5 years ago
Max Boot on Maliki and the recent Iraqi elections.
Maliki, a sectarian Shiite, won’t accept the possibility that Allawi, a secular Shiite who enjoys overwhelming support among Sunnis, could displace him as prime minister. To prevent this from happening, Maliki is making common cause with the Iraqi National Alliance, a group of religious Shiites close to Iran that includes his archenemies, the followers of Muqtada Sadr.
Maliki has also counterattacked in the courts. First he pressured a three-judge election court into ordering a recount in Baghdad that could take weeks to finish but that isn’t expected to alter the outcome. Second, and more serious, he has endorsed what are, according to Army Gen. Ray T. Odierno, Iranian-orchestrated attempts by Iraq’s Accountability and Justice Commission to disqualify winning Sunni candidates for alleged ties to Sadam Hussein’s Baath Party.
With Maliki’s support, the commission has already disqualified 52 parliamentary candidates, including one who won a seat as part of the Iraqiya list. At least eight more winning Iraqiya candidates could be disqualified. That would give Maliki more seats than Allawi and fundamentally undermine the legitimacy of the vote.
A victory for Maliki (or a Shiite ally) that is achieved through postelection manipulations would make it extremely difficult for the new government to reach out to Sunnis either in Iraq or in the broader region. It might even reignite civil war if Sunnis feel that they are being disenfranchised.
Senior officials in the Obama administration are reportedly becoming more involved behind the scenes to avert such a disaster, but so far they have made limited progress despite a visit to Baghdad earlier this year by Vice President Joe Biden, the administration’s point man on Iraq. Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad put the emphasis on “transition” and “drawdown” rather than on ensuring the long-term success of Iraqi “democracy” (a word avoided by the administration).
That should be no surprise considering that President bama’s overriding objective is to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. The Iraqi-American security accord negotiated by the George W. Bush administration called for the departure of all our soldiers by the end of 2011. Obama added a new twist by ordering that troop strength be cut from the current 95,000 to 50,000 by September.
The presumption was that the drawdown would occur after Iraq had installed a new government. American officials expected that postelection jockeying would end by June at the latest. But Iraqi politicians now expect that no government will emerge before the fall. Thus the Iraqi and American timelines are dangerously out of sync. Large troop reductions at a time of such political uncertainty will send a dangerous signal of disengagement and lessen America’s ability to preserve the integrity of the elections.
The delay in seating a government also endangers the possible negotiation of a fresh accord to govern Iraqi-American relations after 2011. It is vital to have a continuing American military presence to train and advise Iraqi security forces, which have grown in size and competence but still aren’t capable of defending their airspace or performing other vital functions.
U.S. troops also play a vital peacekeeping role, patrolling with Iraqi troops and the Kurdish peshmerga along the disputed Green Line separating Iraq proper from the Kurdish regional government. Kurdish politicians I met in Irbil warned that if Iraqi-Kurdish land disputes aren’t resolved by the end of 2011 (and odds are they won’t be), there is a serious danger of war breaking out once American troops leave. The possibility of miscalculation will grow once the Iraqi armed forces acquire the M-1 tanks and F-16 fighters that we have agreed to sell them. It is all the more important that an American buffer — say 10,000 to 15,000 troops — remain to ensure that those weapons are never used against our Kurdish allies.
Boot hits on some common themes we have already covered in:
To say that Maliki is bad for Iraq is redundant. Chalibi is a treacherous liar, cheat and rogue. He is out for the Shi’ite powers in Iran and Iraq, but first of all himself. His “Justice Commission” is a front for the Iranians. He is a scumbag in the superlative degree. The Maliki-Hakim-Sadr alliance will only end, if it does, as it suffers under the weight of the collective pride, self worship and disdain for the common Iraqi.
It may also be true that U.S. presence is a good thing for tamping down internal sectarian violence. But there is a very important element of the current situation that Boot is missing, and it must be incorporated into our framework in order to understand the degree of U.S. inability to change the situation.
The Status of Forces Agreement has lead to intelligence ambiguity in Iraq due to the fact that patrols are no longer conducted. Our once powerful and productive information and intelligence campaign has all but dried up. It’s difficult to assess atmospherics when you can’t go on patrol and talk with the population. The SOFA has caused U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities to the countryside because they cannot even ensure force protection in the cities. The Marines are entirely gone from the Anbar Province because they couldn’t even move outside of their bases without an Iraqi escort and without giving 72 hours notice. The Marine Corps Commandant will not leave Marines in a situation in which they cannot ensure force protection.
The U.S. Army is under virtual house arrest in Iraq. Said Colonel Ali Fadhil of the ISF, “the American soldiers are in prison-like bases as if they are under house-arrest.” They have been given times that they cannot leave their bases, stipulations for permissions, and requirements for escorts.
I have been brutal on the Obama administration on everything from health care to the handling of the campaign in Afghanistan. Additionally, Obama could actually put Iraq under the charge of someone who is competent rather than Biden. But the hand was dealt long before the Obama administration, even if Obama would have fled the country anyway. There is little to nothing that U.S. forces can do under the current SOFA, and that is the fault of the previous administration, like it or not.
We failed to confront Iran in the regional war it has been waging more than 40 years (and for the eight years we have been in Iraq), and then we tied the hands of our warriors so that they couldn’t effect change in the situation. They are busying themselves with lifting weights, playing ping pong and going to classes. They have nothing else to do because we made it that way for them.