Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 21, 2008

After Bush - Appeasement

May 15, 2008 - President Bush Addresses Members of the Knesset

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. ... We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Bush left the Middle East and suddenly 'some' is 'everyone'.

It seems like people in the Middle East all thought "Enough with this lunacy!"


Did something happen behind the scene? Some secret appeasement between Iran and the U.S.?

Posted by b on May 21, 2008 at 16:37 UTC | Permalink


Did something happen behind the scene? Some secret appeasement between Iran and the U.S.?

Might as well call it that. It has all the symptoms of appeasement, if appeasement is simply the recognition and or acceptance of a new status quo. The current strategic position of the U.S. in the M.E. is one where they haven't a prayer of a chance without major reliance on their so called "friends", or in other words their bought and sold proxies. And it's doubtful that even they put enough hope in such arrangements to stake their strategic futures exclusively on them. Hence, the only reliable insurance is some "dark matter" or hidden (from public view) acknowledgment of the real power arrangement.

As an illustration of just how precarious the U.S. position, politically in this respect, is in Iraq - try to imagine the same set of affairs imposed on that other war, Vietnam. If the same political alliances the U.S. is confronted with in Iraq, existed in Vietnam then, the Thieu government would not have been a willing anti-communist ally. It would have instead been a somewhat disgruntled menshevik brother to its bigger North Vietnamese bolshevik, and every time a family squabble would erupt the South Vietnam government would all hop on a plane and fly to Hanoi so that General Giap could negotiate a little peace treaty. Under those circumstances how long do you think that war would have gone on? But, in the M.E. when we substitute secular ideology with the prism of sectarian ideology the analogy is probably not so far off, and that is what we're doing. And so why, or how could the U.S. manage its strategic position on even less substance than they did in Vietnam?

No, I think they are working hand and glove with the real power brokers, with all the bluster making the unthinkable, unthinkable.

Posted by: anna missed | May 21 2008 18:18 utc | 1

The current strategic position of the U.S. in the M.E. is one where they haven't a prayer of a chance without major reliance on their so called "friends"

is one of those friends taking a nosedive, while another distances?

Posted by: annie | May 21 2008 18:54 utc | 2

besides the obligatory "iran is a great threat", i found this quite impressive.

Posted by: snafu | May 21 2008 19:03 utc | 3

whoops,link above is obama responding to an accusation of "appeasement" from mcain.

Posted by: snafu | May 21 2008 19:06 utc | 4

I think all and sundry are giving Bush a BIG FUCK OFF after his ME visit.

Posted by: | May 21 2008 19:18 utc | 5

The blog consensus seems to be that the U.S. and the Saudis were the big loosers in all of this and especially Lebanon. I agree. And note that oil hit $133+/barrel today. Someone is going for a killing on the U.S. economy?

I don't know - but all of this should ring serious alarm bells around Washington.

Is there a deal with Iran? Maybe. How would the Saudi's respond to such?

Posted by: b | May 21 2008 19:38 utc | 6

b, how will Al Queda respond?

Posted by: Cloned Poster | May 21 2008 19:48 utc | 7

My guess is that the Saudi fuck-off to Bush, means that Tehran becomes the new Riyadh, so the Isrealis are becoming "chutzpah" doves.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | May 21 2008 19:54 utc | 8

Or a ticking clock consistent with Bernard Avishai's reported belief (lost the link, sorry) that Bush promised Olmert an attack on Iran after election day, if Obama wins. But I can't see why anyone would take that seriously. Why would Bush keep his word with Olmert, alone among all the people Bush has betrayed?

Posted by: ...---... | May 22 2008 2:25 utc | 9

Hezbollah wins a veto? I guess that US base that was rumored to go in near the destroyed Palestinian refugee camp is right out then.

very welcome news.

