Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 09, 2008

Reasons Behind Maliki's Timetable Request

There are three possible interpretations of Maliki's insistence for a timetable for withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq. These are based on how one sees Maliki's position:

He is :

  1. a puppet of the U.S. government
  2. a puppet of the Iranian government
  3. a self nationalistic politician vowing the electorate of Iraq for the upcoming elections

If Maliki gets his orders from the U.S. than the whole timeline issue is a U.S. election ploy. McCain and Bush will accept, reluctantly, the 'Iraqi wish' for a timetable. Obama will have lost his most important argument that he is the only one who will end the occupation in Iraq.

If this interpretation is correct the timetable than will be worded in a way that will allow for many troops to stay into the far future and on U.S. conditions.

This is indeed what seems to be going on:

Ali al-Adeeb, a Shiite lawmaker and a prominent official in the prime minister's party, told The Associated Press that Iraq was linking the timetable proposal to the ongoing handover of various provinces to Iraqi control.

The Iraqi proposal stipulates that, once Iraqi forces have resumed security responsibility in all 18 of Iraq's provinces, U.S.-led forces would then withdraw from all cities in the country.

After that, the country's security situation would be reviewed every six months, for three to five years, to decide when U.S.-led troops would pull out entirely, al-Adeeb said.

So far, the United States has handed control of nine of 18 provinces to Iraqi officials. <
The proposal, as outlined by al-Adeeb, is phrased in a way that would allow Iraqi officials to tell the Iraqi public that it includes a specific timetable and dates for a U.S. withdrawal.

However, it also would provide the United States some flexibility on timing because the dates of the provincial handovers are not set.

The second interpretation would be consistent with Maliki's recent trip to Iran after which he insisted on some issues that are against U.S. interest. He for example demanded to throw the anti-Iranian MEK-cult out of Iraq. The 3,000 or so cult members are currently under U.S. supervision and used for clandestine terror acts in Iran. Maliki also vehemently insisted on no U.S. attacks on Iran from Iraqi soil.

A sign that there might be a real conflict between Maliki and the U.S. came as a threat issued by the White House yesterday:

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said specific withdrawal dates are not part of the talks. He added: "We have great confidence that the political leadership in Iraq would not take an action that would destabilize the country.

Fratto directly threatens to revive the Salvadorian option, i.e. to reignite a civil war in Iraq.

The third interpretation is based on Maliki's internal political position. While he has had some recent successes in lowering the level of conflict in Iraq he also has only little support in the parliament. A major part of his own Dawa party has split away from him. The timetable for a U.S. retreat is a main demand of the Sadr movement and by picking up on this demand Maliki may try to position himself and his party for the provincial elections as a more secular alternative to as-Sadr. Pat Lang sees such general nationalistic issues as a major force in Maliki's move.

In reality the three motives above are not inherently incompatible with each other. The Republicans have some interest to move away from McCain's 'hundred years in Iraq' and free some troops for Afghanistan, Iran might want to lower the profile of U.S. troops in Iraq to replace their influence and Maliki might want to present himself as a nationalist not under U.S. control.

We will only be able to judge what motives are really behind this when the results of the negotiations will be announced. If the timetable is very flexible, allows the U.S. to influence it on the go and includes a big residual force, point one is more likely. If the timetable is very strict and allows for no residual force, the Iran point would be the case. A strict timetable with a big residual U.S. force in long term remote bases would fit the Maliki angle as it would give him continued backing against militias as well as make the electorate happy.

