Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The ongoing negotiations

Luis Martinez (ABC News) quotes US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stating of negotiations between the US and Iraq to extend the US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011, "At the present time, you know, I'm not discouraged because we’re still in negotiations with the Iraqis. At this stage of the game, you know, I think our hope is that the negotiators can ultimately find a way to resolve this issue in terms of what are the Iraqi needs and how can we best meet them, once we've concluded our combat operations." Panetta was in Italy and Robert Burns (AP) adds that he stated that the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin were still having "discussions with Iraqi leaders" and that Nouri publicly referred to a "NATO alternative." As noted here repeatedly during the first week of October, NATO is among the many possibilities that the White House has considered for keeping troops in Iraq. Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) offers:

Discussions with the Iraqis have focused on the administration's demand that U.S. troops remaining in Iraq have immunity from Iraqi courts. In August, Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie told The Cable that a deal on immunity was in the works and that the Iraqis would formally request an extension of thousands of U.S. troops' presence "in our own sweet time."
But the current U.S.-Iraq bilateral agreements dictate that all U.S. troops must withdraw by the end of the year, and as time runs out, the chances of a deal on immunity are fading fast.
Ramzy Mardini, a scholar at the Institute for the Study of War who traveled to Iraq in July, said that the reason a deal isn't likely is because, though there is a consensus among Iraqi leaders to give U.S. troops immunity, State Department lawyers determined that the immunity would only be ensured if the Iraqi parliament formally endorsed it.

As noted before, State and Defense have been at odds over whether or not immunity had to come through the Parliament. Those under Panetta have been of the opinion that it's a DoD issue so they really didn't see the point in giving credence to State's take. As noted yesterday, the White House is now of the legal opinion that Nouri can grant immunity by himself.

Al Sabaah reports Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced in Cairo yesterday that parties would meet in Baghdad in the middle of next month to discuss plans for holding the Arab League Summit there. In the last 8 or so days, Baghdad has been hit with bombings resulting is multiple fatalities three times. And, for those who've forgotten, this isn't the first time this Arab Summit was supposed to take place in Baghdad. Originally, Zebari and others spent the start of the year insisting that the Arab League Summit would take place March 29, 2011. Then when March finally rolled around, it was agreed it wasn't safe enough so it got kicked back to May 15th. Then that got the axe as well. By that point, the Iraqi government had spent over $450 million on the Arab League Summit that didn't take place.

In other news, Moqtada al-Sadr is reportedly back in Iraq. Al Mada calls it "a surprise visit" to Najaf and that, unlike previous returns from Iran, there were not throngs of supporters at the airport to greet him. Dar Addustour adds it's not clear whether or not this is a temporary return or not. Also of slow burner interest, Al Rafidayn reported yesterday on the opinion of some MPs that Iraq is allowing too many foreign contractors into the country, a fear that this could resort in increased terrorism and a feeling that Iraqis can provide all the security needed by embassies and foreign companies operating in Iraq.

We'll close with this from Chris Hedges' "A Movement Too Big To Fail" (Information Clearing House):

There is no danger that the protesters who have occupied squares, parks and plazas across the nation in defiance of the corporate state will be co-opted by the Democratic Party or groups like MoveOn. The faux liberal reformers, whose abject failure to stand up for the rights of the poor and the working class, have signed on to this movement because they fear becoming irrelevant. Union leaders, who pull down salaries five times that of the rank and file as they bargain away rights and benefits, know the foundations are shaking. So do Democratic politicians from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi. So do the array of “liberal” groups and institutions, including the press, that have worked to funnel discontented voters back into the swamp of electoral politics and mocked those who called for profound structural reform.

Resistance, real resistance, to the corporate state was displayed when a couple of thousand protesters, clutching mops and brooms, early Friday morning forced the owners of Zuccotti Park and the New York City police to back down from a proposed attempt to expel them in order to “clean” the premises. These protesters in that one glorious moment did what the traditional “liberal” establishment has steadily refused to do—fight back. And it was deeply moving to watch the corporate rats scamper back to their holes on Wall Street. It lent a whole new meaning to the phrase “too big to fail.”

Tinkering with the corporate state will not work. We will either be plunged into neo-feudalism and environmental catastrophe or we will wrest power from corporate hands. This radical message, one that demands a reversal of the corporate coup, is one the power elite, including the liberal class, is desperately trying to thwart. But the liberal class has no credibility left. It collaborated with corporate lobbyists to neglect the rights of tens of millions of Americans, as well as the innocents in our imperial wars. The best that liberals can do is sheepishly pretend this is what they wanted all along. Groups such as MoveOn and organized labor will find themselves without a constituency unless they at least pay lip service to the protests. The Teamsters’ arrival Friday morning to help defend the park signaled an infusion of this new radicalism into moribund unions rather than a co-opting of the protest movement by the traditional liberal establishment. The union bosses, in short, had no choice.

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