Posted by: ran | May 22 2008 2:52 utc | 10

Oil prices pass $135 after drop in crude and gasoline inventories

Non-appeasement is the State equivalent of domestic socialism, where the Executive
appointed leadership refuses Congress' interrogatory, where government pols refuse,
even reverse the popular referendums of the people, in some cases, after the people
twice refused the initiative, the government officials spent billions anyway. Then
when their own incompetence is revealed in massive 200% - 300% cost overruns (where
any commercially qualified estimator holds costs to ±15%), these same government
trolls sold the lands the state had seized by eminent domain and aggregated, then
rolled the profits into a general fund! In your face, in plain view, all-out theft.

Highway Robbery.

The truly scarey thing is these bureaucratic automatons learn from each other.
Do a little magic trick. Burn a $1 bill. It takes about 18 seconds. Now let's give
the bureaucrats a break. Take a $100 bill, and burn it in your mind. 18 seconds.
If Bush burned each $100 of his 2009 $183B emergency war funding initiative,
on top of his $163B emergency domestic spending initiative, a total $1/3 TRILLION
gone up in smoke, one $100 bill at a time, it would take him NINETEEN HUNDRED YEARS!

Now cipher how long it will take our children and grandchildren to pay that back.

We need a public trial, competent audit ... then a mass hanging. All of 'em.

Posted by: Tiny Pepe | May 22 2008 4:05 utc | 11

ISNA - Tehran
Service: Foreign Policy

TEHRAN, May 21 (ISNA)-The head of Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council Abdul Aziz-Hakim described targeting Iranian diplomats as targeting the “new Iraq.”

Four Iranian embassy staffs in Iraq were wounded as a convoy driving them to the holy city of Kazimiyah came under fire. The Iraqi driver was also wounded during the attack.

Many Iranian senior officials slamming the attack declared they will take necessary and legal measures in this regard.

Tehran and Baghdad need to move toward lifting bilateral ties to provide mutual benefits, Hakim said during a meeting with Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi.

Kazemi Qomi for his part said Iran will stand by Iraqi people forever to encounter terrorism and make peace across Iraq.

The two sides also discussed Iraq’s developments as well as those in the world.

Also Iraq's ambassador to Tehran paid a visit to the injured Iranian staffs while condemning the terrorist action.

"Iraq's republic government has condemned all the criminal activities targeting satisfactory and friendly relations between Iran and Iraq."

That sounds about right. Iranian diplomats are part of "the new Iraq".

Posted by: anna missed | May 22 2008 7:14 utc | 12

In a perfect follow up to the above post.>Petraeus: Troops in Iraq Helps Blunt Iran Threat:

When asked by the Senate panel whether a lengthy deployment in Iraq only strengthens Iran's influence in the region, Petraeus responded that the opposite was true. It "has the potential to counter malign Iranian influence against the government of Iraq, build common cause in the region and expose the extent of malign Iranian activities to the world," he wrote.

Posted by: anna missed | May 22 2008 8:07 utc | 13

anna missed Iranian diplomats are part of "the new Iraq".

sort of, the way i read it they were the new iraq.

Hakim described targeting Iranian diplomats as targeting the “new Iraq.”

Posted by: annie | May 22 2008 8:25 utc | 14

annie, I think you're right about that.

Posted by: anna missed | May 22 2008 8:46 utc | 15

There doesn't seem to be any particularly concrete evidence of anything "behind the scenes" with regards to "secret appeasement".

I think it's more of a reflection of how much of a legless duck the Bush administration has become in the past couple of weeks - ie he's completely irrelevant now, his irrelevancy can't be hidden, there's a gaping vacuum in Washington that won't begin to get filled until November at the earliest, and the rest of the world is just getting on with the common-sense work whilst the US stands around with its hands in its pocket waiting for the new gang to come to town.

Seriously - last week Bush goes to the Saudis asking for more oil, and a week later, the cost has gone up by $10 per barrel; it really doesn't get much starker and more humiliating than that.

To be honest, I doubt that the Saudis would be that perturbed by some sort of US deal with Iran - the lack of such is one of the big unstable elephants in the region, and in the event of any military conflict erupting in the Gulf it's hard to see the Saudis emerging unscathed ( it's not much fun if your crude loading terminals go boom, thereby shutting off the bulk of your revenue flows, and Lloyds refuses to pay out due to war risks ).

