Monday, November 26, 2007

 

It's finally arrived: Iraq on a platter!

This AP report is so clear that I've reprinted it in its entirety—with a mere sprinkle of comments.

Iraq's government, seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups, will offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership, two Iraqi officials said Monday.

The proposal, described to The Associated Press by two senior Iraqi officials familiar with the issue, is one of the first indications that the United States and Iraq are beginning to explore what their relationship might look like once the U.S. significantly draws down its troop presence.

"One of the first indications..."? Doesn't that chap your ass? How about "temporary" military bases built to last? How about the construction of the world's largest embassy? How about the apparent insanity of any number of policies and actions if the U.S. did not intend to remain an occupier?

In Washington, President Bush's adviser on the Iraqi war, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, confirmed the proposal, calling it "a set of principles from which to begin formal negotiations."

As part of the package, the Iraqis want an end to the current U.N.-mandated multinational forces mission, and also an end to all U.N.-ordered restrictions on Iraq's sovereignty.

Iraq has been living under some form of U.N. restriction since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the officials said.

U.S. troops and other foreign forces operate in Iraq under a U.N. Security Council mandate, which has been renewed annually since 2003. Iraqi officials have said they want that next renewal _ which must be approved by the U.N. Security Council by the end of this year _ to be the last.

Translation: The U.S. wants to remove the bother of going before the U.N. in order to legitimize continued occupation.

The two senior Iraqi officials said Iraqi authorities had discussed the broad outlines of the proposal with U.S. military and diplomatic representatives. The Americans appeared generally favorable subject to negotiations on the details, which include preferential treatment for American investments, according to the Iraqi officials involved in the discussions.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Aside from the gauze of pretense that this is an "Iraqi" initiative, they're not even attempting to hide American corporatist aims.

The two Iraqi officials, who are from two different political parties, spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject is sensitive.

You bet the subject is sensitive! Truth be told, these officials would prefer not to be handed their heads on a platter by the folks back home. Who could they be, we wonder? Allawi and Chalabi were made for the part.

Members of parliament were briefed on the plan during a three-hour closed-door meeting Sunday, during which lawmakers loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr objected to the formula.

I've speculated in a number of posts that the unaccountable hostility to Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr arises from his refusal to sell off Iraqi assets to American corporate interests and his demand for withdrawal of American forces. A few months back, after al-Sadr ordered the Mahdi Army to lay low and resumed his party's participation in the parliament, the Washington Post and other mainstays of the mainstream media obligingly dropped the "radical" epithet that normally accompanies every mention of al-Sadr's name. We note that the AP has revived the practice.

Preferential treatment for U.S. investors could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources.

The story coyly omits to mention who would be the recipient of the windfall. Certainly not the Iraqis.

Any benefit to the Iraqis could be achieved through the exploitation of their oil by any agency. And free-market considerations would mandate that they achieve the best deal possible for themselves, including the possibility of developing the resource themselves.

Such a deal would also enable the United States to maintain leverage against Iranian expansion at a time of growing fears about Tehran's nuclear aspirations.

Previously, Saddam Hussein was the greatest lever against Iranian expansion. Of course he had to suppress the majority population, the Shia, in the bargain. Any guess as to how the U.S. will achieve the same objective?

At the White House, Lute said the new agreement was not binding.

"It's not a treaty, but it's rather a set of principles from which to begin formal negotiations," Lute said. "Think of today's agreement as setting the agenda for the formal bilateral negotiations."

Of course it's not binding, you twit. Iraq would have to have an actual government.

Those negotiations will take place during the course of 2008, with the goal of completion by July, Lute said.

That would be just about the time the new Democratic President will begin to get settled in office. Do you think he or she is going to announce a withdrawal instead of a "deal" to occupy Iraq?

The new agreement on principles spells out what the formal, final document will contain regarding political, economic and security matters.

"We believe, and Iraqis' national leaders believe, that a long-term relationship with the United States is in our mutual interest," Lute said.

Gee. We invaded Iraq to prevent the spread of "weapons of mass destruction," then to remove a tyrant, then to spread democracy—but certainly not out of self-interest. Now we learn that long-term occupation will be in our "mutual interests." The Mafia, we should note, uses similar methods and language when making an offer you can't refuse.

