Iraq has a Government: Can we Please Come Home Now?

Iraq has marked three milestones this fall. The formal military mission of US troops was ended by President Obama on August 31, and while about 50,000 troops remain, some of them occasionally engaged in combat at the invitation of the Iraqi government, there are no large US military campaigns. The remaining 50,000 troops are scheduled to be out of the country on December 31, 2011, and newly reinstalled prime minister Nuri al-Maliki is insisting that the deadline will be met. While many Americans are skeptical that the withdrawal will take place on time, so far it has been running according to schedule. And it should be remembered that US foot-dragging could revive the Mahdi Army and other anti-American militias, who will not put up with a long-term US military presence in their country. As the number of US troops shrinks, they become more vulnerable to militia attack.

Second, last week the United Nations Security Council removed Chapter 7 restrictions on Iraq, which had established the ‘food for oil’ program that restricted Iraqi petroleum exports and forbade it to have even civilian nuclear energy. Iraq had been in a kind of UN receivership, but as of July 2011 will again become a fully sovereign nation in the law.

Third, Iraq finally formed a new government of national unity, headed by incumbent prime minister Nuri al-Maliki The new government is from the point of view of the US and Saudi Arabia too close to Iran (and it is in fact a result of Iranian intervention in Iraqi political affairs, since Iran convinced the Iraqi Shiites to cooperate with one another, creating momentum for Nuri al-Maliki to gain a second term).

However unsatisfactory the situation from Washington’s perspective, these three pieces of good news are important to Americans because they mean that the troops really can and likely will come home now. A long national nightmare is coming to an end. Iraq has been Lebanonized and will likely be fragile for years, with occasional bombings and attacks. But it can now muddle through on its own.

Moreover, a successful US withdrawal from Iraq– and the US Left has a responsibility to hold Washington’s feet to the fire about implementing it– could herald a similar ultimate military disengagement from Afghanistan and a winding down of the National Security State of perpetual war that so profoundly threatens our democracy, as John Mearsheimer has argued.

Al-Hayat writing in Arabic that the Iraqi parliament on Tuesday approved the incomplete cabinet presented to it by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, over nine months after the March 7 election. Al-Maliki postponed presenting the new government for one day because the Iraqiya Party and the Kurdistan Alliance had, because of internal squabbles, neglected to put forward the names of their candidates for ministerial posts.

On Tuesday, 279 members of parliament attended, out of 325. They voted unanimously to appoint al-Maliki prime minister, as well as acting minister of the ministries of Interior, Defense and National Security, until such time as he named heads of those ministries. The parliament voted by big majorities to confirm Roz Nouri Shawis, of the Kurdistan Alliance, as on of three vice-premiers. Former oil minister Husain Shahristani, a Shiite, was made a vice premier for energy eissues. Then therewas Salih Mutlak. Mutlak had been forbidden from running for parliament because of suspicions that he is still close to the old Baath Party, but he was reinstated last week and now elevated to high office. Al-Maliki was clearly attempting to mollify the Sunni Arabs of the Iraqiya Party, to which Mutlak belongs.

Houshyar Zebari, from the Kurdistan Alliance, retained the post of foreign minister, which Mutlak had wanted. Zebari was also made acting minister of state for women’s affairs. Raafi al-Isawi, a Sunni Arab, became minister of finance. Abd al-Karim Luaibi, a technocrat from an Shiite Arab background, became minister of petroleum. Ali al-Adib, a prominent member of the prime minister’s party, the Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa), became minister of higher education. Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Corps militia and close to Iran, became minister of transportation. A complete guide to the new cabinet is here.

The Ahrar or Free Party, made up of Sadrists who follow anti-American, puritan cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, received only 3 of the cabinet posts, none of them very important, despite their support for al-Maliki from September, under Iranian influence. The US is said to have lobbied to marginalize the Sadrists in the new government. Even if they have few cabinet posts, however, the Sadrists are powerful in civil society and are attempting to impose a puritanical social order

When al-Maliki was challenged on why so many of the cabinet seats remained unfilled, he replied, according to al-Hayat, “Because of the lack of women candidates for some of the cabinet posts, and the existence of some candidates whos political parties did not provide any information about them.”

Two women among the members of parliament protested the lack of female cabinet ministers in the current line-up.

Al-Maliki promised a rule of law and a government of institutions, not of individuals, and a strict adherence to the constitution. He emphasized these elements of rule because, as Liz Sly points out in WaPo, al-Maliki has been accused by his opponents of aspiring to be a soft strong man who has sought to get control of the officer corps and the security agencies.

12 Responses

  1. Defense budget and its use is (sadly) the only
    acceptable jobs program in the US. Obama would rather make holes in someone elses country because he knows the Republicans won’t let him fill holes in his own. Better that than have a few hundred thousand ex-soldiers added to the unemployment rolls.

    • There is this thing called the Army Corps of Engineers, which is fiscally unable to do stuff like levee New Orleans and dredge the Mississipi and the Intracoastal Waterway and a host of other projects that Congress has dumped on that group.

      In the more uniformed service, the field units of the engineering battalions of the military are really up on earth-moving and building (and destroying) stuff like bridges and buildings and their parts of the Grand Fucjking Networked Battlespace Vampire Squid That Covers The Face Of The Entire Planet Now, and overseeing contractors (well, more like “overlooking” them and their scams.) What’s the gig against moving more troops into the latter, and dedicating them to pumping up the former, here at home? We have an enormous backlog of infrastructure repair, the construction industry and its employees have already been bled out, and GIs get paid a lot less than even Mexican concrete workers.

      Seems like a natural fit, no? And what a nice way of keeping the Bands of Brothers together, and maybe easing them out of the “everyone else is The Enemy, shoot first” mindset and into more useful long-term employment. What was it Bush 41 said? “Not gonna happen. Wouldn’t be prudent.”

