Concerning the U.S.-Iraq Security Arrangement

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 3 months ago

As the negotiating continues over a replacement agreement for the U.N. mandate (in which Iraq and the U.S. are “partners” in Iraq security), there are reports that Iraq is refusing to grant the U.S. immunity from Iraqi laws, rejecting the right of U.S. forces to operate free and independently (and without Iraqi approval), and refusing to grant use of Iraqi skies and waterways at all times.

Iraq knows that it needs U.S. troops, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has said that negotiations are not dead from their perspective, even though PM Maliki has said that there is an impasse.  Making sense of the situation takes on the characteristics of the presuppositions taken to the analysis.  Or better stated, our paradigm dictates the outcome of our thought game.

Nibras Kazimi, who is a very smart Iraq analyst and doesn’t mind telling us so, has said little about this subject, partly because he has a huge blind spot.  One might have been left to wonder why he was so giddy at the failure of the Sunni insurgency.  His background comes out in his analysis, and his blind spot is Iran.  Dr iRack at Abu Muqawama (or Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution) has a lot to say about this subject, here and elsewhere.

Says O’Hanlon, among a great many other things, “Maliki’s government could call our bluff and cave into (sic) the delusion that they don’t need us.”  Kazimi, discussing the campaign in the Maysan province, naively says that it is Iran’s last stand in Iraq.  O’Hanlon chooses to dissect Iraqi politics to the nth degree of precision, yet ignores the Iranian influence.

Approximately two years ago The Captain’s Journal warned an officer that the Sunni insurgency would be defeated, but without the equivalent defeat of the Sadrists and the full blown incorporation of the SIIC into the Iraqi mainstream (including their rejection of Iran), the Iranian Ayatollahs would have their forces deployed in both Lebanon and Iraq.  Iran will have been made supreme in the Middle East.

This officer – a thinking man – promised to save this in his AKO account.  We maintain our position.  The situation warrants neither naive jocularity nor precise political analysis.  The Iranians are furious over the proposed security plan, and it is precisely because of their plans for regional hegemony.  Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed goes further.

A popular Iraqi joke speaks of an aged man who marries a young girl many years his junior, called Mana. Whenever he visits his young bride, she complains that his long beard has become too white, and plucks out its white hair. The next day, he visits his first wife Hana, who is his age, and she complains that the remaining black hairs do not compliment him, plucking them out as well. He eventually ends up with no beard, and miserably speaks to himself in front of the mirror saying, “Between Hana and Mana, I lost my beard!”

The moral of the story – which rhymes in Arabic – is that men cannot please all tastes, nor two wives. Iraqis today are using the story in reference to their Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is torn between appeasing the United States, which brought him to power and kept him there despite all odds, since 2006, and pleasing his patrons and co-religionaries in Tehran.

The Americans tell him to sign a long-term agreement between with the US, maintaining 50 permanent American military bases in Iraq. The Iranians angrily order him not to, claiming this would be a direct security threat to the region as a whole, and Iran in particular. The Americans reportedly are pressing to finalize the deal by July 30, 2008, upset that no progress has been made since talks started in February. Iran has carried out a massive public relations campaign against the deal, calling on all Shi’ites in Iraq to drown it.

Traditional foes like Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, chairman of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and Muqtada al-Sadr, a leading Shi’ite cleric, have gone into high gear in recent weeks, pressuring Maliki not to sign. Hakim, who enjoys excellent relations with Washington, cannot stand up to his patrons Tehran – or defy his Shi’ite constituency – and say yes to such an agreement, which Iran considers a pretext for long-term US occupation of Iraq.

After a visit to Tehran this month, Maliki at the weekend made his position clear – surprising the Americans – saying, “Iraq has another option that it may use. The Iraqi government, if it wants, has the right to demand that the UN terminate the presence of international forces on Iraqi sovereign soil.”

He added, “When we got to demands made by the American side we found that they greatly infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq and this is something we can never accept. We reached a clear disagreement. But I can assure you that all Iraqis would reject an agreement that violates Iraqi sovereignty in any way.”

These bold words were given under direct orders from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during Maliki’s latest visit to Tehran.

This portrait paints Maliki as beholden to the Iranian theocracy.  At The Captain’s Journal, we believe that this portrait is correct, and thus the game is fairly simple as long as you aren’t too naive to see it and the complexity of your analysis doesn’t cloud the issue.

At stake are some very serious consequences.  Robert Kaplan has written an impassioned plea to Obama to learn from Robert Gates and adjust his approach to Iraq.  But it won’t happen.  We have all of the infrastructure necessary to sustain a longer term presence in Iraq, thus at least providing a temporary barrier to Iranian hegemony (if you can ignore the leftist hyperventilating, this article on U.S. megabases in Iraq is informative).  But this infrastructure might go to no avail.

Obama’s ego is writing checks that the U.S. cannot possibly cash.  He has promised to bring troops home within approximately one year.  This is impossible, as the logistics officers know that it will take two years or more to deploy back to the States.  But more to the point, even if logistics could keep up with Obama’s ego, the question is “should it?”  Do we not have a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity in Iraq to forestall the regional and ultimately the global ambitions of one of the world’s most significant dangers?

The security agreement must ensure robust rules of engagement, freedom of independent movement, and freedom from prosecution in Iraqi courts for U.S. troops.  The agreement must be pushed through the Iraqi system, as the real opponent is not the Iraqi government or people.  It is Iran, and everyone who isn’t naive or confused at the complexity of his own thought knows it.

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Comments

  1. On June 17, 2008 at 6:58 am, Dr. iRack said:

    Dear Herschel,

    Dr. iRack is most definitely NOT Michael O’Hanlon. Dr. O’Hanlon is not known for scathing self criticism: http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2008/04/ohanlon-goes-to-tehran-in-search-of.html

    For friends of Dr. iRack, the notion that you would think he’s O’Hanlon is quite hilarious.

    Doc

  2. On June 17, 2008 at 8:26 am, Herschel Smith said:

    “Doc,”

    But as for the article?

  3. On June 17, 2008 at 8:42 am, Warbucks said:

    What might be the chances of symbolic closure facilitated by Iran? We understand closure on many different levels: Marines plant flag atop Mt. Suribachi; Apollo 11 crew: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind;” President Bush, “Job well done.”

    Closure matters when it can be used broadly to represent goal achievement. It can influence national public opinion.

    What might be the likelihood that Iran realizing the importance of a symbolic moment to US mind set, at the perfect moment (a presidential political campaign) secretly decides to create closure for Americans’ sense of just war by giving up Osama Bin Laden? And, would we take him?

  4. On June 17, 2008 at 9:52 am, Herschel Smith said:

    I’m doubtful that Iran would want to deliver OBL, or that they could if they wanted to.

    However, you do bring up an interesting point about helping the U.S. to feel “closure.” It would appear that that’s what the Iranians have been trying to do for a while now. Why would SIIC be cooperating with Maliki’s administration except to facilitate the narrative that Iraq is now peaceful? Why would they have aided in the attack against the Sadrists in Basra except to do the same thing? The Iranians threw the Sadrists under the bus in an expedient decision to help the appearance of stability in the South.

    Dark view? yes. Realistic? I think so.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,Iraq and was published June 16th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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