From the Iraqi side, Lute said, having the U.S. as a "reliable, enduring partner with Iraq will cause different sects inside the Iraqi political structure not to have to hedge their bets in a go-it-alone-like setting, but rather they'll be able to bet on the reliable partnership with the United States."

Translation: The U.S. intends to run the country into the foreseeable future, so the religious, cultural and regional rivalries will be irrelevant under the new regency.

When asked about the plan, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo noted that Iraqi officials had expressed a desire for a strategic partnership with the U.S. in a political declaration in August and an end to the U.N.-mandated force.

"Thereafter then, the question becomes one of bilateral relationships between Iraq and the countries of the multinational forces," she said. "At that point we need to be considering long-term bilateral relationships and we're following the Iraqi thinking on this one and we agree with their thinking on this and we'll be looking at setting up a long-term partnership with different aspects to it, political, economic, security and so forth."

Bilateral relationships with the countries of the multinational forces? That would be, in order of importance, the United States, Blackwater, Dyncorp, Aegis, Erinys and a host of other "security services" too numerous to name. Oh, I forgot. Blackwater et al. aren't countries. Other than the U.S., all countries in the "multinational force" have either withdrawn or are withdrawing.

Still, it's good to know the Iraqis are taking the lead on this. It wouldn't look good if the U.S. had a role in the planning.

She said any detailed discussion of bases and investment preferences was "way, way, way ahead of where we are at the moment."

Sometimes I'm not certain whether I'm reading a news account or the script for a comedy act.

The Iraqi officials said that under the proposed formula, Iraq would get full responsibility for internal security and U.S. troops would relocate to bases outside the cities. Iraqi officials foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops, down from the current figure of more than 160,000.

No word yet on what those 50,000 troops would be up to. But according to this account, don't you love the way Iraqi officials seem to be taking over U.S. military planning? "Iraqi officials foresee..."

The Iraqi target date for a bilateral agreement on the new relationship would be July, when the U.S. intends to finish withdrawing the five combat brigades sent in 2007 by President Bush as part of the troop buildup that has helped curb sectarian violence.

If the U.S. Congress can't set timelines for troop reduction, I'm pleased to know that someone can.

On Sunday, Iraq's Shiite vice president hinted at such a formula, saying the government will link discussions on the next extension of the U.N. mandate to an agreement under which Iraq will gain full sovereignty and "full control over all of its resources and issues."

Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq wanted an "equal footing" with the U.S. on security issues as a sovereign country so Iraqi could "have relations with other states with sovereignty and interests."

Not since the British Raj in India will a country have been on such an equal footing with its occupier.

He said the government would announce within days a "declaration of intent" that would not involve military bases but would raise "issues on organizing the presence of the multinational forces and ending their presence on Iraqi soil."

A casual reader might conclude that foreign forces will be leaving Iraqi soil. That may seem confusing, but isn't really. When the U.N. mandate ends, so will the justification for the presence of the so-called "multinational forces." Then it will be up to the Iraqis to form "bilateral agreements" to continue the occupation of their country.

So far the only country that seems interested in taking them up on the offer is the United States. Poor Iraq. You'd think there'd be a greater demand!

One official said the Iraqis expect objections from Iraq's neighbors. Iran and Syria will object because they oppose a U.S. presence in the region.

They also oppose the possibility of an Iraq-style invasion.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not like the idea of any reduction in their roles as Washington's most important Arab partners.

"Partners"? If they had fallen under the old Soviet sphere of influence, the press would have referred to them as "satellites." And satellites don't have a say in the matter. The difference between a "partner," such as Iraq, and a "satellite," such as Saudi Arabia, is that satellites are not occupied.

Well, don't come to me later and say the press didn't inform the public of U.S. plans for Iraq. Oh, sorry. I put that backwards, didn't I? The AP account is quite clear. These are not U.S. government plans for Iraq, but Iraqi government plans for the U.S.

Related posts
Lessons in sovereignty - Part I (9/19/05)
The Pottery Barn Rule revisited (4/5/06)
The Bush plan for Iraq: What you should expect (1/11/07)
Taking sides in a civil war (1/14/07)
Muqtada al-Sadr and a date to watch (2/9/07)
Empire of the Day (11/25/07)

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