British Chief of Staff Calls for Troop Withdrawal
Sunnis in Parliament Revolt over Vote on Confederacies
53% of Americans want a timetable to be set for when US troops would leave Iraq. The funny thing? A big majority of Iraqis also wants a timetable! Here we have a case where the two publics agree, on a reasonable policy that would improve the situation, but where political elites ignore them and go on making the situation worse.
Is this an instance of speaking truth to power? Or just power speaking truth? Sir Richard Dannatt, the British general who recently became Chief of the General Staff, says that British troops should leave Iraq because their presence is exacerbating the violence. ITV quotes him as saying,
‘ “As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren’t invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time.
“The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.
“Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance.” ‘
I don’t think the British military is going to be in Iraq much longer. Certainly no longer than Tony Blair is PM. If the chief of the army is demonstrating this sort of rank insubordination toward the prime minister, who has supported a continued British military role in Iraq, it is a sign that the prime minister is a lame duck and that there are indications that his successor will draw down the British troops in Basra.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat [Ar.] reports that the Iraqi cabinet has demanded that Iraqi security forces be given a bigger role in security operations, and that that of the multinational forces be reduced. It appears that that would suit Gen. Dannatt to a “T.” Dick Cheney may be a harder sell.
The political fallout of the controversial vote on Wednesday in the Iraqi parliament for a provision that allows the formation of further provincial confederacies continued to roil Iraq on Thursday.
There is a controversy about whether there really was a quorum of deputies voting (at least 138 of 275 MPs), with Shiites claiming 140 and Sunnis claiming 133 or less. The vote was by raised hands with no count, so there is no way independently to verify that there was a quorum. On the other hand, Sunni fundamentalist speaker of parliament Mahmud al-Mashhadani was the one who announced that a quorum had been reached. He then stormed out in protest.
The Shiites and Kurds hold a majority in parliament, so that any time they can agree on an issue, they can always outvote the Sunni Arabs. This dynamic is one of the reasons for which Sunni Arabs reject the new political system. They had been in power via the old Baath Party, and now they would lose every vote on issues important to them.
These charges and counter-charges by Shiite and Sunni Arab leaders reported by AP seem especially disheartening and suggest to me that partition of the country is not only a likely outcome but may be nearer than we think:
‘ Triumphant with the bill’s passage, the Shiite SCIRI leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim dismissed Sunni opponents of federalism as “Saddamists, Baathists and Takfiris (Islamic radicals).”
Al-Mutlaq, of the Sunni Dialogue Front, meanwhile, said the votes of the Shiite lawmakers shouldn’t be counted anyway, suggesting they were really loyal only to mainly Shiite Iran.
“They hold Persian citizenship … and so don’t have legitimacy to be parliament members according to Iraqi constitution,” he said. ‘
The Lancet study asserting that the Iraq conflict has cost the lives of between 420,000 and 780,000 Iraqis continues to generate controversy. But Dan Murphy of the CSM quotes public health officials pointing out that its methodology was sound, contrary to what Presiden Bush asserted. Murphy’s article also puts its finger on the likely source of the discrepancy between the Lancet numbers and those of the Iraqi ministry of health: The ministry employees cannot travel easily to places like Baqubah and Kut and Ramadi to collect death statistics from local officials. I can remember talking recently to a Shiite from Baghdad who said that virtually no one routinely goes to Najaf from the capital any more because the roads are too unsafe. Najaf was only an hour’s drive from Baghdad in the old days.
The Iraqi police administrators have to budget for the loss of 25 policemen a day— 10 killed and 15 wounded.
Reuters reports 38 deaths from political violence in Iraq. On the other hand, al-Sharq al-Awsat estimates 33 killed in Baghdad alone, so Reuters has undercounted. Major incidents include:
‘ BAGHDAD – Gunmen raided the offices of al-Shaabiya Iraqi satellite television channel in Baghdad and killed 11 people, including guards, technicians and administrative staff, the station manager said. The Interior Ministry said nine were killed in the raid.
BAGHDAD – A bomb placed under a car and a car bomb exploded in quick succession, killing five people and wounding 10 in central Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – A motorbike strapped with explosives targeted a police patrol and killed three people, including a policeman, and wounded 15, including five policemen, in northern Qahira district, police said. . .
BAQUBA – A total of 12 people were killed in different districts of the religiously mixed city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. . .’
Reuters reports on how violence and instability in Iraq has limited political participation and forestalled a plan for national reconciliation.