Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 22, 2008

U.S. Troop Reduction in Iraq

So there is some kind of agreement about U.S. troop reductions in Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Aug. 21 -- U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have agreed to the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from the country by the end of 2011, and Iraqi officials said they are "very close" to resolving the remaining issues blocking a final accord that governs the future American military presence here.

Is there a clear definition for 'combat forces'? I have yet to see one.

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have now also agreed to a conditions-based withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by the end of 2011, a date further in the future than the Iraqis initially wanted. The deal would leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops inside Iraq in supporting roles, such as military trainers, for an unspecified time. According to the U.S. military, there are 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, most of whom are playing a combat role.

What are the 'conditions' in 'condition based'? There is a big difference between 'combat troops' and troops in 'playing a combat role'. (Is killing people now playing?) All troops within a military have 'combat roles'. The last sentence is thereby meaningless propaganda.

Let me guess: There will be at least one full U.S. tank brigade and a two infantry brigades as 'military trainers' left in Iraq when all 'troops with combat roles' are declared to have gone.

Facing challenges from within his own majority Shiite group, as well as from minority Sunnis and Kurds, Maliki pledged that there would be no "secret deals" with the United States. He said the agreement would be put to a vote in Iraq's fractious parliament.

Does anyone believe in a 'pledge' by Maliki?

I am a bit astonished about the parliament thingy. The signs were pointing to an agreement that would be made outside of the Iraqi parliament and Congress. Either Maliki thinks he can find a majority for this which I find unlikely, or this is his way to sabotage the deal. "Look I have tried, but the ... party just would not go along ..."

Originially there were two agreements: A Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) and a 'strategic framework agreement'. The second one would:

broadly address issues not covered by the SOFA, including those outlined in a "declaration of principles" document signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in November 2007. Among these issues: the U.S. role in defending Iraq from internal and external threats; its support of political reconciliation; and its efforts to confront terrorist groups.

Rice's current trip seems to have covered only the SOFA.

But the 'strategic framework' is much more a restriction of Iraq's sovereignty than the SOFA is? What is the status of negotiations on that one? Will the Iraqi parliament get a chance to vote on that too?

There are many open question here. Unfortunately, no report seems to answers those yet.

Posted by b on August 22, 2008 at 02:10 AM | Permalink

Comments

Why no mention of those famous "contractors"--the mercenaries, who could number as many as 200,000 (soldiers and supporting personnel)? Or many more. I've seen no reliable census for this vast and shadowy force, and no reliable count of its casualties sustained.

So the US could limit its official military presence to, say, a contingent of 30,000, whose chief task would be the arming, maintaining and direction of the mercenaries. Quite enough, perhaps, to operate all those various bases we keep hearing about.

The last American (and the last American mercenary) will surely be driven from Iraqi soil--but surely not so soon, and not through any initiative negotiated by those Rice people.

Posted by: alabama | Aug 22, 2008 2:28:56 AM | 1

Satire

Posted by: vbo | Aug 22, 2008 3:29:10 AM | 2

The first question I have about this WP article, is how close is to reality? Its information is pretty much all coming from one side - who are out to develop a narrative of optimism - apart from yesterday's press conference with Zebari and Rice. And Zebari is hardly a representative of Maliki's point of view.

I am a bit astonished about the parliament thingy. ... Either Maliki thinks he can find a majority for this which I find unlikely, or this is his way to sabotage the deal.

Entirely agree. I don't believe there is any way an agreement could get through the parliament without a fixed timetable for US withdrawal. And what is more, certainly not by Jan 1, 2009. So I am not sure this part of the report is correct.

I still wonder to what extent the US negotiators (including Rice) have really understood the hard position of Maliki on the question of the withdrawal timetable. Zebari, as a Kurd, is no guide. Like I have said many times before, Maliki is not doing this of his own free will, and it may be that which is confusing the US.

By the way, we've been hearing a lot from the professional "analysts" - material appearing on Abu Muqawama, Juan Cole, Missing Links, etc. - about splits and infighting in Iraq. But there is complete silence, no commentary at all, on the question of why it is that Maliki has not signed. Why the puppet has not folded and signed away Iraq's rights. Actually it is clear that these "independent analysts", of whom one could cite Sam Parker, Colin Krahl, and Dr iRack, all of whom have been in Baghdad recently, are really just mouthpieces for the US administration, much like the MSM. I am fairly certain that the US authorities in the Green Zone have forbidden investigation of this question. Because... if it were investigated, it would soon emerge that the opposition (to the signature) is so solid that there is no hope for Condy's "aspirational timelines".