Posted by b on July 9, 2008 at 17:14 UTC | Permalink


I think its all three. With Maliki being the central weak pivot player, who is dependent on the other two; Iran, Iraqi nationalism, and of course U.S. military muscle. Maliki would not survive without U.S. muscle, nor could he survive without the major sectarian backing of the SIIC/Badr organization who is Iran's quasi-proxy. And increasingly, Maliki could probably not survive the anti-sectarian nationalist mood that is currently sweeping the country, at least in terms of the upcoming elections. This has created a conundrum whereby the U.S. in order to secure SOFA/MoU is dependent on Maliki, who in turn is dependent on Iran (throught Badr), and increasingly Iraqi nationalism, neither of which wants long term agreements with the U.S. For his part, Maliki already weakened by the fragmentation of his own Dawa party, and the UIA, would become extinct if SIIC/Badr would also abandon him in protest to the agreements - which it seems they are doing in anticipation of surfing the nationalist wave in front of elections. All he has left then is his Sadr/Sunni/AQ crackdowns of the past several months, which he is trying to sell as a form of new anti-sectarian nationalism. Which is going to be a very hard sell, in that most Iraqi's surely see it as same as it always was - with 90% of sectarian/civil war violence being initiated by U.S./ISF operations. So, its hard to see how any agreements can be signed, unless Maliki in concert with the U.S. are prepared to cancel elections, and form a joint military junta and chuck out the veneer of democracy.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 10 2008 2:40 utc | 1

link to WaPo

I'm looking forward to the day, in the not-to-distant future, when the Iraqi insurgents will have figured out how to lob dirty, low-end, improvised a-bombs into each and every American base in their country. This will happen.

Posted by: alabama | Jul 10 2008 5:35 utc | 2

Chomsky (who never mentions Israel in the context of Iraq): It's the Oil, stupid!

Last November, the guiding concerns were made explicit when President Bush and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki signed a "Declaration of Principles," ignoring the U.S. Congress and Iraqi parliament, and the populations of the two countries.
The Declaration also had a remarkably brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq, which means its oil resources, must be open to foreign investment, "especially American investments." That comes close to a pronouncement that we invaded you so that we can control your country and have privileged access to your resources.

The seriousness of this commitment was underscored in January, when President Bush issued a "signing statement" declaring that he would reject any congressional legislation that restricted funding "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq."

Posted by: b | Jul 10 2008 7:51 utc | 3

Don’t know about Maliki..Why not make it simple? Iraq has been thrashed, it is no longer a country that can take care of its citizens, or have them take care of themselves, which amounts to the same thing; feed them, sell its resources, educate its children, take care of the sick, provide housing, participate in the International scene.

That is what USuk/Isr. wanted. Then let the chips fall as they may...

According to this article one sixth of the population is displaced. That sounds about right?>link

Posted by: Tangerine | Jul 10 2008 16:00 utc | 4

alabama #2: "I'm looking forward to the day, in the not-to-distant future, when the Iraqi insurgents will have figured out how to lob dirty, low-end, improvised a-bombs into each and every American base in their country. This will happen."

Not unless/until MICFiC (mistah charley, ph.d.'s term, my historical belief) wants/finances it to happen.

And stupidly, your statement could be called more traitorous than the scams of Bechtel, Halliburton, KBR, Boeing, CFX etc. Dangerous territory.

Posted by: plushtown | Jul 10 2008 18:41 utc | 5

instead of "stupidly", should be "insanely" in #5. But in land of insane, perceived sanity is dangerous.

Posted by: plushtown | Jul 10 2008 18:44 utc | 6

plushtown, I was updating a point worked out in this bar back when....

Taking a pass on the stupidity and insanity of the position, let's look at what you call its possible "treachery": if you believe, as I do, that the only practical possibility for an America worthy of nationhood is the prompt and total exit from Iraq of anyone bearing an American passport; and if (as would seem to be the case) America has no honest intention of leaving Iraq on its own; then, I would argue, it follows that the only "patriotic" position is the one supporting our speedy expulsion by any possible means. And in keeping with the logic of this argument, any compromise of that position would indeed be a "treacherous," not to say a "dangerous," compromise (ah, perish the thought of danger!).

I wonder, plushtown, where you might stand on this argument?

(And I promise to let this one go, oh beloved and long-suffering barflies!).

Posted by: alabama | Jul 11 2008 0:11 utc | 7

"And I promise to let this one go"

How can you?

Posted by: pat | Jul 11 2008 0:26 utc | 8

Well, pat, I can always start by coming through (or starting to come through) with that promised comment about living in France. Well, not exactly France--remembereringgiap asks if it's Paris or France that we're talking about. Mostly Paris, in fact, and I certainly agree with our dear colleague that the two are not the same.

But Paris can be very French, if you let the process unfold (by being patient, by learning to speak decent French, by figuring out how to work with the banks, the post-office, the medical system, the landlords, plumbers, electricians, waiters, professors, editors, and strikers of all kinds). Not very different, then, from Bogotá or Washington D.C., I'd imagine.

