The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) the Bush administration was pushing hard to get signed by the end of this month to leave in a place a military-diplomatic framework amenable to their view of a longer term US occupation (er “presence”) in Iraq is now officially done. Must read article from Karen DeYoung in WAPO on the subject here.
The same new resolve (so argued) by the US pro-occupation right in the Iraqi Army’s recent operations in Basra, Sadr City, Amara, Mosul is the same resolve that is causing him to call for an end to the US presence and refusing to sign a SOFA without a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops (and no permanent bases) both of which both the President and John McCain oppose.
[Extra Credit: Look for McCain to begin parroting the new right-wing talking point that this turn of event proves that we have won--the government is standing up!!! While likely continuing to send signals that he will take his own counsel on troops numbers--i.e doesn't matter what the Iraqis think on the subject.]
While the US post-Baathist/Saddam war in Iraq failed on numerous fronts–failing to predict and/or deal with for 3 years the insurgency, jerry-rigged and failed electoral process, failing to prevent ethnic cleansing & civil war, the humanitarian disaster/refugee problem–this is the first major attack at the nerve center of the occupation by a more united Iraqi resistance.
While Bush, almost alone in his cocoon, continued to believe that a long term occupation would lead Iraq to become the beacon of democracy to the Middle East/world thereby securing his future standing in history as a late-redeemed figure (a la his hero Truman), the Iraqi government’s stance puts an end to his vision for Iraq.
It is the opening scene of Act IV of the Iraq Drama. [I=the Invasion II=The Insurgency/Gov't III=Surge IV=Post-US draw down, i.e. "the training wheels coming off."]
For the inside story on who was behind this new pressure, look to none other than (one of the best in the business) Gareth Porter.
And if there is any doubt who holds the power in Iraq, read this:
The statement by Rubaie came immediately after he had met with Sistani, thus confirming earlier reports that Sistani was opposed to any continuing US military presence.
The government takes its orders from the moral authority (and political power) of a cleric. I.e. Clearly it is a theocracy definitionallly (predicted by the value memetics of the country prior to invasion)
And this–Silly Bush Tricks are for Kids:
The Bush administration has had doubts in the past about the loyalties of those two Shi’ite groups and of the SIIC’s Badr Corps paramilitary organization, and it maneuvered in 2005 and early 2006 to try to weaken their grip on the Interior Ministry and the police.
By 2007, however, the Bush administration hoped that it had forged a new level of cooperation with Maliki aimed at weakening their common enemy, Muqtada al-Sadr’s anti-occupation Mahdi Army. SIIC leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim was invited to the White House in December 2006 and met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in November 2007.
As has been argued on the pages of this blog (and elsewhere) the US army was always in a militia on militia fight and was being used by the other militias for their own internal fights and never had anything to do with the US objectives for the region or ideas concerning governance/alliances. With the possible October parliamentary elections, Maliki and SIIC needed the US to help them defeat Sadr. The US having learned in the Gaza Elections that the “bad guys” would win (i.e. Sadrists) decided to ditch the pretense to fair elections and use the interim period to undercut the Sadrist movement, politically under the guise of a military-only operation.
Though even in this round of intra-Shia fighting, Maliki went with the Iranian brokered “ceasefires” with Sadr. (Ceasefires in quotes because fighting continued during the peace time). This was, as Porter demonstrates, against Gen. Petraeus’ plan to link publicly the Iranians to funding for Sadr and a larger full scale assault on the Sadrist movement.
Maliki knowing the terrain better knew I bet that such a full out attack on Sadr would only have further undermined his own parties (and his allies) chances. Their plan seems to have been some deals to gain security in some strongholds, open up some markets, and try to pull a “win the hearts and minds” strategy for electoral success. As well as undermine the capacity for Sadr and his movement to run their campaign unencumbered.
Nevertheless though Moqtada’s party may be suffering some setbacks, he is achieving his goal–ending the US occupation. His cagey embrace of the street and politics–weekly rally protests against the US occupation–and playing the role of persecuted minority for religio-political truth (in the tradition of the great Shia martyr Husayn) has put the pressure on both Sistani and Maliki to take this hard line. Even in (partial) defeat, Sadr is winning.
So now the Bush administration has been double-crossed by the other Shia parties and surprise–the two political parties funded by and started in Iran side with Iran over the US. What are the odds? Who would have seen that coming? This is why Obama shrewdly got both Petraeus and Crocker to admit in their last Senate testimony that Iran would always have influence in Iraq and any attempt to eradicate it as a definitional plank for victory in Iraq is/was self-defeating lunacy.
All of which all of course would make for the thinking person a laughingstock of the new right wing meme that this is a sign of victory–given the cost of US dead and killed, the perfect outcome this entails for Iran and its ascendancy to regional hegemon, the massive debt the US has now bankrolled to install an Iranian-puppet regime, and the loss of international support over the mission, as well as the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and the deterioration of Afghanistan as a result of the near absolute focus on Iraq.
But of course admitting such isn’t going to happen of course. Their entire dream (more like hallucination) of imposing some order has been unmasked.
Obama has to come out swinging on this one. Force McCain into the corner–what does this mean for his policy? The Iraqis clearly want a timetable–will he give one? If not, is he simply going to keep US forces in Iraq against the will of the majority of the US populace AND the majority of the Iraqi populace AND the Iraqi government? Not to mention the Legislative Branch of the US.
This lets Obama shift away from McCain’s stupid question about “is the surge working” to the central issue: the occupation is unsustainable. It has been rejected by both countries populations and is putting stress on the military it can not afford. And leaves untouched the actual culprits behind the attack on the US who continue to pose a threat to US national security, clearly seeking to attack US soil (unlike any actors in Iraq).
Obama can then say he was both right about the not getting into the war in the first place and has been right in his judgment of where strategically the country has to move (draw down Iraq, focus on the Afghan-Pak border region).