Posted by: dan | May 22 2008 11:20 utc | 16

Just written a post on this. I have been astounded at the speed of developments and I think any claims of this being the result of waning US influence is seriously over optimistic.

After considering all the possible connotations, I can only surmise that the US has in fact done a deal. They have swapped Lebanon and Syria for Iraq with the Iranians in order to save the Republican Party suffering a defeat in November by strengthening McCains claim that invading Iraq has come good and was a good idea.

Posted by: mo | May 22 2008 13:24 utc | 17

Hi Mo, just read your piece (before seeing your comment) - well done

For the love of the Party? Bush Knew, the agenda flew!

So the question is why? Why would the US give up its project for Lebanon, its isolation of Hamas and Syria? Why would it not come to the aid of its allies in Lebanon or provide threats to the opposition? Why did it welcome the talks between the Syrians and Israelis if they hate the idea so much? And why is the Iraqi military suddenly being respected?

Because the only thing dearer to this administration's hearts than Israel is the Republican Party. The Republicans know that the odds in the election are stacked against them. McCain weakness is he is closely associated with Bush in terms of policy, especially Iraq. And that is the Achilles heel. The two biggest subjects on voters minds will be the US Economy and Iraq.
Unfortunately for the US only one country can deliver success in Iraq and that is Iran. With Iranian co-operation, they could make Iraq at least look like a victory. But the price is defeat everywhere else.
So there you have it, in my opinion. Bush has gone "all-in" for Iraq for the sake of McCain at the expense of all other projects. Its only until November, after which, they can get back to normal and if they win the election, back to normal for another 4 years.

That is, of course possible - the recent "withholding of proof about Iranian weapons" points to this too.

But if it is this way, I am dubious that Iran will be able to hold back everyone in Iraq. Sadr maybe, but the Sunnis? Fadilla? All the small criminal groups?

The really big deal would have to be much larger and include enrichment in Iran. And why would Iran believe in any guarantee if it knows that come November, all guarantees would be off?

Posted by: b | May 22 2008 14:17 utc | 18

Hi b,

To be honest, I think all the Shia groups can be influenced one way or another by Iran and Sadr was going to be the toughest nut to crack. Fadilla I think would be too compromised to go against them. The Sunnis have, in the main, been co-opted with the Anbar Buy-off, erm, sorry awakening. The mopping up of whats left of AQ is currently under way in Mosul (and note the lack of opposition to the operation in Mosul). The small criminal groups are never going to be doing anything to make it on CNN which is were it really matters.

I'm guessing, purely speculation, that the negotiations would have been compartmentalised to exclude the enrichment issue. If Im right about the motivation, then the US would have been happy to exclude enrichment demands and the Iranians would have happily allowed it. They both would have had a lot to gain by pretending that there wasn't a great big herd of elephants in the room.

Therefore no need for guarantess; Both sides seemed to have delivered simultanously; November will be a different story and the Iranians may be banking on Iraqi stability not being enough to get McCain elected and even if in November McCain wins, they will still have made gains that they otherwise wouldn't have.

Posted by: mo | May 22 2008 14:55 utc | 19


That's an interesting thesis but I don't really buy it.

For starters Bush and his "movement" Conservative buddies absolutely HATE McCain.

For seconds, nobody in the Bush administration could give Iran any guarantee that McCain wouldn't simply turn the policy on a dime if he were elected. I very much doubt that the Iranians would accept at face value ANY guarantee that was given them unless it was made to a very public fanfare and was accompanied by a fairly hefty series of downpayments ( ie return of sequestered assets, blanket exemptions from ILSA to all non-US companies wishing to do energy deals, etc ).

For thirds, there is a very good chance that McCain will lose in November irrespective of what happens with Iraq, or anything else, between now and then.

For fourths, the logic of Syria-Israel dialogue being part of a bargain with Iran escapes me. Then again, there's been intermittent Syria-Israel dialogue going on for years, and the Turkish mediation has been going on for AT LEAST a year, so it's not exactly a surprise.