Me, my wife and a dog have lived in Paris off and on for the past three years. Logistical problems arise, because we have friends and family to care for back in the States (as I write this, I'm actually sitting in upstate New York. It's back to Paris next month.)

The French are kind, that's the first and most important point. And hospitable. And also curious: they tend to worry about their ignorance of the United States, for example.

I hole up in Paris, where I write (not for money) and translate (for very little money). The one spectacular thing these days? Watching the dollar evaporate before your very own eyes. For example, the dead-tree daily International Herald Tribune currently costs about $4.50. If you aren't paying attention, a cup of coffee can set you back $8. Museums and concerts are terrifying to contemplate, but watching the Seine doesn't cost a dime, and I love to watch the Seine.

I have long and passionate discussions of politics and history with the man who runs the neighborhood newspaper kiosk. He reads all the time; sometimes I think he's read everything. He has a keen dialectical mind, and ought to be teaching philosophy... Which is exactly what he does, come to think of it. Therefore, on a cold, rainy miserable afternoon in January, I can walk up to him with a smile, and announce that this is the most beautiful, the most astonishing, day I've ever seen. He shoots a quizzical look, then smiles back, quotes a few lines from Nietzsche, and the discussion takes off from there....

Paris is consoling (hell, all of France is consoling!). The French been through a lot, they're going through a lot, and they don't expect their problems to vanish overnight. And they don't expect our problems to vanish overnight, either. They'd like to understand us, and so, indeed, would I.

And the coolest thing of all? You don't have to be a millionaire to be a fully enfranchised citizen in France. They don't have credit cards (debit cards only, so far as I can tell), and it's okay not to own a MacMansion.

The one distressing thing? The French think their language is dying, and, for all I know, they might be right about that....

That's enough for now... More anon....

Posted by: alabama | Jul 11 2008 1:20 utc | 9

#7 alabama, my position is that you're right but such won't happen, and that your position is sane, it's the society's that isn't.

Posted by: plushtown | Jul 11 2008 1:56 utc | 10


i think that there is a deep & instinctual understanding of shame - & it is for this the wondrous melancholy that fuels contact in the metro. & it is this, ironically - which is consoling. they are a fragile people in a fragile situation & they know it & for that i will forgive all or any of their pomposity(except their 'talk' shows - where this is turned on its head) & that knowing informs the rather bent binaries of their being

i do not want to idealise france but what is utterly apparent in almost every contact - is its humanity - sometimes even in its barbarity

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 11 2008 3:05 utc | 11

alabama, thanks, that was beautiful.

Posted by: annie | Jul 11 2008 3:16 utc | 12

That sounds right to me, plushtown.

I've never been in a position to make anything happen, except, on happy (if fleeting) occasions, my own sanity. And though I've never thought of sanity as patriotic, I do try to figure out the ways in which being patriotic can avoid the pitfalls of insanity. This, as you've certainly noticed, calls for a measure of elasticity in one's thinking.

It's always been that way. Hence that the mighty Rousseau elaborated his categorical distinction between the individual person, on the one hand, and the citizen, on the other. When sharing my thoughts about Iraq at MOA, I try to think as a citizen. When burning with lust for that woman across the room, I do so as an individual person (I oversimplify just a bit).

At the end of his life, Kant wrote a wonderful essay on "the right to lie". No such right exists, Kant argues (adopting, so to speak, the very categories of "citizen" and "person" to be found in Rousseau). A consequence of this logic? If I harbor a person being pursued by the authorities, and the authorities ask me if I'm harboring that particular person, then I have to tell them that I am (since to do otherwise would be lying, and the citizen has no "right to lie"). The point at question is not whether Kant was a cruel, cold-hearted authority-freak (sometimes he certainly was, but he also had a weird knack for tying authorities into knots, and did so with gleeful relish). The point at question is where the logic of "citizenship" was likely to lead the thinking of Kant the philosopher (hardly an easy path to follow).

When I think of the possible outcomes in Iraq, I quickly see how hard it is to respect the problem's logic. But a logic there certainly is, and whether we know it or not, we work within that logic. Which is what's so enraging about the neocons, posturing as responsible citizens. Given the way they happily trash the logic at every opportunity, their claims are shamefully false, or comically pretentious. Wolfowitz (at the World Bank, for example), is the canonical instance of a philosophical disaster (and of other disasters as well).

