Sunday, August 09, 2015


At The Atlantic, Peter Beinart, who so frequently has gotten so much wrong, manages to get a few things right, such as here:

The tragedy of post-surge Iraq has its roots in America’s failure to make the Iraqi government more inclusive—a failure that began under Bush and deepened under Obama. In 2010, Sunnis, who had largely boycotted Iraq’s 2005 elections, helped give a mixed Shia-Sunni bloc called Iraqiya two more seats in parliament than Maliki’s party won. But the Obama administration helped Maliki retain power. And Obama publicly praised him for “ensuring a strong, prosperous, inclusive, and democratic Iraq” even after he tried to arrest his vice president and other prominent Sunni leaders.

He also grasps that the 'surge' had two parts -- the US military part which was supposed to provide the space for the second part (government action).  The second part never happened.

Sadly, Beinart can't grasp the similarity between the 'surge' and Barack's 'plan' today where bombings are supposed to create space for political momentum.

He also misses a point here:

These errors came well before Obama’s decision to remove American troops at the end of 2011. The fact is, the U.S. failed to stop Maliki’s slide into sectarian tyranny even when it still had 100,000 troops patrolling Iraqi soil. That’s because America had already lost much of its leverage. Once the surge succeeded in reducing violence, Maliki no longer needed American troops to keep him in power. By 2010, U.S. aid to Iraq had dropped dramatically. Iraq was buying American weapons, but had the oil revenue to buy them elsewhere if America stopped selling. And the Obama administration could not pressure Maliki by threatening to withdraw U.S. troops, because Maliki wanted them gone. So did most of the Iraqi people.


And no.

Nouri wanted troops.  He wanted lots of US troops.

He feared an Iraqi military coup.

This isn't speculation, it's well documented.

And the US did not lose leverage, it gave it away.

Chris Hill, Joe Biden, Samantha Power and others recommended Barack back Nouri.  Once that decision was made (and making that choice meant refusing to listen to US military command which had long warned against Nouri), there wasn't anything else to do.

When you let loose a rabid dog like Nouri a second term, it's a bit difficult to pull him back when he no longer has a leash.

My criticism of those points is not me endorsing the argument that if only US troops had remained in Iraq in large numbers then the slide into chaos never would have happened.

It wouldn't have mattered, my opinion, if 20 or 30,000 US troops had remained in Iraq.

When the decision was made to back loser Nouri for a second term, that's what decided all that followed. That was the chain of events.

Meanwhile, recent protests in Iraq have created a chain of events as well.  Omar al-Jawoshy and Tim Arango (New York Times) report:

Facing widespread protests against government corruption and poor services as well as calls for change by Shiite clerics, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday proposed a series of drastic reforms that could be a turning point in the dysfunctional politics of Iraq that have persisted since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Al-Abadi’s proposals, which came as the war against Islamic State group extremists has stalled in western Anbar province, were wide ranging. They included the elimination of three vice-presidency positions, largely ceremonial jobs that come with expensive perks, and the end of sectarian and party quotas that have dominated the appointments of top officials.

Sinan Salaheddin and Vivian Salama (AP) explain, "Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's Cabinet backed the plan, which still needs parliamentary approval, but it's unclear whether it could end the endemic corruption in Iraq's political system, where many senior appointments are determined by party patronage and sectarian loyalties."  The editorial board of Gulf News comes out in favor of the proposal and argues:

That proposal is actually not a bad thing as it is most probably aimed at removing former Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who is currently vice-president. Al Maliki has been a negative force in Iraq’s political process for the past decade and is blamed for the failure of the military and security forces in stopping Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) from overtaking Mosul and other northern areas.
He is also accused of buying influence in the army and security bodies. He is also known to have contributed to poor ties with neighbouring Gulf states. His policies led to sectarian polarisation, something Al Abadi has to work very hard to rectify.

Whether or not the proposals will have such an effect is debatable.  It can be argued that Nouri's getting exactly what he wants, in effect the prime minister presiding over a presidency system.

I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

 The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4497.

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