For fifths, the Iranian weapon doodah strikes me as fallout from the so-called Karbala fiasco of last week. It's not as if they didn't actually do a similar routine last year anyway, complete with dodgy photos and a press briefing with no questions allowed.

For sixths, the big issue in November is going to be the economy, and McCain is going to have to answer the question of why US taxpayers should continue to spend a $100-150 billion plus per year of borrowed money to stay in Iraq so that Republican dicks can stop shrivelling.

Posted by: dan | May 22 2008 15:14 utc | 20


Yes its only a thesis and its entirely based on Occam's Razor. Too many events in such a short time to put down to coincidence in my opinion.

Of course I am not making any claims of authority, and while I would answer some of your points, it is not in attempt to "prove" my theory or say you are wrong, just my thoughts.

Bush hates McCain but McCain is much more likely to continue the neo-con project than any democrat. So better the devil you know?

Like Is aid to b, this is not a deal that involves guarantees for Iran as, if it were true, the US part of the deal has been delivered, and if McCain turns, well the Iranians will have profited anyway.

The third point, I agree, and the Iranians would be banking on that.

The logic of Syrian-Israeli dialogue is that it is what Syria wants and it has been the American administration that has been standing in the way of any serious negotiations. Syria would have its part to play in this deal by stopping insurgents entering Iraq from its borders.

On your fifth point that is the point. Last year was a no-questioned asked briefing, this year they shelve it.

On the final issue, McCain has admitted his weakness on the economy. His strength will come from security and you are right that will be the big question. Hence the only answer that they will be able to sell is "cuz its going so well", hence the need for a deal.

Again, I'm not putting this forward as the only possible reason. Its just the only one that makes sense to me.

Posted by: mo | May 22 2008 15:30 utc | 21

McCain is much more likely to continue the neo-con project than any democrat

pointed out in philip giraldi's commentary last feb
John McCain and the Neocon Resurgence

McCain is the neocons' anointed choice for president of the United States, and has been so for many years. He was their candidate when he ran against George Bush in the primaries in 2000 and again when he announced his candidacy for 2008. When McCain's campaign underachieved last summer and it appeared that Rudy Giuliani would be the Republican candidate, many leading neocons, including Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes, joined the New Yorker's campaign. Now that Giuliani has withdrawn, they will presumably return home again, rejoining Robert Kagan and James Woolsey, both of whom have been with McCain since early 2007. That McCain is no traditional conservative if measured by his views on cultural and fiscal issues matters not at all, because the Israel-and-empire-fixated neocons consider such issues unimportant.

Posted by: b real | May 22 2008 15:49 utc | 22

Hi breal and MoA - you might want to check out this upcoming event.

AFRICOM The Road Ahead

Posted by: BenIAM | May 22 2008 18:12 utc | 23

[thanks for the heads up]

Posted by: b real | May 22 2008 18:13 utc | 24

The big stink for me was the abandonment of Sadr by the Iranians. While always on the U.S. agenda, it was a sea change for Iran to get on board. I think it showed that they felt confident enough, or desperate enough, in front of possibly catastrophic fall election results to cut him off - something the U.S. was also desperate to have happen. If nothing else the whole process is indicative of as tacit agreement (by the U.S.&Iran) to move Iraq toward the endgame of state power and a monopoly of violence, which can be much more managed by either Iran or the U.S. I think for the U.S. mo is right in seeing the typically short term (domestic) political advantages for the administration in entering such a deal that could make Iraq look like its coming under control. Which would be a very large deal indeed - but, because the cost of any such deal could be equally as large - the whole thing could just as easily turn out to be one giant capitulation on the part of the U.S. that would make the notion of appeasement look insignificant. Because a deal like this would solidify all Iranian gains over the last decade.

Posted by: anna missed | May 22 2008 18:47 utc | 25

anna missed,
I'm not sure the Iranians have abandoned Sadr. There are two things you have to take into account. First, the relationship between the Shia of Iran, Iraq and Lebanon is very very fraternal. So Sadr would most likely have been happy to curtail opposition for a while if it meant the Shia in Lebanon getting what they wanted, as the new kid on the block he would be lower in the priority pecking order. Secondly, while the West thinks in ridiculously short-term due to its domestic scene the Persian and Arab mentality can think in the equally ludicrous long term. Getting rid of an occupier is the goal, whether its tomorrow or in 100 years. The results of a population that likes to hold a grudge I suppose......

