Outplayed again in Iraq?

F131457 "If the parliament refuses, Maliki would have "no choice" but to request a U.N. extension "because the American forces will lose their legal cover on Dec. 31," he told the Times of London in a weekend interview. "If that happens, according to international law, Iraqi law and American law, the U.S. forces will be confined to their bases and have to withdraw from Iraq," Maliki said.

U.S. officials do not dispute that the absence of an agreement would probably require an immediate end to combat operations and, at a minimum, confinement to bases on Jan. 1. Officials refused to discuss the sensitive issue on the record while negotiations are ongoing.

"I am actually reasonably optimistic we will come to closure on this in a very near future," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Friday as he returned from a five-day trip to Europe. A month earlier, on Sept. 8, Gates told Congress that he expected an agreement "within the next few weeks."

"But I had hoped that some weeks ago," Gates added.

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said yesterday that an accord is unlikely before the end of the year, citing the number of parties that must sign off on the deal. "I’m not sure that the time we have left is enough for all of these organizations to study it, revise it and agree on the text," Hashimi told McClatchy Newspapers.  Karen de Young


Ah, the wily Saracens….

How does that piece of Kiplinesque doggerel go?

"It is not good for the Christian white

to hustle the Asian brown.

For the Christian riles and the Asian smiles

and he weareth the Christian down.

The end of the fight is a tombstone white

with the name of the late deceased and

the epitaph drear

"A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."

So maybe Kipling didn’t write it exactly like that…. I like it this way.

I have the following from our brother Al:

"What are the odds that what all this really means is that Maliki is planning to wait until the December 31st deadline in order to avoid making this difficult political decision?  This would allow him, in effect, to plead that he is forced by circumstances beyond his control to order the United States out of Iraq.


Al "
Pretty good thinking Al, pretty good.  I had thought earlier that Maliki and Company would cave in to US demands.  Seems like I was wrong.  pl


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29 Responses to Outplayed again in Iraq?

  1. Matthew says:

    Personally, I would like to see the SOFA debated by the Iraqi parliament. Maybe even go through committee hearings. I seem to remember that we used to discuss treaties and some such in congressional committees before we started omnibus-ing everything. Bush thought he would create West Germany in the ME; it looks like he’s mid-wifed a new France.

  2. jon says:

    The Iraqi Parliament is feeling their oats. They’d like for the US to be gone, so they can run the country the way they would like.
    This is mainly because they haven’t been getting shot up so much as they were in the past, and their deals all seem to be bearing plump fruit.
    Of course, each group has vigorous adversaries who have sheathed their knives momentarily and feel precisely the same. Each group sees themselves holding much enlarged power after a US departure, and of course, this can’t be true for all.
    The US wants to be rid of the UN strictures, and to transition to a long term agreement that gives them their large bases, freedom of action, and primacy at the investment and trade deals.
    Everyone might be best off with one more year under the UN terms, and then an orderly drawdown. Perhaps by then the Iraqi parties will be content enough and preoccupied by their own enrichment and rebuilding tasks that they will neglect to leap to each others throats. Somehow I doubt that.

  3. Dan M says:

    I have not been to iraq for quite some time now and have stopped even following events there with any attention (it’s football season). That caveat out of the way:
    What on earth does Maliki need or want from the US right now worth the risk of uniting a coalition of frustrated Sunni Jihaddis and America-hating Shiites against him?
    I can think of nothing. Perhaps someone with more information can chime in.
    (All this aside, I believe the chances of all combat ops being frozen are nil).

  4. Mad Dogs says:

    Most excellent doggerel!
    Why am I not surprised that our SOFA negotiators (the White House, State and Defense) don’t understand that it’s always the bribee that has the upper hand, and not the briber?
    And I would futher impart some wisdom to our SOFA negotiators:
    “The bribee never stays bribed!”