      The area formerly known as the nation of the United States of America, at the tipping point…

  2. Maliki’s got the ministries of Defense and Interior in his own hands (supposedly in an “acting” capacity), so he in fact retains close personal control of both the army and the secret police.

    What more could an Iraqi PM want?

    That should make Mubarak happy, at any rate, although no doubt he would prefer a Sunni dictator in Baghdad. Interesting that so far Maliki is in at least one sense imitating Mubarak, in trying to avoid the creation of a personality cult.

    I suppose Sadr’s going to wait and see if the USA is serious about pulling its garrisons out of Iraq at the end of 2011. Sadr has usually tried to avoid fighting if there is a chance to free Iraq from occupation through other means.

  3. Isn’t it a shame that the last 50,000 to leave are soldiers rather than utility engineers and contractors? When they leave our consciences will clear as the purest air, and any subsequent malhappenings in Iraq we be blamed on their lack of American style exceptionalism.

    But it’s best they go quickly because if they fire their weapons or drop their bombs, it will not be in the cause of freedom, governmental integrity, altruistic distribution of wealth and services, and infrastructure refurbishment. Rather it will be to add some muscle to the to the very large Iraqi military, whose sole purpose is internal security for the powers in office (or to just take over), aka marshal law on demand (or coup).

    A common phrase used by anti-evolutionists is that “evolution is as improbable as having tornado roar through a junkyard and create a 747″. Likewise is the probability that a hellfire missile or a 500 pound bomb aimed at a “building of interest” will produce an electric generator or an honest politician.

  4. do not know if you were a fan / reader of Bernhard at Moon Of Alabama ( companion to Billmon’s The Whiskey Bar ) but he has resumed blogging / writing after a lengthy hiatus.

    link to moonofalabama.org

  5. A new government? Did the Parliament members residing out of country move back to Iraq? If so, time to move the goalposts again. The US government does not WANT to come home. That’s only what American citizens want.

  6. “Iraq has a Government: Can we Please Come Home Now?”

    Come home NOW? Out NOW? How disingenuous.

    “Now” is not “a year from now”, nor is it “three years after the SOFA”.

    Nowhere in your post do you actually advocate for ending the war “now”. And as you well know, the SOFA does not mean Iraq will “muddle through on its own”. Because, as you said yourself, “In the end [post 2011], a very small force may remain, of trainers, special operations, and air force” and because Iraq “has no air force to speak of, and the US will be providing the air support until at least 2018.”

    Also, who will be guarding our fortress/embassy? Will our network of 50+ “enduring bases” be devoid of all US troops? How many contractors? How many special ops?

    Not to mention statements by Maliki:

    “Iraqi Prime Minister Open to Renegotiating Withdrawal Timeline”

    link to washingtonindependent.com

    And Gates:

    “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see agreements between ourselves and the Iraqis that continue a train, equip, and advise role beyond the end of 2011.” – Gates

    link to tomdispatch.com

    Despite your best hopes and predictions, I’m still under the impression that what you actually mean is:

    “Iraq has a Government: Can we Please Come Home in 2011 except for the forces that stay for air support, training, advisory positions, special forces, counter-terrorism operations and those which simply re-deploy to neighboring countries”.

    You oppose (and have opposed since 2005) “out now”, but have written favorably about the Bush-negotiated/Obama-implemented SOFA. Am I mistaken?

    Of course, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so I’ll just quote you:

    “Personally, I think “US out now” as a simple mantra neglects to consider the full range of possible disasters that could ensue.” – 08/22/05

    “the issue is not so much the rate at which the United States withdraws from Iraq. “ – 03/17/09

    “Some Iraq war critics are fretting about Obama’s speech on Friday, and his plan to stay a little longer. But here’s why there’s no reason for alarm. “[…]
    “It would be wrong to overlook these simple words: “And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.” Though the word “troops” referred to the Army and the Marines, NOT TO THE AIRFORCE and NAVY [em. added], what Obama said on Friday was a firm pledge to leave.” – 03/02/09

    • You are not very good at logic, I fear. Confusing my position in 2005 (which I would defend) from my position now is frankly stupid. And you don’t seem to be able to distinguish between what I myself would advocate and what I conclude about reality from evidence and my analysis. You get an “F”.

  7. Sorry so late but I just read the piece by John J. Mearsheimer. He seemed to make alot of sense till I got to this paragraph:

    “In general terms, the United States should concentrate on making sure that no state dominates Northeast Asia, Europe or the Persian Gulf, and that it remains the world’s only regional hegemon. This is the best way to ensure American primacy. We should build a robust military to intervene in those areas, but it should be stationed offshore or back in the United States. In the event a potential hegemon comes on the scene in one of those regions, Washington should rely on local forces to counter it and only come onshore to join the fight when it appears that they cannot do the job themselves. Once the potential hegemon is checked, American troops should go back over the horizon.”

    This, combined with later comments on the need to keep China in its place, seemed to me to be a call for American imperialism in an absolute way. And provide the military with a rationale for ever increasing growth by simply marking sovereign nations as “potential hegemons”. How would China be expected to react to such a doctrine? Or any other country for that matter. Neocons can live with this quite well.

  8. Well, somebody should have told him that NE Asia, Europe, the Persian Gulf, and many other parts of the world are already dominated by a single power: the USA.

    There’s no limit to imperial logic, once the assumption of one’s hegemony is made. The passage above quoted could be used to justify preventive war against any country that was capable of defending its sovereignty and interests.

    Unfortunately, while multipolarity exists in economic terms, it does not yet properly exist in power-political terms. What the world needs is a coalition of other powers to check and break up the current US hegemony.

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