Posted by: mo | May 22 2008 20:18 utc | 26

I don't understand how anybody could say Iran turned against Sadr when they are harbouring him right now and giving public air to his demands and are negotiating on his behalf to halt military operations agianst him. During the Basra operation the Iraqi military forces were met with overwhelming opposition and the Iraqi government were howling about Iranian arms going to Sadr. After the talks in Iran that line of attack went down the rabbit hole in a slow fissle. The Iraqi government announced Iranian weapons were captured and they would be displayed in Karbala. That turned into the great vanishing act. It's painted in the media as the US going to Karbala, as experts, to verify the Iranian weapons and instead discovering that the stupid Iraqis made a mistake. Are we supposed to believe that an Iraqi general couldn't recognize an Iranian weapon?

I notice that the latest deal is a ceasefire that lets Sadr keep his weapons just like Hezbollah in Lebanon, US troops are not allowed in Sadr City, and the elections are to go ahead albiet maybe late.

We know Bush's position as he made it clear in his Nazi speech on the floor of the Knesset.

Posted by: Sam | May 23 2008 0:32 utc | 27

Well okay, maybe abandoned is misleading. However, there is plenty of evidence that Iran has changed its posture significantly toward Muqtada. While the Shiites are very fraternal, there is also very much history in Iraq that Shiites there are quite capable of serious inter-sectarian strife. This is most evident in the Sadr family conflict with the Hakim family. Recently, there has even been public innuendo that it was the Hakim family that off'd Muqtada's father Sadeq al-Sadr, and not Saddam. At any rate the axis of inter Shiite rivalry revolves around the Sadr and Hakim families, and to some extent the support each receives from Iran, and the history thereof. Throughout the occupation, there has been no reason to suspect that Iran was any less supportive of either group, in that both served its dual interests, which on one hand was developing the nucleus of the pro-occupation UIA government (Hakim), and on the other, maintaining also a decisive anti-occupation alternative in waiting (Sadr). Although there have been brief outbreaks of violence in the long running Sadr/Hakim feud there were never any disparaging public remarks or actions against either faction from Iran - until the Hakim backed Maliki government took offensive actions against the Sadr trend in Basra, and then in Sadr City. It should be assumed that both offensive actions represent the tacit approval, via al-Hakim, of Iran since it is the first and most major overt action taken against a rival Shiite faction by the government. And while there were at first conflicting public statements about the operation(s) out of Tehran, the subsequent post negotiation disclosures have been decidedly negative toward Sadr and positive toward the Maliki operation against him. This has been especially expressed in statements by Iranian Qods Force negotiator Gen.Soleimani who declaired Irans "unequivocal support of the Maliki government", that "Sadr was now the biggest threat to peace", and that "the Sadrists have gotten outside anyone's control". And then, interestingly and provocatively enough, went on to say that "we must all work together - Iraq, Iran, and the United States - to stabilize the situation".

Posted by: anna missed | May 23 2008 3:07 utc | 28

And Sam, just because Muqtada is in Iran for a makeover, doesn't mean that his movement cannot be dismembered piece by piece, arrest by arrest, in Sadr City - without messing overtly with him. I imagine he'll just have to go along with the new way regardless, since his enclave in Baghdad was custom redesigned by Saddam city planners to insure that it be easy to lay siege to.

Posted by: anna missed | May 23 2008 3:22 utc | 29

In another weird twist,>Ackerman wrestles with the new edicts from Sistani, issuing permission to attack occupation troops. An unlikely Sadr sympathizer at the last minute? Or is he reading our blog?

Posted by: anna missed | May 23 2008 3:51 utc | 30

ackerman strokes his chin and wonders why Sistani or any other Iraqi would support violent resistance to the wonderfully benevolant occupation of their country by the decent freedom fightin' minions of his hero Petraeus.

it's a puzzle, granted.

