The Iraq Agreements – 2

Waterhouseulyssessirens "On Iraq, Bush brushed off criticism that a long-term security deal between the United States and Iraq was faltering.

"If I were a betting man, we’ll reach an agreement with the Iraqis," Bush said. "Of course, we’re there at their invitation. It’s a sovereign nation … We’re going to work hard to accommodate their desires. It’s their country."

The deal would provide a legal basis for the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after a U.N. mandate expires. Bush said the agreement would not commit future U.S. presidents to any troop levels in Iraq and would not establish permanent U.S. bases.

Bush’s upbeat assessment came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared Friday that talks with the U.S. on the deal were deadlocked, as Sunni and Shiite preachers spoke out against a plan that would enable American troops to remain in Iraq after year’s end.

Al-Maliki said negotiations will continue, but his tough talk reflects Iraqi determination to win greater control of U.S. military operations after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year. Failure to strike a deal would be a major setback for Bush ahead of the November presidential election."  AP


No.  Failure to strike a deal would be a major setback for McCain.

A policy wonkista asked me at a meeting last week (I know.  I know.  I was there too.  So what does that make me?) if the Iraqis could not simply say no and set a date at which they want the US to have its forces out of the country.

The answer is – yes.  They could do that.  They could do it if they could muster up the courage and unity to do it in spite of their massive internal devisions and the blandishments of people like Petraeus, Crocker and Satterfield.  You can be sure that a myriad of seductions is being served up for the purpose of getting an agreement before the end of the summer.

At the same time voices from across the region and the Islamic World are whispering in silence that to agree to long term "partnership" with the Americans is treason to Islam and to the Arab People.  The implied long term price for such "treason" will be perceived as high.

I would bet on the effectiveness of the blandishments, rather than the whisperings.  pl

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26 Responses to The Iraq Agreements – 2

  1. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Col. Lang writes: “[a]t the same time voices from across the region and the Islamic World are whispering in silence that to agree to long term “partnership” with the Americans is treason to Islam and to the Arab People. The implied long term price for such “treason” will be perceived as high.”
    I suggest listening very closely to these whispers, as they are the whispers of a collective memory (or if you prefer, the collective unconscious). They very well could provide the answers to the questions posed in Dr. Helm’s McNair Paper –“Arabism and Islam: Stateless Nations and Nationless States.”
    As Dr. Helms wrote: “[c]ollective memory is the toolshed, tomorrow’s ideological arsenal, from which political concepts and symbols are selected, reinterpreted, and manipulated both by established governments and opposition groups. It may wait for decades, patiently dormant, only to be reactivated suddenly as an explosive, contagious force.”
    I hope Petraeus, Crocker, and company took the time to read her paper. It’s worth a gander:

  2. Bodo Reisling says:

    > A policy wonkista asked me at a meeting last week (I know. I know. I was there too. So what does that make me?) if the Iraqis could…
    Not a wonkista, I hope.

  3. jonst says:

    I’m with the Col, and, uncomfortably, with Bush on this. There is no way the Iraqis are getting off this gravy train. At least not yet.

  4. arbogast says:

    Gravy train? Blood is gravy?
    I believe Thomas Jefferson was mentioned in these pages of late. Somehow, I’m not sure that he would sign such an agreement. Even if King George wanted him to.

  5. Bush said the agreement…would not establish permanent U.S. bases.
    Here’s a “temporary” base we’ve been using for donkey’s years:
    Soto Cano
    If you’ve ever been there, it takes all of ten seconds to figure out that it’s Honduran in name only.
    Here’s the supposed “host:”
    Honduran Air Force
    Interesting to see they’re down to one C-130. When I was there in the early 1990s, they had two or three at the airport in Tegucigalpa. Word from on high was that no American was allowed to fly on them since the Honduran maintenance was non existent. They must have crashed them all – they have a habit of that down there.
    (Fun Fact: the airline SAHSA’s name was not an acronym for Servicio Aéreo de Honduras SA but actually for Stay At Home – Stay Alive. SAHSA Crashes)
    Point is, we say we’re there for “joint exercises” and “joint operations” but in reality we’re the big dawg with all the toys and they are just cover for us to stay there.
    No value judgment, just a fact.