Posted by: Alex | Aug 22, 2008 3:48:46 AM | 3

This is basically a circus trapeze act between Maliki and Bush, not a formal SOFA, but a MoU. Word is that the agreement will not even make it out of the Iraqi government (voted on) before the new year - days before a new president (who can change it) is sworn in. Bush needs the agreement for the obvious reasons of the UN deadline. Maliki needs the agreement because he has sacrificed most of his internal political (UIA) cohesion in a bid to dominate both former allies (Sadrists) and enemies (Awakenings) alike, but is still in need of US military muscle, to compensate for what he is unable to accomplish by internal political measures. His course has been set (since last winter) toward some form of military dictatorship, mimicking the occupation policies of divide and conquer through sectarian bating. While himself appearing above the fray, and branding himself an anti-sectarian nationalist. Its a risky strategy, but the US seems to be on board, considering the US has had to sacrifice its mission of reconciliation, especially the Awakening Sons of Iraq project, the veneer of democracy, and the humiliation of giving up (negotiating) ground to the hapless Maliki. But it does simplify things, falling back on the traditional hack colonial mode of installing an acceptable elite strong man posing as a secular nationalist modernizing the country. Its been a long hard road to get back to circa 1980 Saddam, but thats where we're at. So forget about provencial elections any time soon.

Posted by: anna missed | Aug 22, 2008 4:58:27 AM | 4

Alex,

You may be right that there is no sympathy in the green zone for signing the agreement. But Maliki is too dependent (on the US), and independent from his former political allies not to carry just enough water for the administration. Or else those military coup rumors might start circulating again. Nonetheless, like the oil laws, he will stall as long as possible to keep the US muscle on hand for free.

Posted by: anna missed | Aug 22, 2008 5:27:43 AM | 5

Anna missed

The basic fact is that Maliki has not signed, even after all this time. Why not yesterday when Rice was in Baghdad? The fact that she went at all shows that the negotiations are in trouble. No doubt she went in order to deliver personally some very heavy threats, if Iraq didn't sign. But still at the press conference, it was the same old story yet again: we are nearly there, just a few details to tie up. But not actually signed. It was only last week that Colin Krahl reported that Bush had threatened Maliki, over the video-link, with withdrawing US troops on Jan 1 2009, and that Maliki had heard and understood. Funny that Maliki didn't sign on the spot. (actually they probably had to call a doctor to prevent Maliki from dying laughing)

Posted by: Alex | Aug 22, 2008 5:49:21 AM | 6

There will be permanent bases in Iraq, with soldiers ready to revert to combat role if the US sees its interests threatened. That was one of reasons the US invaded in the first place: to establish a permanent presence there.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Aug 22, 2008 5:52:13 AM | 7

The support for what I was saying.

Iraq still demanding withdrawal date, right to try U.S. troops

This is the Maliki people version.

A one-on-one meeting between Rice and Maliki was "deep and direct," said Sadiq al Rikabi, a top advisor to Maliki, but only time will tell if a compromise can be reached, he said.

"They tried to reach a compromise solution, but it is too early to say they reached an agreement about all issues," he said.

"The Iraqi government wants as a sovereign country to be the master of the law in Iraq," said Ali al Adeeb, a Shiite legislator from Maliki's Dawa party. "There needs to be a strict timetable, otherwise these forces will stay forever. Not having a timetable means they will never leave."

Meanwhile, in the same story, Zebari is telling it differently:

While Shiite lawmakers and advisors to Maliki indicated that a plethora of issues remain to be ironed out, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that a draft was complete and would be referred to the executive council on Friday.

"Time is of essence," Zebari said. "We are redoubling our efforts to bring this to a final and successful conclusion."

Rice's attitude:

Talking to reporters, Rice stressed that there was no agreement and put the burden of responsibility for completing the agreement on Maliki.

"The negotiators have made really, really good progress. They are satisfied with where they are," she said. "But obviously it is going to be the prime minister's call, so this is a chance for me to sit there with him."

Rice said the security agreement was "advanced" and the Americans had shown "flexibility." The draft included "aspirational timetables."

she said. "It will be an excellent agreement when we finally have agreement."

Presents the situation quite well, don't you think?

Posted by: Alex | Aug 22, 2008 7:54:30 AM | 8

I've just heard on TV here that they made an agreement for combat troops to leave in next 12 months and others to leave in next 4 years...
Go on http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/
and watch the video US withdraw

Posted by: vbo | Aug 22, 2008 9:10:29 AM | 9

But if you ask me USA will not go from Iraq until they take last drop of oil or until bankruptcy of USA...