Posted by: ran | May 23 2008 4:32 utc | 31

anna missed,

I dont disagree that there has been internecine conflict amongst the Shia of Iraq, as there always will be when such a large vacuum of power appears. The Sadr-Iranian relationship has always been more complex than the the others, mainly I think because he wants to be a nationalist and wants the help from Iran without the strings, similar to the relationship Iran has with Hizballah. His problem is Iraq is on Iran's border and therefore Iran will insist on some strings.

I'm still not sure how much the Basra Mission was hurting Sadr. There are many many groups claiming to be Sadirists in Iraq, but some are splinter groups and some never were. How much they have been targeted as opposed to real JAM is a very shrouded subject. Was it a project to take this group out? Was it to show Sadr the consequences of not being fully on board? The fact that he has in this time been in and out of Iran, unmolested, points to the former but hey the whole set up there is so confused its migrane inducing.

Iran has changed its posture towards Sadr, but i honestly think its too early to tell whether its part of conflict or part of a plan.

As for Ackerman, wow, another member of the elite that go into the Middle East believing in their genetic superiority and not understanding that the people you are invading were doing 'political artifice' when his ancestors were still figurig out the best use for flint. How these people manage to get anywhere thinking in purely black and white is beyond me.

Posted by: mo | May 23 2008 10:22 utc | 32

anna missed:

This has been especially expressed in statements by Iranian Qods Force negotiator Gen.Soleimani who declaired Irans "unequivocal support of the Maliki government", that "Sadr was now the biggest threat to peace", and that "the Sadrists have gotten outside anyone's control".

That link that you revealed earlier is what he said to Talabani, a Kurd on board the American occupation. The question I have is did this influence his words especially as US troops were using 270 mm artillary and AC 130 gunships in Sadr City? More important I thought was Khomenie snubbing Hakim's delegation to Iran. I look at this more as a pratical position trying to ease the violence while the US has reinforced troop presence via the surge. After he said all that he did say, as you quoted "we must all work together" which clearly means they must work with Sadr.

In another weird twist, Ackerman wrestles with the new edicts from Sistani, issuing permission to attack occupation troops. An unlikely Sadr sympathizer at the last minute? Or is he reading our blog?

Sistani always supported Sadr and opposed disarming him. This was made clear when he marched into Najaf in 2004, ended the fighting and allowed the Saderists to walk away with their arms. His view has always been like the above "we must all work together". During the sectarian war he issued edicts against attacking Sunnis on the premise that they are Iraqis too. There is no "weird twist" in this whatsoever other than giving his blessing to attacking the occupiers. I suspect that shift is coming from the fact that giving Iraqis power via elections has not freed them from occupation.

Posted by: Sam | May 23 2008 12:41 utc | 33

Another quick point, these edicts are usualy as a response to a request and if the question is asked, well he is not about to jeapordize his position on a nationalist front by declaring that occupation is legal and resisstance is not. Its more than likely the edict was quickly added to with a message that read, "but don't"

Posted by: mo | May 23 2008 13:00 utc | 34

Some>pretext for the Iranian/U.S.A. collusion,via the Hakim visit with the Bush Whitehouse:

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim — leader of Iraq’s largest and most powerful Shiite political party and Tehran’s main man in Iraq — visited with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Nov. 27. The visit indicates that Iran is on board with the Declaration of Principles that lays out the U.S.-Iraqi long-term relationship.

Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq’s largest and most powerful Shiite political party, stopped in Washington on Nov. 27 to pay a visit to U.S. President George W. Bush.

This was a meeting of extreme importance. Right now, the United States is in a highly favorable negotiating position to deal seriously with Iran over Iraq: Violence levels are dropping, Sunni tribal sheikhs are fighting al Qaeda, and a real argument can be made that the troop surge is working. The Iranians, though still continuing to seek some added leverage, also are willing to talk, as illustrated by their acceptance of Washington’s invitation for another round of formal negotiations over Iraq.

