Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 26, 2008

Behind Maliki's Stand - Biden's 'Partition Iraq'?

This is a bold step by the Iraqi prime minister Maliki:

"There can be no treaty or agreement except on the basis of Iraq's full sovereignty," al-Maliki told a gathering of Shiite tribal sheiks. He said an accord must be based on the principle that "no foreign soldier remains in Iraq after a specific deadline, not an open time frame."

Al-Maliki said the U.S. and Iraq had already agreed on a full withdrawal of all foreign troops by the end of 2011 — an interpretation that the White House challenged.

Juan Cole suspects Iranian pressure behind Maliki's stand. That may well be the case.

But the real fight behind this could also be about federalization or partitioning of Iraq and growing U.S. pressure into that direction.

There is some ominous movement behind the scenes. Via Roads to Iraq:

Kurdish sources told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan that Maliki refused to include Kurdistan among the U.S. military bases presence in the SOFA agreement, noted that Maliki used Iran and Turkey’s refusal to prevent the American from establishing and American base in Kurdistan.

Also this:

The Kurdistan Regional Government has allocated 1,500 acres of land near Iran's border for the construction of a large US-financed airport.

The airport is to be built in a town called Halabja situated about 11 kilometers from the Iranian border in the northern Iraqi province of Sulaimaniyah, our Press TV correspondent reported from Irbil on Monday.

A civil airport of that size in Halabja does not make much sense. But a military airport only 11 km from the border, light artillery distance, is a dubious endeavor too. News of the airport plans is about a month old. Back then a U.S. official denied such plans.

The first big dog that argued for partition of Iraq was Joe Biden in May 2006 together with Leslie Gelb, a former head of the Council of Foreign Relations. Later the plan gained some traction with the current administration.

The U.S. knows for some time that there will not be a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Maliki that comes even near to what it wants. Is a big base in the Kurd North Iraq together with pressure for partition the alternative plan?

Maliki is against partition. His rivals from al-Hakim's ISCI are pro partition, or expressed softer, for a federal Shia state in all south Iraq. If Maliki could be moved out of the way and some ISCI politician into his current position, federalization could go forward.

This is just speculation, but for some reason Maliki felt he needed to step up the pressure on the U.S. Is this the response to the Biden nomination and Biden's partition plans?


I just see that Reidar Visser finds that Biden has now somehow forgotten his partition plans.

Remarkably, however, it seems that Biden may have cleaned up his Iraq rhetoric as part of his VP bid. At least, it is quite conspicuous how every trace of his “plan for Iraq” now appears to have been erased from his website at, where he now instead supports Barrack Obama’s more general argument about shifting the focus to Afghanistan.

Hmm ...

Posted by b on August 26, 2008 at 8:54 UTC | Permalink


As always Imad Khadduri's Free Iraq blog has some interesting and not widely publicized material.
One surprise to be found there is that Iraqi patriot's support for John McCain (not based on any love of McCain's views). Also the report of
the destruction of the village of Baladrouz, Diyala would seem to indicate
that the standard meme ("the surge has worked") may be as false on the
level of military operations as it is on the political level (as indicated above in Bernard's post). Of course, the usual problem of judging Iraqi reality on the basis of written reports and without direct experience of any kind remains present.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Aug 26 2008 10:08 utc | 1

No, it's not Biden; that is more or less forgotten, I am certain.

I've been saying here for weeks now that Maliki is under great pressure, and that is why he is not signing. Of course, you haven't believed me, as I am not a professional political analyst, but it is very obvious, if you know Iraq.

The quote you should have cited from the Roads to Iraq link, obscure but vital, is:

Al-Adeeb who is second in rank after Maliki in Dawa Party told Al-Mashriq newspaper that high references clerics must decide to approve the security agreement or not after the parliament approval.

So, in the end, it is the clerics who count. "High references" is a translation of Marja'iyya, that is, the Ayatollahs in Najaf, and, particularly, one supposes, Sistani, who has in the last few days come out and denied that he was ill.

I'd always had the idea that Sistani & Co must have decided that they have had it with the Americans. And so Maliki must be firmly communicating the message that it is over. Of course Bush, Cheyney & Petraeus don't see that they can be given the shove by a bunch of Ayatollahs in Najaf (but they can). This may explain the way US diplomats are continuing to say that Maliki is just playing chicken, out for the best deal he can get. They do not understand...

Posted by: Alex | Aug 26 2008 13:49 utc | 2

Thanks Alex, you may well be right on this.

Usually there are multiple reasons behind such hard issues. It could be Iran AND Najaf AND Maliki's domestic stand AND response to some U.S. partition scheme in the Kurd part.

The Marja'iyya certainly plays a role, but then why didn't it take a firmer stand against the U.S. earlier?