  6. Mad Dogs says:

    Blandishments? Well, I suppose the US is spreading a wee bit of that on Iraqi turf, but let’s not presume that the US is the only player flashing the cash.
    Given the tanking of the US greenback, the strengthening Euro, the skyrocketing price of Oil, it would seem logical that other benefactors (hint: countries which share borders with Iraq and have Oil. Lots of Oil!) might be willing to raise the ante too.
    And these other benefactors may be a tad bit more subtle in their “terms”.
    I would imagine that the Iraqis find stuff like this from the US lacking that subtlety but at the same time, effective:
    U.S. issues threat to Iraq’s $50 billion foreign reserves in military deal

    The U.S. is holding hostage some $50 billion of Iraq’s money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the U.S. occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent…

    And I suspect that the Iraqis find stuff like the following (from the National Security Archive’s latest posting of – U.S. Military Hoped for Virtually Unlimited Freedom of Action in Iraq – Drafting of U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement Began Nearly Five Years Ago) more than a bit “ham-handed”:
    From one of the Joint Task Force’s documents back in December 2003:

    Red LInes:
    1. Authority for the Coalition Force, without interference or permission, to have the freedom of action to fight the GWOT, fight anti-coalition forces and to ensure a safe and secure environment in Iraq.
    2. A clear definition of the status of the Coalition Forces including a basis in international law and Iraqi Fundamental Law.
    3. A clear understanding of the authority by which the Coalition Force will exercise operational command over Iraqi forces and to be assisted by the Police.
    4. The right of the Coalition Force to detain, interrogate and intern anti-Coalition forces and security risk personnel as deemed by CG, CJTF-7.
    5. Recognition that the Coalition Force will continue operations to find WMD and uncover additional information relating to such programs.
    6. The requirement of the Coalition Force to determine the Rules of Engagement under which it operations.
    7. Freedom (without passports or visas buty with military identification) of entry and exit of Coalition Force personnel into and out of Iraq and complete freedom of movement within Iraq.
    8. Right for military to wear uniforms and for both military and approved contractors to carry arms in order to ensure safety and security of Iraqis, Coalition Forces and contractors.
    9. Exclusive right to exercise criminal jurisdiction over military personnel in respect of any criminal offences that may be committed in Iraq.
    10. The right of the Coalition Force to use, free of charge, all necessary radio spectrums and enjoy priority of use for public utilities at rates no less favourable than those available to Iraqis.
    11. The right of the Coalition Force to have freedom from Iraqi taxation to import and export without restriction and without any liability to pay customs duty.
    12. The Security Agreement must cover Coalition Force military and civilian personnel as well as contractors.
    13. Full diplomatic immunity for all Coalition Force personnel and those contractors employed by the Coalition

    If I were the Iraqi leadership, I’d have more than second thoughts about buying the current US “pig in the poke”.
    Though I might eventually accept a US proffer, better terms might be only 6 or so months away and that is regardless of which US party wins the Presidential election.
    The current Administration has run out of chips while the presumptive new player getting ready to sit at the table is flush.

  7. Jose says:

    IMHO, Iran is the one determining what happens in Iraq regardless of what the Neo-Nutties desire.
    Most Iraqi’s are Shiites and could care less about the whisperings of the Islamic World which is mainly the enemy Sunnis.
    “I would bet on the effectiveness of the blandishments, rather than the whisperings.”
    Does this translate into, what does Iran want?

  8. rj says:

    Only treason to Islam? Not an affront to Iraqi nationalism? Sadr and some Sunni tribes might want to use that card against Maliki (who doesn’t seem to have a very strong base). And this agreement will be reached prior to Iraqi elections? The blandishments are good but domestic politics might easily counter them.