  5. Will says:

    The DAWA Shiites want the US out so they can ensure Shiite primacy against the Kurds and Sunni.
    They are also afraid of a Sunna revival. The U.S. did their dirty work for them by disbanding the Iraki Army and fighting a war for them against the Sunni.
    W and Ionnes Sidney McCain threesticks prattle on about victory. Petraeus is much too smart to have ever talked in those terms.
    Obama is also no Strategos- the title the Hellenes used for their generals. Forget about Al-Qa’eda.
    The game is now Palestine and Russia.
    Here is where I propose the strategy.
    1. Pursue the Olmert Opening. Walk thru that door he has opened. Insist Israel accept the Saudi Beirut initiative of a warm peace for full withdrawl. The Olmert announcement is Seismic. It is a statement by a sitting Israeli PM lameduck even though he may be. Fix Palestine and you remove the reason the Muslims rage.
    2. Iran is the key to containing Russia. One of the keys to the breakup to the Soviet Union was cheap Saudi oil breaking the Soviet treasury. Wooing Iran can bust the Russian gas and oil monopoly supply to Europe.
    We have to decide what our national security needs are!
    placating the Israeli Lobby or looking after the Civitatis Foederatis Americae.
    If Russia is your No 1 opponent then you cultivate Iran. If b/c of the Israeli Lobby, then Israeli’s perceived opponents are your enemy and you are in perpetual wars in sequence with Irak then Iran then I guess Pakistan next, then you have to cultivate Russia.
    Olmert for reference from the UPI:
    “”What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me,” Olmert said. “Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the state of Israel’s basic security?”
    Olmert also dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran to stop it from developing nuclear weapons.
    He said the international community, and not Israel alone, must deal with the problem.

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    I am sorry that I can not live by your standards of humorless solemnity. pl

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    “the risk of uniting a coalition of frustrated Sunni Jihaddis and America-hating Shiites against him?”
    And how would he be doing that? pl

  8. Dan M says:

    By sticking his neck out unneccesarily and giving his various political opponents a (popular) common cause?

  9. Patrick Lang says:

    I would have thought that all the various groups (except the Kurds) would at some level welcome a squeeze play by Maliki to get us out of the country.
    At the same time many of our Sunni Arab “friends” will still want U.S. and more importantly Saudi support. My cynicism or (realism” will show in my belief that that can still be managed “sub rosa.” pl

  10. JJackson says:

    I am not so sure about the France bit. Things are moving fast and of those stalwarts formally supporting Bush in Iraq (UK, Spain, Australia) the latter two have had elections and punished the toadies and the UK have dumped Blair and will dump Labour in due course. France on the other hand now provides the new sycophant-in-chief.
    Jon argues “Each group sees themselves holding much enlarged power after a US departure, and of course, this can’t be true for all.” If it is a zero sum game then the US must be holding a fair amount of that power so in absolute terms all sides may gain but in relative terms Maliki – and anyone else with US backing should be net losers initially. If they can survive not being tainted by being US lackeys may help them legitimise they power.
    mj if I could help with the translation.
    Neo-con (still smarting from last NIE) pokes stick into water and stirs vigorously to prevent mud from settling.
    I am interested in what all think the US confined to barracks would look like? The law may look like that but the US army has not shown any great propensity to follow that kind of limitation on its freedom to roam. How about UAVs? Northern Pakistan is the territory of a sovereign state but despite repeated protestations, and clear casus belli, the US has not been able to resist killing its nationals on their own soil. What chance then that they will stay put if mortared or attacked with short range missiles. Can they fire back with artillery? All planes ground including reconnaissance? And if Iran decides to ‘help out’ with ‘advisors’? How about energy hungry China being asked to replace the divisive US presence? How much political humiliation would the US stomach?

  11. Shrike58 says:

    Eh, it’s not really like we can afford to stay anyway. However, Mr. Maliki should be careful what he’s wishing for. Should he bring Sunni grief down on his head we will not lift a finger to save him.

