Thursday, July 07, 2011


One of the most interesting aspects about US coverage of the Status Of Forces Agreement being extended or replaced is how the White House keeps saying Iraq will have to ask and reporters run around DC looking for unnamed officials to comment while ignoring what's been and is being reported in the Iraqi press. You might say, "Well the US press feels it's more professional and therefore isn't interested . . ." To which the obvious rejoinder is, "The US isn't interested in Iraqi press or Iraqi reaction? That makes the US press just like the US government.

Today Al Sabaah reports that a unified statement is expected before the end of the month from Parliament. Of course, if recent reports that Nouri intends to sign off on a memorandum of understanding with the US government prove to be correct, the Parliament can say whatever it wants, they will have been bypassed (not unlike the way he bypassed them at the end of 2006 to extend the UN mandate and, again, at the end of 2007 for the same reason). Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that State of Law insiders (Nouri's slate) say Moqtada al-Sadr is the stumbling block currently and that Nouri is weighing the threats Moqtada has made to reactivate the Mahdi milita. State of Law worries about the so-called 'gains' that have been made being lost if the US military leaves. Not all in the political slate are worried about Moqtada and some point out that Nouri is the leader of the Armed Forces as well as the Minister of Defense and Interior so he will have the support of most political blocs when he makes his evaluation. From outside the political slate, some are less optimistic and many point out that the decision should not be Nouri's alone (Osama al-Nujaifi, not noted in this article, has repeatedly maintained that this is a decision that must come before Parliament).

Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) raises some issues surrounding withdrawal:

And yet, that expanding Iranian influence should grab our attention. Unchecked, it will reverse Iraq's slim democratic gains and restoke Iraq's sectarian violence, while threatening our broader interests in the region. Is this how we want our misguided Iraq venture to end?
As the United States leaves, Tehran is expanding its sway over Baghdad, beyond the normal influence of a neighbor that shares a long border.
Iran is sending a clear message to Washington that it intends to exert primacy in Baghdad. June was the bloodiest month for the U.S. military since 2008, and U.S. officials blame the 15 troop deaths on Shiite insurgents who obtained deadly weapons from Iranian sources.
Moreover, Tehran appears to have Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a headlock. Once a politician who showed independence from Tehran, the unpopular Maliki has become dependent on an Iranian-backed Shiite group led by the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who spends most of his time in the Iranian city of Qom.
Even more disturbing is the decision by Maliki and his Dawa Party to submit to the religious authority of Grand Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi, a hard-line Iranian cleric, rather than to Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Shahroudi endorses the Iranian system of rule by a supreme cleric, while Sistani draws a line between mosque and state.

I disagree with Rubin that these are reasons to stay and I'll leave it at that because she's proved her sincerity on this issue being one of the only columnists to regularly cover Iraq. Even after the bulk of the media moved on, she continued to highlight the war.

And that's it for this entry because we've got a comic in just a second.

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