Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bi-bi Barack

There's no rush to leave Iraq or even a desire.  That needs to be grasped.  Iraqi General Nasier Abadi made that pretty clear during Sunday's press conference in the Green Zone.  Questioned by the Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan as to when the Iraqis would be able to handle "their own internal security . . . how many years are you away from reaching that goal," Abadi tried to distract by listing duties before declaring, "We have no duties or missions to protect the air on the borders of the country.  But in case we have this responsibility, there is a brief that -- to the minister of defense, if he ask us to -- task us with that, a reportw ent also to the Prime Minister, what are the capabilities and the army's specifics to do those duties?"  Asked how many years again, he responded, "Building an aerial force, building an Army is not easy, but it's still easier than building naval and air force.  The naval force, as I said before, that the first ship will come in 2009 and the fourth will arrive in . . . at the end of 2011.  In regard to 200- . . . Air Force, the first aircraft we will receive in 2011 until 2015.  And that depends on the support and the help that the coalition forces can secure to Iraq so we can be able to maintain and defend our airspace and territories.  Without that, there will be also agreements with the neighboring countries on the security of Iraq.  But it's possible that we will go with those missions without having an air force or naval force because this is a common battle, it's not just an army's duty."  Setting aside the naval force and focusing only on the air, if the period they'll be taking possession of aircraft will last from 2011 through 2015, how likely is it that they will be prepared to handle their own airspaceby the end of 2011?
At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Bryan Whitman informed reporters that there was a plan in place for transition from the Bully Boy to the winner of today's election. A comparison was rightly made between LBJ and Tricky Dick.  Nixon didn't end the illegal war, he only continued it.  Whitman declared, "One of the important components of this is ensuring that we've identified and highlighted some of the key department events, actions, milestones that a new administration will face in its first 90 days."
Turning to the topic of the Status Of Forces Agreement masquerading as a treaty, CNN reports Sami al-Askari (Nouri al-Maliki adviser) states that the White House "has signaled to Iraqi officials that it is seriously considering proposed changes to an agreement that would set the terms for U.S. troops in Iraq".  Al Jazeera notes that al-Askari has no official response from the White House and that Iraq's Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi is advocating that the treaty be put up for approval to all Iraqis (not just the Parliament), "This agreement is an important and sensitive subject . . . Iraqis should have their say."  Khalid al-Ansary, Missy Ryan and Kevin Liffey (Reuters) add that al-Hashemi is indicateing that the agreement be placed on the ballot with "provincial elections scheduled to take place by the end of January."  At which point, who would be in Iraq?  The United Nations mandate that governs the occupation expires December 31st at which point, if no new agreement has been reached, there is no legal authority for foreign forces to be on Iraqi soil.  The White House has attempted political blackmail insisting that they will cut off this and that if Baghdad won't sign off on the treaty. Richard Tomkins (UPI) notes, "Iraq, with no air control capability at present, nonetheless would have to take over air traffic control and also assume total responsibility for guarding its borders."  Al Bawaba notes that today's "Baghdad edition of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said the Americans had agreed to three of the five latest changes proposed by Iraq.  It said, quoting unnamed sources, that Washington had dropped the clause that authorises Baghdad and Washington to seek an extension for retaining troops in the cities beyond 2009 and in the country beyond 2011."  Maria Appakova (UPI) explains:
However, Americans are in no hurry to raise this question at the U.N. Security Council.  Staying in Iraq in accordance with an international mandate is one thing, but having a strategic partnership treaty and receiving dividends from it is quite another matter.   
Yet Washington has no choice -- it cannot take offense at Iraqis and pull out its troops from Iraq.  It won't be able to attach the blame for withdrawal to Russia, since Moscow does not mind Americans continuing their presence there for a while, and Russia is not in favor of an upsurge of terror in the region, after all.
[. . .]
[US} House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton stated that he is "deeply concerned" with what he heard.  Skelton is referring to the agreement's provisions that recently leaked to the press, which include, for example, the Iraqi government's ability to put American servicemen and private security companies' personnel on trial for cirmes they committed while on leave and outside military bases. 
It must be said that if this provision really has been included in the draft, it is quite a victory for the Iraqi government.
Meanwhile Gulf Daily News notes continued conflict between the Baghdad government and the Kurdish one with the country's President Jalal Talabani stating the US cannot set up bases anywhere in Iraq "without the approval of the central government" in Baghdad which was a strong rebuke to KRG president Massud Barzani who stated last week that, should the US and Baghdad not sign off on a treaty, the US could just set up bases in the Kurdish region.  The tensions between the Kurdish region and Iraq are never not on display.  Last Wednesday, at the White House, Barzani was being translated when he cut in to correct the translator:
Translator: And in terms of SOFA, we do believe that it is in the interest of the Iraqi government --
Massud Barzani: Iraqi people.
Translator: -- it's in the interest of this country and we have been and we will continue to support it and support its ratification.
Hoda Abdel-Hamid (Al Jazeera) notes that the US popularity in the Kurdish region is sinking (after years of sucking up) and quotes Barzan Mohamed stating, "America was not honest with the Kurds.  They've let them down in the past and they only follow their interests.  They can leave the Kurds any time and I don't trust having an alliance with them or even friendship.  Yes, they rid us of dictatorship, but they came here to control the region and the Middle East."  Iran's Press TV states that Talabani made a point to praise Iran Sunday for their help with Iraq's security and that Talabani also cited Syria and that, on the treaty, Talabani "said that Iraq is a unified country and no one has the right to object the Iraqi government's decision, should it refuse the security deal.  Talabani was referring to a recent interview by Massud Barzani, the president of the local government of Iraq's Kurdistan during which he said that the Kurdistan region would provide the U.S. with military bases if Baghdad refuses to sign the security deal with Washington."

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