(This does not apply to the much-maligned Leo Strauss, who tried to show, philosophically, that theology could and should, on philosophical grounds, govern the rules of philosophy--an honest, if rather weird, project, giving rise to some curious thinking. It makes for a challenging read, but doesn't go far as philosophy.)

Posted by: alabama | Jul 11 2008 3:18 utc | 13

remembereringgiap: d'accord pour le metro. But good grief, dear man, why would you watch those talk shows? Would you watch them in America? For comic relief, give me the "Ch'tis" every time!

Posted by: alabama | Jul 11 2008 3:29 utc | 14

Interesting thread, also for alabama's comments on the trials of trying to get by on dollars in euroland, and the even greater tribulations of those trying to extricate the U.S. from Iraq. Garreth Porter makes some pertinent observations at, the gist of which is caught in his final sentence:

But the Iraqi demand for withdrawal makes it clear that the Bush administration was not really in control of events in Iraq, and that Shiite political opposition and Iranian diplomacy could trump US military power.

His discussion is a nice counterpoint to b's initial remarks for this thread, but, as always, I keep wondering about the degree to which these keen analyses correspond to Iraqi reality. Although they seem much better documented and closely reasoned than the usual mediatic mush, for me they are, at last, just a collection of stimulating pixels written by people like myself who are preoccupied with Bush's continuing crime in Mesopotamia and seeking its termination, but who may not grasp the "on-the-ground reality" as well as local residents who feel it on their own skin. If badger passes an eye over this thread I'd certainly be interested in his comments too. Finally, it may be of some interest to add (very slightly edited) a remark I received the other day in a letter from an Iranian student presently studying in Europe

About the political situation between the U.S. and Iran I must say it has became really intense. A few days ago, Iran revolutionary guard announced that they are digging 320,000 graves; the funny part was that they said "we are digging these graves for American and Israeli soldiers, because by Geneva Convention we are responsible for burying enemy soldiers with dignity." But still there are some hopes; yesterday Iranian foreign minister said "there is a new positive atmosphere in the incentives Package". I think they are going to give up, at least partially something like halting Uranium enrichment for some time voluntary or continuing it on a limited scale (in their words on "experimental scale") and resuming it after some years. It’s the game that Islamic republic of Iran has played for many years. But this time it will cost them a lot domestically. Because when Ahmadinejad came to power everything was normal in the country but after these sanctions everything has changed, there is a severe shortage of fuel in the county, electricity goes off twice a day, many private businesses have gone bankrupted, and inflation was mind blowing. So it is really difficult for them to give it up because people will ask "what these sufferings were for?"

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Jul 11 2008 6:39 utc | 15

But the Iraqi demand for withdrawal makes it clear that the Bush administration was not really in control of events in Iraq, and that Shiite political opposition and Iranian diplomacy could trump US military power.

This is of course true, the U.S. struggle in Iraq has always been one against irrelevancy. Especially since the known quantity in Iraq has always been the Americans their intentions, their stuff, and their ideas - all of which are predictable, and thus open to manipulation by the Iraqis. After its all over we'll make up a lot of stories about what really happened. None of which are true, but will enable the next attempt in futility.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 11 2008 8:14 utc | 16

Anna: There will be a SOFA.

No SOFA, no troops. And they want the troops.

Posted by: pat | Jul 11 2008 8:25 utc | 17

They want the troops.

Posted by: pat | Jul 11 2008 8:28 utc | 18

There will be a SOFA.And they want the troops.

With the greatest respect for Pat's access to official information (if I understand correctly) - No, not right.

Who is 'they'? The Iraqis? You have to analyse that. Kurds, yes. Maliki? What Maliki wants is to resign and go home; he's said it several times. Iraqi Arab public? No longer. There's been considerable attenuation recently. The Hawza (the Shi'a Clerics in Najaf). ditto.

Maliki is stuck on two sharp prongs: the US insistence, and the Iraqi pressure on Maliki, which is strong.

The only solution is no signature. What can be done by the US is to extend the UN mandate, as Iraq has no say in that.

