Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Negotiations to keep US troops in Iraq

Yang Lina (Xinhua -- link has text and video) reports, "Iraq's political leaders have given the government the green light to begin negotiating a deal with the U.S. The deal would keep American troops beyond the end of 2011 to train Iraqi security forces." The news came late yesterday and it's going to be very interesting to see who makes time for it -- and no, less than a minute in an hour show (especially a commercial free hour), isn't making time for the news. Is it news?

As Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) point out, "As a candidate, President Obama promised to end the Iraq war, so the White House has been reluctant to call openly for U.S. troops to remain."

So, yes, that makes the start of acknowledged negotiations major news. (Even if the New York Times runs a paragraph by AP and refuses to file their own story on the issue. Talk about caught sleeping on the job -- and, no, that's not a slam at Tim Arango who is pursuing a different story and doing follow ups. He is not the only one who could have written the story and when Mullen went into Iraq, he did so with reporters.)

Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) observes, "After weeks of wrangling and lots of US pressure it appears to be a breakthrough. After a five hour meeting in presidential compound here in Baghdad there was an announcement that a deal has been reached that presence of US military trainers would be raised in parliament." And as noted yesterday, Jane Arraf Tweeted about the big meet-up so refer to her Twitter feed for many more details about what was discussed by the Iraqi political blocs beyond US troops. And, if you visit it right now, you'll see that the supposed official stated position of the Sadr bloc is they're not going to block the move if everyone else goes along with it (US troops in Iraq beyond 2011) but that she (Arraf) is meeting up with a Sadr official to find out what their position actually entails.

Of the negotiations, Press TV notes, "The move, which is opposed by the Iraqi people, comes after a visit to Baghdad by the outgoing Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who has urged the al-Maliki government to make a decision whether it wants an extended presence of American forces in Iraq." This week in Baghdad, a petition calling on US forces to leave Iraq at the end of the year got 2.5 million signatures. Another number is offered by Stars & Stripes, "The U.S. has offered to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq beyond the year-end deadline." As Dar Addustour notes, the meet-up of the political blocs took place at Jalal Talabani's home (Talabani is the President of Iraq).

Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN quote
the Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nouri Shawees stating, "After extensive discussions, the leaders of the political blocs headed by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani have agreed to let the Iraqi government start negotiations with the American side only on the issues of training and under the Strategic Framework Agreement." In an active and functioning media, that statement alone would result in multiple columns, analysis and discussions. As it is, it will probably sail right over most heads (the meaning of it). Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) elaborates further, "The leaders agreed that any request to keep U.S. military trainers in Iraq would fall under a general security agreement with the United States and would not require signing a new accord to keep U.S. troops in the country into 2012, according to Talabani's office. U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night."

The only non-Iraqi press outlet I see offering analysis of the news at this point is the editorial board of the Khaleej Times:

With pressure coming in from Washington to decide at the earliest if it wants the remaining troops to stay or leave, Maliki faces a tough task. His tenuously cobbled coalition government is at a risk of falling apart in case a decision is made in favour of retaining American forces for longer than the December 2011 deadline. Facing violent opposition from some of his coalition partners — concerning further prolonging of US forces in the country — Maliki is in a catch-22 position in trying to choose the lesser of the two evils. For the security in Iraq is far from stable and is in fact worse than before, according to a recent report presented before the US Congress. According to the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Junior, the security situation is at an all time low.
Though an earlier military assessment in May lauded the improvement in security, it was misleading and based on a comparative assessment of the situation to that in 2007. As a matter of fact, according to Bowen, Iraq is facing enhanced security threat from Shia militant factions that have contributed to the spread of violence and instability. An increase in targeted killings of US soldiers and Iraqi officials and attacks in Baghdad over the past many months is testament to the fact. In addition, the Iraqi military capability is as yet not on track.

Meanwhile violence continued overnight. The Belfast Telegraph notes, "Four Iraqis have been killed in two successive bomb attacks targeting a shop selling alcohol in western Baghdad, police and health officials said." AFP adds, "The explosions come shortly after the beginning of Ramadan, during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn until dusk. Ramadan began on Monday for Iraq's Sunnis and a day later for the country's majority Shiites. Also on Tuesday evening, unknown gunmen shot dead Iraqi army Lieutenant Colonel Azad Mohammed Ahmed in the Khadra area in the south of Kirkuk while he was driving to his house with one of his guards." Reuters adds that last night 2 cab drivers were shot dead in Hilla, that a bomb went off in a Tikrit car claiming 2 lives and leaving one person injured and that a rocket attack in Baghdad injured two police officers.

Betty's "RACIST NPR and RACIST Steve Inskeep" went up last night. I agree with her call. She spent a great deal of time reviewing what took place on the air yesterday (a Congressman was repeatedly cut off while speaking yesterday by Steve Inskeep -- news in and of itself when it comes to Morning Edition but when you add in the Congress member's race and the disrespect, the whole thing reeks of racism). On radio, a friend has e-mailed the public account ("to go through proper channels") and wants me to plug a show on their station. If I have time, I will do so in the snapshot -- I will also offer a negative critique of a recent incident on the show. If that's a problem, let me know before this afternoon.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "United Loony Bin of America" (OpEdNews):

“Have we as a nation gone mad, waging war in the Persian Gulf while society crumbles?” Seymour Melman asked rhetorically when I interviewed him for The Progressive 19 years ago.
Even though Melman, a professor emeritus at Columbia University's school of industrial engineering, departed this life in 2004, his question still haunts our society, as the American War Machine since then has only gained in momentum, immensity, universality and cruelty.
To answer Melman: “Yes, we have gone mad.” That's because presidents and Pentagon chiefs start new wars even before they finish fighting the old ones! Who can recall a time in our history when the U.S. initiated aggressive wars against five nations(Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen)?
Between 1947 and 1989, Melman said, the U.S. spent $8.2 trillion (in 1982 dollars) on the military. When I said I couldn't grasp a figure that large, Melman replied, “Think of it this way: In 1982, the total money value of all America's manufacturing, industry and its infrastructure amounted to $7.3 trillion. You could have replicated the largest part of everything made by people in this country with what the military got.” (Everything made by everybody? All the houses? All the highways? All the schools? All the hospitals? A new America? Everything?)
Melman went on to say, “Half of every dollar you pay in Federal taxes goes into the military account. Pentagon contractors are awash in billions while the infrastructure that underpins our economy collapse around us and human misery spreads everywhere.”
Fast-forward: Today, the Pentagon still gets roughly half of every tax dollar. The War Resisters League estimates 54% of the pie goes to the military compared with 30% for all human resources, 11 percent for general government and 5% for physical resources..
Defense contractors are awash in profits while lines lengthen at soup kitchens, foreclosed families sleep in shelters, 20 million are jobless or underemployed, food stamp use sets records, summer jobs for teens have vanished, and President Obama appears willing to rat out the elderly on Social Security and Medicare as too costly while he authorizes new CIA drone attacks on Pakistan.

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