  12. Homer says:

    PL: I had thought earlier that Maliki and Company would cave in to US demands.
    IMHO, the `smiling’ Maliki and the Iraqi Parliament have not caved in on anything (e.g. De-Baathification; hydrocarbon; Sharia law being implemented) that would be advantageous to the USA.
    They’ve been portrayed by the M$M and the Bush admin as being pro-US, as `smiling’ puppets, despite the fact they’ve been giving the US a raised stiff middle finger since the elections as evidenced by the total lack of pro-US legislation, etc.
    Now that the US has been bled dry, or as you might say, now that they have worn the Christian down, the Iraqis (vis-a-vis extremist Iranians) are going to expulse the US.
    The US will have to fight the Iraqis again, you just wait.
    As many know, Maliki, Hakim, et al have not been fighting the last few decades to democratize Iraq: They’ve been fighting to Islamicize Iraq. And thanks to Bush, their decades old dream to to that is now concretizing at an alarming rate.
    Sick and sad to think that the dead of 9/11 (bles their hearts and those of their families) are the very `foundation’ upon which the Islamic republic of Iraq shall be erected, no?

  13. Looking at the long term what impact will Iraqi nationals have on military capabilities in Iraq for fomenting problems elsewhere in middle-East once the US is gone? Have we in essence administered de facto rearmament of a potential nuisance for other friendly countries? Do Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, and Egypt and Turkey really want the US begone from Iraq? Should the SOFA rules be any different in Iraq that the SOFA rules in any other former opponent? If so why or why not? How is construction going on the largest US embassy in the world? Perhaps the Chinese can use it!

  14. Ben S says:

    The Kipling poem is one of my favorite small but historically relevant peices of art/philosophy. Hunter S. Thompson introduced it to me funnily enough. Should Kipling be looked on as some kind of prophet and seer of things to come. I don’t know of anyone today who knows more than he did then. His insight into rural and autonomous China is amazing to read ene today his insight is unmatched.
    P.S. This site is fantastic by the way. The comments here by contibutors is only outdone by the tried and true knowledge of the host. Being only 26 now I really do appreciate the well thought out, tenured, and time tested information this site offers. There’s nothing else out there(on the web)like it. Or in print for that matter. Much thanks

  15. anna missed says:

    On January 14, 2005, Newsweek reported on “The Salvador Option,” the proposed use of death squads as part of the U.S. strategy to subdue the country. A U.S. military source told Newsweek, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”
    If that were the intent then, it certainly did set into motion the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad that took place later that summer with the joint U.S./ISF operation Forward Together. When the “civil war” reached its height, in the number of casualties at exactly the same time. And since that time, following the cleansing in Baghdad and its various militias (insurgency) roll over into the awakening, the equation has most definitely changed.
    It will probably be one of the great ironies of this war, that the plight of the Sunni insurgency against the U.S. occupation having been de-fanged by the joint efforts of the U.S. military, the Badr infested ISF, and the Mahdi Army have themselves been left with the sole task of expelling the occupation that enabled their rise to power. If the long awaited oil legislation is any indication of strategy, the Maliki administration will simply stall the occupation to death on legal grounds. And all the million dead and walking dead will have been for naught, unless of course, you’re of Iranian orientation, in which case, the phrase “God willing” takes on a whole new unexpected dimension.

  16. Duncan Kinder says:

    Meanwhile, Pakistan, which has just signed 11 trade deals with China, is playing the China card.

    PRESIDENT Zardari is visiting China at a time when the global economic power balance is undergoing a historic shift.
    The reports of the death of American capitalism may be exaggerated but there is little question that the financial meltdown means the end of its sole superpower status in what was described as a unipolar world. America’s western allies, Britain, France, Germany, and other European countries, have committed over $2tr to rescue the banking system from collapse and will face mounting fiscal deficits to finance them. Meanwhile, in 2009, the GDP of Asia (ex-Japan), on purchasing power parity basis, is likely to reach the level equal to that of the US and Western Europe combined, with China certain to overtake Germany as the world’s third largest economy.
    The escalation in the US military campaign on Pakistan’s northern borders can be viewed in the context of its economic crisis. It shows all the signs of desperation. It cannot help Pakistan, yet it wants to ‘win’ the war in Afghanistan. On the one hand, it appears to be using the multilateral lenders to pressure Pakistan to ‘do more’; on the other hand, it is conducting psychological warfare through drone attacks and covert operations inside Pakistan’s borders.
    The good news for Pakistan is that the US has run out of money to continue its quest for military hegemony in the Middle East and Central Asia. Given its financial meltdown and astronomical debt levels, the US has no option but to forget about its ambitions to be the dominant military power in the region, seek a truce with the Taliban, pursue diplomacy to resolve conflicts with Iran, and, equally importantly, recognise China’s strategic interests in the region.
    Pakistan enjoys historically close relations with China and the financial meltdown provides it with a rare opportunity to reduce its dependence on western aid, possibly disengage from playing the ‘new Great Game’ on behalf of the West, and make a bold and decisive shift in its foreign policy that is driven by its own long-term economic and strategic interests.