Posted by: alex | Jul 11 2008 11:07 utc | 19

Maliki is stuck on two sharp prongs

avoiding the fate of sahel?

he signed the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty, which, as a step toward greater independence, granted Britain the unlimited right to station its armed forces in and transit military units through Iraq. It also gave legitimacy to British control of the country's oil industry. While the treaty nominally reduced British involvement in Iraq's internal affairs, this was only to the extent that Iraq's behavior did not conflict with British economic or military interests. .....

Nuri went into hiding, but he was captured the next day as he sought to make his escape disguised as a woman (but with men's shoes). He was shot dead and buried that same day, but an angry mob disinterred his corpse and dragged it through the streets of Baghdad, where it was hung up, burned, and mutilated.

Posted by: annie | Jul 11 2008 13:56 utc | 20

hannah 15, close ups from your second link (scroll).. amazing watermelon. don't miss the sitting ducks on sand.

Posted by: annie | Jul 11 2008 14:17 utc | 21

here is a good analysis that appeared today on AToL Bush outfoxed in the Iraqi sands , shedding a new light on the dynamics of the situation.

Posted by: a | Jul 11 2008 15:39 utc | 22

1. U.S. Considers Increasing Pace of Iraq Pullout

The Bush administration is considering the withdrawal of additional combat forces from Iraq beginning in September, according to administration and military officials, raising the prospect of a far more ambitious plan than expected only months ago.
Although no decision has been made, by the time President Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, at least one and as many as 3 of the 15 combat brigades now in Iraq could be withdrawn or at least scheduled for withdrawal, the officials said.
Any troop reductions announced in the heat of the presidential election could blur the sharp differences between the candidates, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, over how long to stay in Iraq. But the political benefit might go more to Mr. McCain than Mr. Obama.

Posted by: b | Jul 13 2008 4:28 utc | 23

WaPo: U.S., Iraq Scale Down Negotiations Over Forces

Long-Term Agreement Will Fall to Next President

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have abandoned efforts to conclude a comprehensive agreement governing the long-term status of U.S troops in Iraq before the end of the Bush presidency, according to senior U.S. officials, effectively leaving talks over an extended U.S. military presence there to the next administration.

In place of the formal status-of-forces agreement negotiators had hoped to complete by July 31, the two governments are now working on a "bridge" document, more limited in both time and scope, that would allow basic U.S. military operations to continue beyond the expiration of a U.N. mandate at the end of the year.

Maliki is still trying to find a way to circumvent the parliament ...

Posted by: b | Jul 13 2008 6:05 utc | 24

So, it looks like the long term UN sanctioned SOFA deal is officially dead. The U.S. has laid out its list of demands to the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi government has rejected them. The U.S. by implication, has made its position crystal clear and has decided not to negotiate any of its wants&needs in order to meet the Iraqi demands. And so has chosen instead to pursue a far more temporary and non-sanctioned/legal route in the apparent belief that the Iraqi government will buy into the U.S. (total control&immunity) plan if it is not sanctioned (by the UN) and is temporary in duration. This is a major failure for the Bush administration, in that it has sacrificed its long term mission in favor of maintaining full control over the short run - along with its ability to lock in the next president. Again, this is another big step (if not the biggest yet) down that long and dusty road toward irrelevancy. Typical of the administration is the blissful ignorance that an all or nothing proposition, does include the nothing choice.

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 13 2008 19:15 utc | 25

@anna missed - I agree - I was posting on that but the Afghan piece got inbetween.

The U.S./Bush attitude of demand everything and never concede is completely braking down. Not only in Iraq, those guys now even want to dissolve the green zone (London Times), but also Lebanon where Hizbullah is now with veto power in the government. Something they demanded some two years ago because the public vote went that way but Bush was not willing to concede.

Bush also didn't want Israel to talk with its enemies, but Israel talks with Hamas (via Egypt), Hizbullah (via Germany) and Syria (via Turkey). The isolation and 100% demand strategy broke down internationally.

The only place where Bush can still demand 100% and get 110% is the U.S. congress led by the Democratic party.

That is telling something ...

Posted by: b | Jul 13 2008 19:57 utc | 26>the sting

Posted by: anna missed | Jul 14 2008 0:04 utc | 27

The comments to this entry are closed.