Friday, November 19, 2010

Just look who got paid off for services rendered

Adhering to an agreement inked during George W Bush's final year in office, the Obama administration has pledged to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. US military commanders have, however, repeatedly spoken of the possibility of extending the US military’s stay well into the future.
Just recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates let the Iraqi government know that the US was open to such a prospect. "We're ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us," he said. As the British Guardian’s Martin Chulov wrote last month, "[T]he US is widely believed to be hoping to retain at least one military base in Iraq that it could use as a strategic asset in the region."
Recent events, however, have cast US basing plans into turmoil. Notably unnerving for the Obama administration was a deal reportedly brokered by Iran in which Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - whose forces had repeatedly clashed with US troops only a few short years ago - threw his support behind Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, currently vying for a second term in office.
This was allegedly part of a regional agreement involving Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah that could leave the US military out in the cold. A source informed the Guardian that "Maliki told [his new regional partners that] he will never extend, or renew [any bases] or give any facilities to the Americans or British after the end of next year."

The above is from Nick Turse's "Pentagon digs in deeper" (Asia Times) and anyone who ever believes Nouri is begging to be burned. Nouri gave his word, did he? He also gave his word to the US. If there was one characteristic of Nouri's occupation of the post of prime minister from 2006 through 2010, it was his non-stop ability to break his word. Now we could provide many, many examples of this -- of Nouri wooing Iraqis with one version of what-if and wooing his American string-holders with another, but Turse is writing about Nouri promising Iraqis that the US military will not be staying in Iraq so let's use the best example for that. This is most like in late 2006 when Nouri renewed the United Nations mandate authorizing the occupation of Iraq, bypassing the Parliament in order to do so and creating massive ill will in the process. In response to the outcry, Nouri promised that this was a one-time thing and he would, of course, not bypass the Parliament again. But 2007 rolled around and golly-gosh, there was Nouri doing the exact same thing he'd done as 2006 concluded, the exact same thing that had outraged so many, the exact thing he'd promised not to do.

To get US support and backing for another term as prime minister, Nouri promised that he would allow the US military to remain on Iraqi soil past 2011. That is why the US government allowed Nouri to remain prime minister instead of heeding calls for the UN to appoint a caretaker government. This week, Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) broke new ground with his monumental scoop detailing how the White House has actively been working to decieve the US voters into believing the Iraq War would end when, in fact, it would not. NSC-er Puneet Talwar was dispatched to offer Iraq 15,000 US troops after the end of 2011 'withdrawal' and to explain that the would simply shove these 15,000 under the US Embassy to hide the remainders. Excerpt from his article:

The Iraqis also asked whether the 15,000 regular combat troops could be augmented with Special Operations Forces, according to the Iraqi official's account. Talwar said the additional deployment of SOF troops after the withdrawal deadline would be possible, because the United States had never publicly acknowledged the presence of SOF units in Iraq.
The Pentagon signaled last summer that it was assuming the post-2011 U.S. military presence in Iraq would be less than 20,000 troops. In a press briefing last August, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East, Colin Kahl, said Iraq "is not going to need tens of thousands of [American] forces".
Talwar also told the Iraqis that any deployment of combat troops in Iraq beyond the termination date of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement would require a letter from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Iraqi officials said the letter would be sent.

Could this be the time that Nouri double-crosses the US? Possibly. The US influence is waning. But it's equally true that the US government has so compromised themselves that Nouri would be crazy to double-cross them. Events of this year demonstrated for all to see that the US government doesn't give a damn about the fate of the average Iraqi and will break any and every rule in order to back up Nouri. They've looked the other way with regards to torture. Does it really look like if Joe Biden's worst case scenario comes true (Nouri begins attacking his own people -- a scenario Joe publicly floated in April of 2008) that the US military will be used to take Nouri down? No. The US government this year's actions indicate that the US government will order the US military to ensure that Nouri is protected and remains in place. It's a reading Nouri has as well, an opinion he shares. And he would not have remained prime minister from 2006 through 2010 were it not for the presence on the ground in Iraqof the US military. He would have been overthrown and one of the many conspiracies to put his head on top of a pike in Nasser Square would have been more than the starting point to one of his public and paranoid remblings, it would have been reality.

So Nouri could go back on his promise to the US. That's the thing about free will, you never know what will happen. But he could stick to it. His past record -- as well as what would personally benefit him -- indicates he is likely to stick with the promise he made to the US government. As Lily Tomlin says to Jane Fonda in 9 to 5, "Well I'll be damned. Just look who got paid off for services rendered."

And he's currently prime minister-delegate and may or may not be Iraq's next prime minister.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twelve days and counting.

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, John Harwood (New York Times), Janet Hook (Wall St. Journal, David Sanger (New York Times) and Pete Williams (NBC) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "GREAT EXPECTATIONS: The New Congress Comes to Town." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mercedes Viana Schlapp and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion about a potential White House in 2012 by Sarah Palin. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Merchant of Death
The Drug Enforcement Administration agents who caught the alleged arms dealer Viktor Bout explain how they lured and then captured the suspect one of them calls "one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth." Armen Keteyian reports. | Watch Video

Designing Life
Steve Kroft profiles famous microbiologist J. Craig Venter, whose scientists have already mapped the human genome and created what he calls "the first synthetic species." | Watch Video

Mark Wahlberg
From street thug, to rapper to actor and now producer, Mark Wahlberg has reinvented himself to the top of the Hollywood heap. Lara Logan profiles Wahlberg as he prepares for his most challenging role: a boxer. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio note. The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations at 10:00 am EST and streaming online live. USA Today's Susan Page fills in for Diane today and her panelists for the first hour discussion of domestic news are Laura Meckler (Wall St. Journal), Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) and Richard Wolffe who was let go by Newsweek but is sort of the center square of MSNBC. For the second hour, Susan will discuss international news topics with panelists David Ignatius (Washington Post), Courtney Kobe (NBC) and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers).

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