The Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviewed Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) about Iraq yesterday and we'll note this section:
[Bernard Gwertzman]: You've been living in Iraq on and off since the war began in 2003. What's the United States' influence there since the departure of the troops?
[Ned Parker]: America has influence. Evidently, it's less, given that [the] troops have left, but America still has much soft power from the sales of weapons to Iraq, the need of Iraqi counterterrorism forces to work with U.S. Special Forces. Then there's the issue of America helping Iraq with investment, getting foreign companies in, and the issue of ending Iraq's Chapter Seven status at the UN, which prevents Iraq from having its full sovereignty because Iraq continues to pay reparations to Kuwait. So there are many ways that the United States can help Iraq. In terms of influence, it's a question of how America uses it and how it leverages it. Even when America had U.S. forces in Iraq, particularly in the last three years, America has been very reluctant to use its influence or clout to the maximum.
Do you see the problem?
The US immediately rushes forward to insist that the arms deal is still on. Even though it is one of the few levers they currently have over Nouri al-Maliki.
For those who missed it, over the weekend, Nouri began insisting that the machinery needed to be supplied more quickly. Why?
Well there's the political crisis, there's his well documented sense of paranoia (we started documenting it here in the summer of 2006; by 2009, "paraonia" and "paranoid" appear in US State Dept cables on Nouri -- this is no longer speculation, his paranoia is well documented) and there's the witch hunt he's been on.
Instead of using a tool for negotiations, the administration immediately rushes to assure, "Yes, despot, we will be granting you all the weapon power you need for a full-scale blood bath."
This reflects an inability to use "all the tools in the tool box."
In addition, there's the issue of why in the world would the US arm a questionable leader who appears to be demonizing and attacking 20% of his country's population?
We want to hand over weapons to a ruler in a country where three political blocs (Iraqiya, the Sadr bloc and the Kurdish bloc) are all calling for new elections and a withdrawal of confidence in the government.
Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist.
That's not me, that's Joe Biden, before he was vice president, back when he was in the Senate and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, from an April 10, 2008 hearing on Iraq.
What else did he say in that hearing?
That the US was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." And currently? Iraqiya is not attending Parliament meetings as a result of the abuses of Nouri al-Maliki.
Now the US government already made a huge mistake, the administration of Barack Obama, by refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people as well as the Iraqi Constitution. March 2010, Iraqis showed up at the polls and voted. This followed Nouri demonizing Iraqiya and using the Justice and Accountability Commission to disqualify Iraqiya candidates, Nouri using his control of state media to ensure that no one received better coverage (soft and glossy) than did he himself and his political slate (State of Law).
Despite that and despite predictions that State of Law would win by a landslide, that didn't happen. The Iraqi people voted and their first choice was Iraqiya. That was true even after Nouri stamped his feet and demanded recounts. This was true even after the electoral commission tried to humor him by taking some votes away from Iraqiya.
Iraqiya was the winner. This was not in question, this was not in dispute.
Per the people and per the Constitution, April 2010 should have seen Iraqiya attempting to form a government, one most likely led by the head of Iraqiya, Ayad Allawi.
Instead, Nouri dug his heels in and for 8 months refused to budge.
His term was over.
Without US backing, he wouldn't have pulled that off.
There were international cries for a caretaking government to be put in place. The US rejected that at the start of 2010 insisting the elections would be in March and the issues settled quickly. That didn't happen. When cries for a caretaker government began again and the UN appeared interested in the situation, the US again blocked the notion. That was the Barack Obama administration.
They backed Nouri al-Maliki after they knew about the secret prisons he'd be running since 2006 -- plural, secret prisons, plural -- and they backed him despite knowing he was ordering torture. They backed him despite the February 2009 State Dept cable written by then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker which noted he was being seen as the "new Saddam" that he "tends to view everyone and everything with instinctive suspicion." Crocker noted, "The concentration of
authority in Maliki's Office of the Commander in Chief (OCINC), the establishment of an elite security force - with its own judges and detention facilities - that reports directly to the PM, the creation of a security force command that short-circuits provincial authority, a willingness in
some cases to use strong-arm tactics against political adversaries, and patronage networks to co-opt others all follow a very familiar pattern of Arab world leadership." Here's some foreshadowing from Crocker, "While responsibility for the lack of political consensus is broadly shared among Iraq's leaders from all groups, the PM needs to set the tone. Here, Maliki has shown
that he is either unwilling or unable to take the lead in the give-and-take needed to build broad consensus for the Government's policies among competing power blocs."
(February 2009? Barack took office in January 2009. Crocker, a Bush appointment, agreed to stay on until the administration could find a nominee. They quickly backed the disaster Chris Hill. This was at a time when the administration was saying that they were providing diplomacy and tools and blah, blah, blah while the manic depressive Chris Hill was often unable or unwilling to perform his job -- so much so that he broke his promise to the Senate -- at the confirmation hearings -- before he even made it to Baghdad. He couldn't even keep his promise on how quickly he would arrive in Baghdad. It was the first of many forgotten and broken promises.)
And now the US wants to push through Nouri's rush order?
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