    Pakistan may wish to look beyond the immediate need for financing its external deficit that has bled its foreign exchange reserves. China has a long-term strategic interest in a strong, stable and economically independent Pakistan. It is the only major power that has both the will and the capacity to exploit Pakistan’s natural resources and help build its infrastructure that is in dire need of huge investment. In contrast to the US, China sees itself, and not India, as the leader of the future Asian century and has a natural interest in a Pakistan which is more than a client state of the West.

    But Pakistan may need to do more than just ask for help and talk about the history of the Pakistan-China friendship. It may have to demonstrate through its words and actions that it considers China — and not the US — its best friend. It should address China’s concerns about Pakistan’s support for the Taliban in the past and its spillover effects on Chinese provinces.

    It may also be expected to demonstrate a stronger commitment with the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). But all this would require a comprehensive review of Pakistan’s foreign, economic and defence priorities and policies and a national consensus to demonstrate that it is indeed ready to enter into a new era of its strategic relationship with China.

  17. Dan M says:

    I think we’re in agreement. Maliki would like us to leave. Anything he might do to make our remaining easier would hurt his interests. Some people would like us to stay, but can’t really admit so openly.

  18. Homer says:

    anna missed: If the long awaited oil legislation is any indication of strategy, the Maliki administration will simply stall the occupation to death on legal grounds.
    As I am sure you know, one can also apply that same strategy to the rest of the measures the US wanted.
    Time is on their side and always has been.
    Our agenda has never been their agenda.
    Their agenda goes back decades, back to the Ayatollah Khomenei, back to extremists in Iran, whereas ours goes back only a few years, back to some serious sociopaths in DC at the PNAC.
    Military historians will soon write about how easy it was for the Iraqis to have been able to `bleed the beast dry’; to have the US equip it with arms; to have the US train its army; and to liquidate the assets in the US Treasury.
    We’ve been outflanked beyond description.
    We’ll be back.
    Who knows … maybe it will be Maliki falling into the abyss of the gallows next time with the Sunnis running the ghoulish makeshift execution ….

  19. Patrick Lang says:

    The picture? pl

  20. John Howley says:

    Seems some clever foreigners have figured out that it is easier to defeat the Americans if you let them think they are winning.
    You may be familiar with this tactic in your own household.
    I’ll bet Cindy resorts to it regularly, Michelle not so much.

  21. Jon T. says:

    The picture: elect Obama, send the best diplomats available to talk with Iranian clerics, hope that a more moderate choice than B. Netanyahu is elected in Israel, and use the decommissioned AND “Nation Building Experienced returning troops” to focus a National Worker Corps to refinance the American workforce and create jobs to rebuild the existing infrastructure and start a new nexus of energy in a sustainable lifestyle. (Change our fuel consumption habits > burn less fuel > drive less) Let the Kurds, Sunni and Shi’a balance out on their own Ummah in Iraq and further on. Continue our emphasis on special forces operations in Afghanistan, and adapt the tribal relations approach that worked with the Bedouins in Western Iraq. Sound Like Aerosmith’s song “Dream On”? Why not? We’ve been lied to for awhile now. Why not dream?

  22. Different Clue says:

    The picture….
    From the movie The Man Who Would Be King (..?)
    I dimly remember seeing that
    movie on TV several years ago. It starred Michael Kaine and Sean Connery. Is that Sean Connery as “the man who won’t be King anymore” jumping off the bridge?

  23. JJackson says:

    Man falling from a bridge but I did not get the significance. I usually blow up the pictures because you normally pick them carefully. The F131457 was also oddly cryptic.

