Al-Maliki: US Cannot Afford to Stay; Physicians to Carry Weapons

In an interview with the Associated Press, PM Nuri al-Maliki warned that the future is dark if Iraq and the US do not agree on a security pact. And without a pact, he said, all the security progress made in the last year would be at risk. He points out that the alternative is to go back to the UN security council for an extension of Chapter 7 authorization of foreign troops in Iraq, and that UNSC approval is no longer assured because Russia may be in a bad mood after the Georgia tiff. He says Iraq still insists that US troops who are off base and not on a military mission, who commit crimes in Iraq, must be tried in Iraqi courts.

Al-Maliki, who wants a timetable for US withdrawal by the end of 2010, ended the interview with a clever appeal over Bush’s head to the American public:

‘ “If I had enough funds to assist the American economy, I would do all that I can. But unfortunately Iraq cannot solve America’s economic problems.

“But what Iraq can do is take up more responsibility security-wise here inside Iraq. And I have told the Americans repeatedly that we are ready to take up responsibility here in Iraq so there are less losses, a decreased number of American lives lost, and I am prepared to present this case before the American people. …’

Maybe al-Maliki has been reading John Gray, who writes, “The global financial crisis will see the US falter in the same way the Soviet Union did when the Berlin Wall came down. The era of American dominance is over . . .”

Al-Maliki is reminding an economically prostrate America that it cannot afford to buck him on the troop withdrawal timetable. Literally cannot afford! As in, best you go home now and let us take care of security, and save what little money you have left. And, oh, thanks for forking over the $1 trillion while you still had it . . . I guess he is not afraid of McCain’s forlorn hope of keeping a US military base on Iraqi soil (expensive!).

To paraphrase T.S. Elliot, “This is the way the [war] ends/ This is the way the [war] ends/This is the way the [war] ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”

The Iraqi government will permit physicians to carry firearms. The decree is a bid to tempt back to Iraq 8,000 medical doctors who have fled the country because they were targeted by guerrillas hoping to destabilize the country by crippling its services. The problem I see with this decree is that many of the physicians have been personally threatened by armed militias. So you’d have to believe you were a quick draw, a good shot, and able to mow down several guys with AK-47s before they could get you, before you would go back.

This sort of stunt, and the situation it is meant to address, both prove how terrible is the situation in Iraq still. If it were ‘calm,’ the physicians would come back without firearms. If the police and government amounted to anything, the doctors would not have to pack heat themselves. Another thing that works against the physicians’ return is that they can survive in Jordan and Syria. Even though they cannot get formal work permits,they can hire on to clinics as ‘consultants’. If they have capital, they can also invest locally (in Jordan at least, an investment of $100,000 gets you a residency visa).

Sunday’s bombings in Baghdad, and the killing of nearly 100 civilians in Baghdad during Ramadan, raise questions for Iraqis. Is this increase in violence a secular trend, a sign of deterioration, or is it just that guerrillas have more spare time during the month of fasting (when typically people do not work full work days, and lots of people circulate for dinner (i.e. breaking-the-fast) parties. Although this Ramadan was 40% less deadly than last year, it was also more deadly than July and August.

Iraq is buying 12 reconnaissance planes from the US. This purchase is a step toward the Iraqi government regaining control of Iraq’s skies. Now that it has more of an armored corps in the army, it needs fighter jets and bombers to provide air cover for them. The US is not ready to relinquish Iraqi air space, but PM Nuri al-Maliki probably sees this purchase as a step in that direction.

McClatchy reports political violence in Iraq on Monday:

‘ Baghdad

– Mortars hit Hurriyah neighborhood (northwest Baghdad). Five people were injured with one house was damaged.

– Mortars hit Ghazaliyah neighborhood (northwest Baghdad) near Um Al-Qura mosque. Three people were injured with some houses nearby were damaged.

– Mortars hit Abu Ghraib (west of Baghdad). One person was injured with two houses were damaged.

– Police found one dead body in Saidiyah in Karkh bank (south Baghdad) today.

Mosul

– Sunday night, a bomb was put under a taxi car detonated in Abu Tamam intersection in Mosul city. Only the taxi driver was injured in that incident.

– Around 5:30 pm a car bomb detonated in Nabi Yunis neighborhood in Mosul before the Iraqi army experts defuse it. Nine people were injured including 5 Peshmerga members of the PDK.’

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