Posted by: vbo | Aug 22, 2008 9:19:47 AM | 10

vbo I've just heard on TV here that they made an agreement

yeah that is what the headlines scream. it isn't til you get down a few paragraphs that they pop the news ' "The negotiators' job is done. Now it is up to the leaders."

'.

article starts off...Negotiators have finalised a deal . which in itself is total bullshit because the term finalized means it is final, which it isn't.

The agreement has already been approved by US President George W Bush and now needs to be endorsed by Iraqi leaders, he added.

which begs the question why do they need these constant news bites? because we are in an election season and when politicos talk about the war there MUST be a current meme. it can't be 'still no done deal/ canceled election'. this is coming on the heals of the conventions and i imagine both parties want to use a message. spun like 'success' for the gop, 'withdrawl' by the dems.

anna missed Its been a long hard road to get back to circa 1980 Saddam, but thats where we're at.

spot on

Posted by: annie | Aug 22, 2008 10:15:50 AM | 11

US troops 'to quit Iraq by 2011'

Happy if it is indeed the case.

Mohammed al-Haj Hammoud, who made the announcement, is the minister of something, but I don't have time to google him. It's an AFP story, who are normally well informed. The "parliament thingy" is confirmed, so it's clear that the confirmation process is going to be long and drawn out, and the withdrawal time-table will have to be a clearly defined one.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 22, 2008 11:54:37 AM | 12

This is hogwash for the American rubes. Agreement, it sounds like victory! The only way the US will really leave Iraq is through force majeure, probably economic collapse and internal upheaval, possibly another hot war that takes precedence.

There is already a de facto partition of Iraq into three states. The main US problem is that the biggest among the three is an Iranian client state. The US is really negotiating with Iran.

Bottom line, the US will have to maintain the right to bomb the shit out of anything in Iraq that they deem fit, have a big combat presence by another name on the permanent bases (mercenaries can't cut it without backup), and get a big cut of oil revenues (for big oil). Why should Iran agree to that? Better to keep 140,000 US troops bogged down for as long as possible. But they don't mind throwing the Republicans a lifeline, why should they?

Posted by: Dick Durata | Aug 22, 2008 4:00:46 PM | 13

You're not reading it right. What you took for an announcement that combat troops will stay in Iraq long enough to accomplish several goals:

1) Make streets safe enough for American forces remaining AFTER combat troops are withdrawn.

2) Build better, stronger props under the U.S. installed, lap-dog government in Baghdad.

3) Acertain that Western oil companies get the lion's share of Iraq's oil.

4) Tie the financial hands of the first Obama administration so tightly that there'll be no chance of a second Obama administration.

Posted by: Jimmy Montague | Aug 22, 2008 4:03:39 PM | 14

Of the four goals I named in my first post (above) I predict that only No. 4 will be achieved. The powers that be aren't really serious about the first three anyway. What those first three goals actually amount to is a tool by which to achieve goal No. 4. By the time 2011 gets here, the stupid American people will forget that it was the Republicans who shoved them into poverty and homelessness. They'll blame it all on the Obama administration and elect another Republican in 2012.

You heard it here first.

Posted by: Jimmy Montague | Aug 22, 2008 4:09:23 PM | 15

Actually, I didn't hear it here first.

The internet is a big, diverse place of much speculation, y'know. And that scenario in particular has been suggested by many. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Cloud | Aug 22, 2008 4:51:58 PM | 16

alex US troops 'to quit Iraq by 2011'

another friedman unit? only instead of 6 month timeframes we get 3 years.

Posted by: annie | Aug 22, 2008 4:59:54 PM | 17

Iraq wants U.S. troops deal to expire in three years

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq wants an agreement authorizing the continued presence of U.S. troops on its soil to expire in three years, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Friday.
...
Dabbagh said Iraq wants to negotiate a firm date by which all U.S. forces must pull out of the country, and wants the agreement allowing them to stay to be valid for only three years.

"The Iraqi government wants this agreement to be valid just for three years," Dabbagh told Reuters. "The full withdrawal will depend on the situation on the ground and the needs of Iraqis and the decisions of the Iraqi government."

Posted by: b | Aug 23, 2008 3:46:43 AM | 18

America has a slow-burner issue on the back Channel .... Kirkut.

America position with Kirkut will incite riots and sectarian violence and then move it's combat troops into Northern Iraq.

America did not spend 3 trillion dollars because it was "Kind-To-Animal" week.

America is never gonna leave Iraq.

Calm

Posted by: Calm | Aug 23, 2008 7:36:56 AM | 19

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