  9. Marcus says:

    “Bush said the agreement would not commit future U.S. presidents to any troop levels in Iraq and would not establish permanent U.S. bases.”
    I,m shocked, shocked to find manure in this dung heap!
    “I would bet on the effectiveness of the blandishments, rather than the whisperings.”
    As long as the mass of the blandishments can convert to enough energy to keep ahead of the impact-zone when the whisperings convert to a foul wind.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    Easily? pl
    We are not talking about Thomas Jefferson. pl

  11. Alex says:

    “I would bet on the effectiveness of the blandishments, rather than the whisperings.”
    That would be the ‘realistic’ conclusion. I am frankly surprised M. has gone as far as he has to say no. My general impression was that he would just sign, and nothing would be submitted to the parliament. And Iraqi nationalist sentiment would be just ignored.
    That has not happened, rather the resistance has been prolonged and stiff. Which tells us something about its political background.
    Yes, I would think Iraq will be forced to give way. But it is a question of forcing.
    I can’t imagine what blandishments there might be. What promises to Iraq might actually be kept?
    The resistance to signing looks to me pretty solid across the spectrum. Minor concessions have already been tried, and not worked.
    On the other hand the US, in its present policy, is absolutely forced to come up with an agreement. Not a nice position to be in.
    Well, they could surround Maliki’s residence with tanks, and make him sign at the point of a gun! (The British did that in Egypt in 1942, you remember).
    I would think the solution that will be found, is an annual renewal of the UN mandate.
    Actually, I don’t think it makes much difference whether the treaty is signed or not. Particularly, if it is not ratified by parliament (there’s no chance of ratification). It will not last beyond the present immediate situation and will have to be renegotiated in a year or two.

  12. JohnH says:

    For a bunch delt a poor hand, the Iraqi government has sure played it well. Witness the hydrocarbon law that was supposed to turn Iraqi oil fields into a field of dreams for Big Oil. It died a slow, quiet death. Now contracts are about to be issued under the old law, which keeps ownership and revenue firmly in Iraqi government hands.
    With the security agreement Al-Maliki has the advantage of time. He can just run out the clock and negotiate a better deal from the next administration.
    They latest maneuver–going public with the deadlocked negotiations and leaking its obnoxious conditions–seems to be a clear signal to the Bush administration to do something it has never done–negotiate in good faith.
    If the Bush administration cannot give up its dream of colonizing Iraq, the security agreement may well suffer the same fate as the hydrocarbon law.

  13. Yohan says:

    I seems pretty much impossible that the US will back down on this. They might throw Maliki a bone or two to grease the wheels, but the US still has the power to bend the Iraqi government to its will, at least at the top if not in implementation.
    But as I see it, the signing of an unequal agreement would be more damaging to McCain than not signing it due to the very violent reaction to the agreement that will take place in Iraq. Add to this the run up to the Iraqi elections and I would be very surprised not to see an upsurge in violence in the coming months and perhaps the return of Muqtada. McCain has staked his entire campaign on the “things are getting better in Iraq so why not stay?” but if the situation deteriorates this summer/fall, he’s done for.

  14. zanzibar says:

    It seems the bazaar is now open for further dialog on the blandishments. What would be the price curve as our election nears? Asymptotic or parabolic?

  15. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    More incompetent and counterproductive faux diplomacy on the part of the Bush Admin. Of course, what else would one expect and it is not likely to be any different under McCain.
    Says Parick Seale, “In the teeth of much local and regional opposition, Washington is pressuring Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to conclude a “strategic alliance” with the United States, which would allow it to keep substantial military forces in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
    Even at the cost of 4,100 of its soldiers killed, another 30,000 or more seriously wounded, its reputation sorely tarnished, and a trillion dollar hole in its public accounts, the United States has clearly not yet learned the lesson that occupation breeds insurrection.”
    Says Seale, with some justification, “The obvious and far better alternative would be for the United States to seek a new and brief UN mandate — say of six months — to allow the next American President to assess the situation next year and make his own decisions.”