  24. Ormolov says:

    The war is not over in Iraq. The war is not over in Iraq. (repeat and repeat and repeat…)
    Your post begins “If the parliament refuses…” Though I love the insight that follows, especially the poem, all we need to know about the status of this agreement is contained in those four words. Would anyone like to take a bet with me about the likelihood of the parliament agreeing to the new SOFA by Dec. 31? I’m offering whatever odds you care to name…
    How can anyone say that this war has been won or that it has progressed in the slightest? There has been NO political movement in years, with zero prospect for movement in the future. The players are all waiting for us to be removed from the board, most likely by our own broken economy or by the realism of our next administration. Those who comment here that al-Maliki’s administration will do this or that are missing the much larger point that the Iraqi Parliament has absolutely no ability to address the main issues of governance. All the rest of this is just a press release.
    The war is not over in Iraq.

  25. Duncan Kinder says:

    Regarding Pakistan’s playing the China card, today China and Pakistan issued a joint statement.
    The Full text of the the joint statement between China and Pakistan includes the following statement:

    Pakistan stressed that Pakistan-China relationship is the cornerstone of its foreign policy, and friendship with China represents the common desire of all Pakistani people. Pakistan appreciated the strong support and assistance provided by the government and people of China to Pakistan in its economic development. Pakistan remained committed to continuing its policy of friendship towards China and making unremitting efforts to promote the healthy and steady growth of relations between the two countries.

    While the United States was not specifically referred to in this statement, note that the foregoing statement did not say “a cornerstone,” as it might have.

  26. pbrownlee says:

    Does anyone have the full version of The Man who Would Be King? The one (allegedly, since I’ve not seen it — I think) where Daniel Dravot (Connery) is smiling ecstatically during his final fall?
    Where is the Criterion Collection when you need ’em? (But I have just got their version of Kind Hearts and Coronets which is a jewel beyond price.)
    May I share this comment from Mr Sam Sloan on imdb.com:
    “This story is about a real place!, 8 March 2004
    Author: Sam Sloan (sloan@ishipress.com) from Brooklyn, New York
    “What most viewers do not realize about The Man Who Would Be King (1975) is that it is not about a legendary place, although Rudyard Kipling may have thought so when he wrote the story, because no white man had ever been there and returned to tell about it.
    “The place was then known as Kafiristan and is now known as Nuristan. It is in Eastern Afghanistan next to Chitral, which is in Northwest Pakistan.
    “Place names in the movie, such as Kamdesh and Bashgal, are real places in Nuristan. The explorer Robertson, whom Billy Fish reports has having died, did not die in real life but was rescued by a British military force in 1895, after Kipling wrote his story.
    “The people of Nuristan are believed to be descendants of Alexander the Great, who came there in 328 BC, just as the movie states. They had a pagan religion as the movie describes until they were forcibly converted to Islam in 1892. There are still some believers of the old religion in the Kalash Valleys of Pakistan.
    “For more about these people see http://www.samsloan.com/damik.htm
    “I know about all this because I have been there and I married a woman named Honzagool there. She did not bite me as did the wife of Sean Connery in the movie, however.”
    What is the old saying (translated) — “They have all the watches but we have all the time”?

  27. Curious says:

    Pakistan is defaulting. Count down till IMF related social unrest.
    If things aren’t fixed by January, taliban/al qaeda in afghanistan will look like a kiddie party compared to Pakistan imploding.
    things are marching at very predictable rate in Pakistan. very scary.
    Pakistan, perceived as the world’s riskiest borrower, may seek the help of the International Monetary Fund to avoid default on its debt obligations, said Shaukat Tarin, financial adviser to the prime minister.
    The South Asian country may need as much as $6 billion to shore up its foreign-currency reserves after they dwindled more than 74 percent in the past year to about $4.3 billion. Pakistan has $3 billion in debt servicing costs in the coming year. Standard & Poor’s, doubting the nation’s ability to repay debt, cut the long-term foreign-currency rating on Oct. 6 to seven levels below investment grade, and said it may lower it again.

  28. Mostashari says:

    And further to the Kipling quote, see the WSJ op-ed today (22 Oct) title: “Iran’s Preconditions.” It’s the first price quote for buying a rug. The respionse should be equally as demanding. Bill

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