The negotiations are getting serious, and they are moving fast. Earlier this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Bush signed a Declaration of Principles defining a long-term U.S.-Iraqi bilateral pact. This pact is a key stepping stone to negotiations over establishing permanent U.S. military bases — one of the United States’ core demands in its negotiations with Tehran over Iraq.

When news of this pact came out, Stratfor searched high and low for any signs of dissent coming from Iran. But as a sort of negative confirmation, Tehran kept silent. With al-Hakim now having met Bush to go over this U.S.-Iraqi pact, it has become quite clear that Iran is on board with these talks. Al-Hakim is Iran’s main man in Iraq, and if any Iraqi Shiite leader is going to speak on behalf of Tehran, it will be him.

Al-Hakim says he paid the visit to Washington on his way to Houston, where on Nov. 29 he will be getting a checkup at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for his lung cancer, now believed to be in remission. Though al-Hakim’s health problems are very real, it is a bit peculiar that these medical appointments are made whenever the negotiations between Tehran and Washington heat up. The last time al-Hakim visited Bush in Washington was in early December 2006. At that time, Iran was flirting with the idea of striking a deal with the United States while it felt confident that a U.S. withdrawal was imminent. That, of course, took place prior to Bush’s announcement of a troop surge, which sent Iran back to the drawing table. Al-Hakim also spent a good deal of time in Tehran this past year seeking medical treatment; during that time, many intra-Iraqi Shiite affairs were settled , allowing Iran to move forward in these talks.

With the al-Hakim factor in play, this is the most promising that prospects for Iraq negotiations have been in a long, long time.

Posted by: anna missed | May 24 2008 9:33 utc | 35

We should also remember that Ayatollah Khomeni spent 12 years in Najaf, the Hakim families home town, before returning to Iran (via Paris). Not unlike the Hakims, that spent the Saddam years in Iran.

Posted by: anna missed | May 24 2008 9:47 utc | 36

Or that the death of Baqir al-Hakim (Abdul Aziz al-Hakims brother) in Najaf, has been blamed (by some) on Mahdi Army members seen in the area of the explosion that killed 75.

Posted by: anna missed | May 24 2008 9:55 utc | 37

RE - the Sistani fatwa:

Karbala, May23, (VOI)-A close source to grand ayatollah Ali Sistani’s office on Friday denied news agencies’ reports the Shiite cleric issued a fatwa permiting taking up weapons to drive the foreign occupation forces out of Iraq.
The source, a cleric from Karbala associated with Sistani office,pointed out “Sistani’s stance is clear since toppling the former regime(of Saddam Hussein) by calling for sticking to civil resistance to drive foreign troops out of Iraq”.<.BLOCKQUOTE>

Voices of Iraq

Posted by: Sam | May 24 2008 20:18 utc | 38

Perhaps Sistani is just working the rumor mill as a precursor to a formal fatwa. As a formal fatwa would indeed strike a major blow to the Maliki/Hakim government and their U.S. muscle. I can think of a few good reasons that Sistani might be upset about the direction the government is taking. First, many of the recent actions taken by the government, especially those taken against Sadr would indicate a developing potential for them continuing to move toward a one party security state underwritten by Iran. Something Sadr and his nationalist posture stands in front of and against, and has suffered the dual wrath of U.S. and Iranian military and diplomatic retaliation for. From this perspective, Sistani fulfills his role of, in spite of all his likely misgivings, of snatching Sadr from the precipice at the last moment again - in all probability, to also keep Iraqi nationalism alive. Because while most of the focus on recent events center on Sadr and his alleged Iranian funding, the most significant Iranian influence is within the Iraqi government itself ,where there's every indication a course has been charted to diminish Iraqi nationalism while at the same time bolstering Iranian interests. It should be no secret that Ayatollah Khomeini spent 12 years in Najaf (home of the Hakim family) prior to returning with the Iranian revolution, or that Abdul Azziz al-Hakim (&his brother) spent the last 20 years (before the U.S. invasion) in Iran where he , along with the IRGC formed the nucleus of what is now the the Iraqi intelligence services and the Iraqi Army. And then there is the fact that al-Hakim has been and is a Khomenist, looking to export (apparently under U.S. occupation cover) the Iranian revolution into Iraq. And the other contrarian fact, that Ayatollah Sistani is not a Khomeinist, and has no desire to see the Iranian revolution imported into Iraq. Which actually could be the reason behind the reason that al-Sistani would float a deal breaker at this point in time, because the timing for it is rather perfect.