  16. condfusedponderer says:

    As for permanent bases:

    … When Democratic Senator James Webb asked the State Department’s David Satterfield, “What is a permanent base?” Satterfield tried to avoid answering the question. But assistant defense secretary Mary Beth Long was more responsive. She said, “I have looked into this. As far as the [State] department is concerned, we don’t have a worldwide or even a department-wide definition of permanent bases.
    Webb then observed, “It doesn’t really mean anything,” to which Long replied, “Yes, senator, you’re right. It doesn’t.” She added that “most lawyers … would say that the word ‘permanent’ probably refers more to the state of mind contemplated by the use of the term”.
    Iraqi officials quickly figured out that the real significance of the draft’s wording on access to military bases was that it contained neither a time limit on access to Iraqi bases nor any restrictions on the US to “conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security”.
    Authorization for such operations was called “temporary”, but the absence of any time limit makes that seemingly reassuring term meaningless as well …

    … worth a read.

  17. Homer says:

    Yohan: but the US still has the power to bend the Iraqi government to its will
    If I may, I would like to know exactly how the US has actually been able to “bend the Iraqi government to its will”.
    If that is true, how do you account for the Iraq’s warm public embrace of their brothers who are extremists in Iran; for the total lack of a true effort at political reconciliation which Maliki has said is almost done; for the total lack of pro-American legislation; for the inking of deals with the Iranians; for the total absence of the Iraqis at Annapolis; for the lack of a statement by the Iraqis which states their support for Israel’s right to exist; etc ad naseum.
    Please adduce evidence.

  18. David W. says:

    The limitations of US power will become increasingly evident as the consummation of this deal it pursued–remember that al Maliki is Uncle Sam’s guy, handpicked due to his pliability and ‘western ways,’ ie. some propensity to be swayed by the usual ‘blandishments,’ which I read as ‘money, women, whiskey, and personal power.’
    The limitations are that these don’t work so well on leaders of religious and/or populist movements–what Sadr and the other Shia leaders want is something that either the US can’t or won’t give them, and Uncle Sam is dancing as fast as he can, hoping to dazzle with footwork and shiny objects, while waving the poison carrot and the softened stick.
    What incentives can the US offer Sadr and the other Shia leaders that Iran can’t? Wouldn’t a future Iraqi govt also be free to abrogate this treaty?

  19. CWZ @ 6/14, 2:26 pm:
    Do you have any links you can provide supporting your info on Soto Cano AFB?

  20. isl says:

    Alternatively, should the US not force an agreement (and the story of the hydrocarbon law suggests it may not), it is a powerful indicator of the lack of US power – I recall it was Iran that saved the cookies down in Basra.
    IMO Maliki will find innumerable excuses to delay until the next administration.

  21. londanium says:

    David W
    Maliki was never the “hand-picked” guy, that honour was bestowed upon Iyad Allawi.
    If you cast your mind back to the pre and post-election shenanigans in 2005, the US was desperate to retain Allawi as PM. The first election eventually produced Jafaari as PM – after a heroic rearguard action fought to keep Allawi as PM
    Fast forward to the second election, and the optimistic pre-poll briefing that Allawi would do “better” ( his coalition vote collapsed ). Jafaari won the election, again, but was deemed too close to Teheran to be acceptable to the US, so there was a 3-4 period of “haggling” over who would replace him . Maliki was the compromise – but it turns out that he too is still far too close to Teheran for US comfort.
    Recall that one of the Bush’s administration’s aims is for an Iraq that is an ally in the war on terror – ie an Iraq that shares US antipathy to Iran, and not an Iraq that is moving towards and entente cordiale with its neighbour.

