky: I won't run through the details, but yes, it continues that way to the present. There are constant democratic uprisings. They are crushed by the dictators we – mainly the US, Britain, and France – support. So sure, there is no democracy because you crush it all. You could have said the same about Latin America: a long series of dictators, brutal murderers. As long as the US controls the hemisphere, or Europe before it, there is no democracy, because it gets crushed.

So you were not surprised at all by the Arab Spring?

Chomsky: Well, I didn't really expect it. But there is a long background to it. Let's take Egypt for instance. You'll notice that the young people who organized the demonstrations on January 25th called themselves the April 6th movement. There is a reason for that. April 6th 2008 was supposed to be a major labour action in Egypt at the Mahalla textile complex, the big industrial centre: strikes, support demonstrations around the country and so on. It was all crushed by the dictatorship. Well, in the West we don't pay any attention: as long as dictatorships control people, what do we care!

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