Posted by: anna missed | May 25 2008 0:38 utc | 39

Another piece of jetsam to consider is the current fracturing of the DAWA party of late. The DAWA party was formed by Baqir al-Sadr (Muqtada's father in law) and fell into immediate competition with the SCIRI party formed by Baqir al-Hakim (Abdul Aziz's brother) and while both fled to Iran under Saddam, the DAWA felt that SCIRI had fallen to far under the influence of Iran and so split from and moved to Syria, as did al-Maliki. Recently there has been talk of the DAWA party splitting up, with much criticism being directed at Maliki - presumably because Maliki has fallen too far under the gaze of SCIRI/SIIC and Hakim, which has been has been reinforced by increased support and praise for Maliki himself, from al-Hakim. All while al-Jaffari the former DAWA PM is trying to form new alliances with Sadr and the Sunni factions.

Posted by: anna missed | May 25 2008 1:05 utc | 40

Sistani says no dice to the Maliki U.S. long term agreement:

Iraq's most revered Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has strongly objected to a 'security accord' between the US and Iraq.

The Grand Ayatollah has reiterated that he would not allow Iraq to sign such a deal with "the US occupiers" as long as he was alive, a source close to Ayatollah Sistani said.

The source added the Grand Ayatollah had voiced his strong objection to the deal during a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday.

The remarks were made amid reports that the Iraqi government might sign a long-term framework agreement with the United States, under which Washington would be allowed to set up permanent military bases in the country and US citizens would be granted immunity from legal prosecution in the country.

While the mainstream media keep mum about the accord, critics say the agreement would virtually put Iraq under the US tutelage and violate the country's sovereignty.

The source added Ayatollah Sistani, however, backed PM al-Maliki's government and its efforts and that of the nation to establish security in the country.

The mandate of US troops in Iraq will expire in December 2008 and al-Maliki's government is under US pressure to sign 'a mutual security agreement' which would allow the long-term presence of US troops in Iraq.

Washington's plan has so far faced fierce protests by religious figures including Ayatollah Seyyed Kazem Haeri, another senior Shia cleric, and it is expected that other religious figures join the efforts to prevent the deal.

The US has signed similar agreements with countries like Japan and South Korea and thousands of US troops are now stationed in the countries.

As reported in the Iranian press.

Posted by: anna missed | May 25 2008 2:46 utc | 41

Fars News reproduces in Persian on May 24, 2008, another anti-American fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf. It says that its correspondent in Najaf reports that an Iraqi Shiite submitted the following to Sistani:

'I sell foodstuffs. Sometimes the Occupying Powers or their associates come to my establishment. May I sell them foodstuffs?'

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani replied:

' Selling foodstuffs to the Occupying Powers is not permitted.'

From Juan Cole:
Last I knew, the US military in Iraq does not buy its food from Iraqis but rather imports it, for fear that Iraqi nationalists might poison it. But I'm told US soldiers do buy food and snacks from Shiite shops in Baghdad when out on patrol. So the fatwa would affect the latter but not the former. But if Sistani is laying the grounds for a Gandhi-style non-cooperation movement, he certainly could put a crimp in the American military's style in Iraq. I can't imagine US troops could function in the Shiite south or much of Baghdad without Shiite cooperation. Sistani still has a great deal of moral authority, and would be backed by less cautious clerics such as Muqtada al-Sadr and Ayatollah Jawad al-Khalisi.

Me: if this fatwa can be interpreted as a more general idea of not selling anything to occupation powers, this could be more significant than JC might be assuming. As in selling their labor, etc.

Posted by: anna missed | May 25 2008 20:40 utc | 42

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