  22. Homer says:

    isl: a powerful indicator of the lack of US power
    It would be great if someone could flesh out the US as the puppet master.
    Nobody has ever done that as of today, despite being asked that numerous times on numerous blogs.
    (Perhaps we Americans are being too self-centered and unable to accept the fact that the once invincible US lost in Iraq and is now fuct in Iraq too?)
    The Bush admin has done an excellent job of portraying al-Maliki as being ineffective, when (if you look at what’s been said and taken hold legislatively and in the business sphere) in fact he’s held up a stiff raised middle finger toward the US and then held out warm gentle hand to extremist (Iranians) since 2003 (and beyond).
    Evidently, the Bush administration caused the reins of power in Iraq to be thrust into the hands of Dawa and the SCIRI, who have been trying to transform a secular Iraq (under SH) into a Shiite fundamentalist republic which has long and close ties to extremists in Iran for well (!) over twenty years.
    With that being so, it seems extremely strange to think that al-Maliki (Dawa), al-Hakim (SCIRI), et al are fickle and that they are going to plunge daggers into the back of those who founded and supported the Dawa and the SCIRI twnety plus years ago and then embrace Bush who is a total stranger to the huge world of Shiite fundamentalists who have been dead set on making Iraq a Shiite republic.
    Bottom line: The US is powerless. Maliki is no Chalabi or Allawi. He and Hakim have had a plan for over two decades. It is not pro-American. And it sure as shit does not dovetail with the Bush admin’s plan to democratize the ME.

  23. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Hi Minnesotachuck,
    I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for, but here goes. My memory is a little sketchy since it’s been 15 years, and most of what I know about the history of Soto Cano was picked up during small talk with folks stationed there or when we visited the base (we worked out of Tegucigalpa, but the Soto Cano Warrior Ops aviation guys would ferry us around mostly from the international airport).
    The story goes that most of the buildings at US sites throughout Honduras were wooden hooches because they are considered temporary when compared to brick, concrete and metal structures. Supposedly this was because Honduras is the member of a Central American peace treaty that forbids the “permanent” stationing of foreign military forces in any member state’s country. I’ve never taken the time to verify how accurate this story is. (We all know how stories swirl around military installations!)
    These are good starting points:
    GAO Report June 1984
    Congressional Report 1995
    And this is a fun read – I never knew these guys were down there, but they may have been gone by the time I showed up. Things had cooled down by that point.
    RC12 Stories
    You may also want to research all the joint exercises we did throughout the 1980s mentioned in the first link (GAO Report). Some interesting tidbits arise.
    My guess is that our experience in Honduras is probably a pretty good template for how we operate in many places overseas today. The “GWOT” ain’t just in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  24. Cold War Zoomie says:

    GAO Report

  25. Mark K Logan says:

    Stumbled across a likely “blandishment”, if that’s the right word..:
    Steven Biddle:
    “And negative issues?
    Well, the negative ones, interestingly, are in some ways the flipside of the positive ones. The Iraqi Security Forces are now so large that there’s some danger of Praetorianism—a coup d’état—growing in Iraq. Interestingly, when you look back to the pre-Petraeus era [before Gen. David Petraeus took command of coalition forces in Iraq in early 2007], one of the reasons that the ISF didn’t grow so fast was because there were fears that if they got too big, they would either pose a threat to Iraq’s neighbors or a threat to Iraq’s civilian government. There was a worry that there’d be a coup d’état if the Iraqi security forces got too big.
    Now that it’s bigger, you think this is a possibility?
    Well, I think it’s a growing possibility. I think one of the things our presence does is moderate and mitigate that dramatically. It’s much harder to imagine a Praetorian solution, a coup d’état, a military government as long as we are there. If we were to leave, you could easily imagine a situation in which the military as the most effective institution in society decides to take over. The parliament is the least respected institution in Iraqi society.”

  26. Noumenon says:

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to convey with all the blue and red.

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