Posted by: b | Aug 26 2008 14:32 utc | 3

I'm just guessing here but does anyone think that Russia's new found self confidence has encouraged Maliki? I mean couldn't an angry UNSC permanent member raise a serious stink about the legitimacy of U.S. occupation come next January? Especially if the U.S. reneges on its promise to leave Iraq if asked? Do you think that puts Maliki in a better position?

Posted by: Lysander | Aug 26 2008 15:25 utc | 4

Alex, I think you are right about Maliki, but the confusing thing is that there are two tracks to his newfound independence, which on the one hand the US is (to its political disadvantage) playing along with his bid to destroy internal enemies in an apparent march toward military dictatorship - including the SoI, elections, etc. On the other hand Maliki is not returning the favor with a SOFA agreement favorable to the US. This all gives special importance to the coup rumors that were floated by the US green zoners last month in that the coup was said to be hatching within the ISF and would be a military coup. Could there be an internal struggle between Maliki and the US for loyalty and allegiance within the ISF? That the US thinks it can win, simply by replacing Maliki, and then follow through with his near completed consolidation efforts, and then sign the SOFA.

Posted by: anna missed | Aug 26 2008 19:13 utc | 5

the confusing thing is that there are two tracks to his newfound independence, which on the one hand the US is (to its political disadvantage) playing along with his bid to destroy internal enemies in an apparent march toward military dictatorship - including the SoI, elections, etc.

Annie, obviously you haven't read all I've written the last month including on MoA, and I don't want to repeat it all, but it is clear that the story about the crackdown on the SoI emanates from a group of American analysts who have been in Baghdad recently, two out of three of whom do not know Arabic. So guess where they got their briefing from!

SoI are certainly going to be dumped, as they are an American invention, so the US can deal with them. But where is the evidence that it is happening right now? Only in knowing assertions in briefings from the royally appointed seminar rooms of the US embassy in the GZ.

And who, remind me, has an interest in splitting the Sunnis from the Shia, so that Maliki can be forced to sign the SOFA?

Posted by: Alex | Aug 26 2008 21:24 utc | 6

anna missed, you don't happen to have any link to those coup-rumor reports do you? It's something I overlooked.

Posted by: Badger | Aug 26 2008 21:26 utc | 7

This all gives special importance to the coup rumors that were floated by the US green zoners last month in that the coup was said to be hatching within the ISF and would be a military coup.

Quite right, "rumours floated", and guess who's floating them.

There's a big propaganda operation going on here, and they have successfully concealed it so far, because we've all been interested in Georgia.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 26 2008 21:31 utc | 8

alex, anna missed and i are 2 different posters. that said, there has been US support for operations against sunni leaders, tho they contend it is an 'iraqi operations'. not sure if i would call that a 'crack down' but it sure as hell doesn't show any evidence maliki is taking any slack for it.

that said, i read quite a few (many) of your posts, here, at badgers and abu. there is a lot i find very compelling.

Posted by: annie | Aug 26 2008 21:59 utc | 9

'twas Badger who confused the two of you.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 26 2008 22:30 utc | 10

my darling annie
i'm a little sacred
of that word
'compelling' - cnn uses it
about 8 times an hour
about anything


Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 26 2008 22:40 utc | 11

ooooh - i get chills down my baack when anyone of thos cnn hacks says they are going to "work our sources" - like real journalist do - not these pampered puffy ponces - going gaga

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 26 2008 22:44 utc | 12

The coup talk apparently came originally from Steve Biddle>(here) from an interview:......He (Biddle)says he found continued improvements, particularly in the ability of the ISF to pacify Diyala and Mosul, and in the beginnings of a reconciliation dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites. One negative aspect of the improvements, Biddle says, is the heightened possibility that military leaders might seek to overthrow what is seen as a dysfunctional government. He says a continued U.S. presence is crucial to help stabilize the situation and serve in a peacekeeping role.

I originally saw it reported by Richard Dreyfuss, who must have gotten it from Biddle.

Posted by: anna missed | Aug 27 2008 1:54 utc | 13


Posted by: Badger | Aug 27 2008 2:32 utc | 14

Source analysis (from the Biddle interview):

Stephen Biddle, CFR's senior fellow for defense policy who recently returned from a tour of Iraqi hotspots, (in June)

So that makes the fourth analyst who's received his briefing in the sumptuous seminar rooms of the US embassy.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 27 2008 8:31 utc | 15

I guess thats why (considering the source) the coup rumors are credible Alex, in so far as they constitute a not unlikely threat. There is also enough dissension within the ranks of the ISF to provide the necessary cover, should the "rumor" manifest itself beyond hearsay.

Posted by: anna missed | Aug 27 2008 17:06 utc | 16

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