Thursday, June 02, 2011

Mirror, mirror on the wall








Kate Wiltrout (Virginia Pilot) reports on today's send-off ceremony for members of Task Force 183, "The group is also part of the Viriginia National Guard's largest single-unit deployment since World War II. Its 825 soldiers come from seven unites across the state, including four in Hampton Roads." Erin Barnett (WSLS) adds, "The soldiers will spend 45 to 60 days at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, before leaving for Iraq. They are expected to be in Iraq for more than a year." Hugh Lessing (Daily Press) reports on those departing including Capt Brian Gallavan who states, "We have some of our soldiers where this is their third or fourth deployment. I have two on their fifth deployment."
And it's a year long deployment. But they're being told to be 'flexible.' Why? Because the US government's really not sure what's happening with the US military and Iraq just yet. On Antiwar Radio. Scott Horton spoke with Jason Ditz about what may or may not happen with US troops in Iraq. Excerpt.
Scott Horton: We've been talking quite a bit about this. The empire has made no secret that they're determined to stay, they want so badly to stay, but there is no UN resolution authorizing the occupation. There's only the Status Of Forces Agreement that Bush signed with Maliki in 2008 and now that says that every last one of our army troops have got to be out of the country -- and that goes for Air Force, Navy and Marines too -- at the end of this year, December 31, 2011. Our guys are trying to get Nouri al-Maliki to "invite us" to stay -- the way they've been able to successfully coherce the South Koreans and the Japanese into inviting us to stay in their countries. And this Sadr guy doesn't seem to be going for it -- but then "seems" are iffy things. And I read a couple of things that said that the Pentagon is betting that Sadr is bluffing and that the only way Sadr can make the United States leave is basically by what he's doing right now which is saying, 'Listen, you're going to have to start the war all over again and you don't want that.' They stood by when the Americans rolled in from Kuwait to take out Saddam Hussein, they've been fighting for the Shi'ite factions -- the Iraqi National Alliance -- this whole time. They're saying, 'You're going to have to start the war all over again against us.' And the Pentagon is betting, trying at least, they're hoping that he's just bluffing. And I wonder, from all the indications, what you're reading about the situation over there, whether you think Moqtada al-Sadr is really willing to turn the south of Iraq upside down in order to force the Americans out?
Jason Ditz: It looks like he might well be but Prime Minister Maliki, of course, came up with ruling out the occupation beyond the end of the year several times in public speeches and then recently he's backed off that entirely saying that 'Well, it's going to be up to the Iraqi Parliament to decide whether or not to extend the Status Of Forces Agreement --
Scott Horton: You know I wonder --
Jason Ditz: -- so --
Scott Horton: You know I wonder exactly how to spin that one or which spin on that is most likely, I guess. Whether that's him beginning to give in to the Americans and really work for them and trying to invite us to stay or whether that's him just setting the stage for trying to say, 'Look, I tried to reason with them and they just won't go along' -- you know, as his excuse to us for not inviting us to stay?
Jason Ditz: Well either one is possible but the several times that he came out publicly and said absolutely not, the US pretty much pretended like they didn't hear. It's like they put their fingers in their ears and said, 'La-la-la we can't hear you.' And then they would ask again, a couple of days later. And they even went so far in one of their public speeches -- I believe it was Secretary Gates -- expressing concern that the Iraqi government hadn't responded one way or another after several times of Maliki saying 'absolutely not.'
Scott Horton: Right. Yep, well, boy oh boy, I mean, it's not hard to imagine that over at the Pentagon, they figure that they stole Iraq fair and square, they get to keep but somebody should have told them who they were fighting for and how it wasn't working out so well. I got to refer again to that book The Good Soldiers by [David] Finkel, the Washington Post reporter where he covers the surge in east Baghdad against the Sadrists in 2007 and 2008 and these guys had no idea that they were fighting for Moqtada al-Sadr against the rest of the country, that in the Sunni provinces that are guys are basically the reserve forces for Sadr's death squads, going in there and ethnically cleansing or religiously cleansing, whatever, the vast majority of Baghdad and consolidating all that power for the Iraqi National Alliance and their Iranian allies. All they thought they were doing was going out on patrol, fighting those terrible Sadrists. They had no idea the war they were even in.
Jason Ditz: Oh and I think a lot of people still don't realize the type of war that we're in and a lot more people seem to figure that this war is over and has been over for awhile now.
Scott Horton: That's what Rachel Maddow says and apparently that's what makes things true.
That broadcast may need to be revisted January 1, 2012. (Listen in full and you'll understand that remark.) Jack A. Smith (Foreign Policy Journal) observes:

The Obama Administration is anxious to retain military bases and thousands of troops in Iraq, which it is supposed to leave entirely at the end of this year, and in Afghanistan as well, when the U.S. is scheduled to depart at the end of 2014. President Obama is applying heavy pressure to Baghdad and Kabul to "request" the long-term presence of U.S. troops and "contractors" after the bulk of the occupation force withdraws.

Why keep troops in Iraq? The neoconservative Bush White House invaded Iraq, which was considered a pushover after 12 years of U.S.-British-UN killer sanctions, not only to control its oil, but as a prelude to bringing about regime change in neighboring Iran, thus providing Washington with total control of the immense resources of the Persian Gulf. The Iraqi guerrilla resistance destroyed the plan, for now.

Thus, the upshot of the war -- in addition to costing American taxpayers several trillion dollars over the next few decades in principal and interest -- is that Shi'ite Iran's main enemy, which was the Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad until 2003, has been replaced by the Shi'ite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a politician who usually bends the knee to Washington but is quite friendly to Tehran, as are many Iraqi politicians. (The Shia are nearly 65% of the population; the Sunnis, nearly 35%.)

On May 16 Maliki declared that "Security, military and political cooperation between Iran and Iraq is essential, and we will certainly see the expansion of relations in these areas in the future." Washington's big fear is that Maliki may eventually thumb his nose at Uncle Sam, and that in time, Iraq and Iran will draw much closer together -- a prospect deeply opposed by the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

According to Stratfor, the private intelligence resource, on April 26: "[T]he U.S. has reportedly offered to leave as many as 20,000 troops in the country" after its "pullout" at the end of this year. In addition, a large but undetermined number of "contractors" -- often paramilitary hirelings -- are to remain.

Further, according to an Inter Press Service report May 9, the State Department "intends to double its staff in Iraq to nearly 16,000 and rely entirely on private contractors for security." So large a staff is almost unbelievable, but so is the immense size of the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone -- the largest such facility in the world.

Lara Jakes (AP) informs, "The Obama administration is ready to play ball on keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond this year. But for Iraq's government, in the words of one lawmaker, the issue is like playing with fire." In iraq, New Sabah calls it US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey's "first public reaction" on the issue of US forces staying in Iraq beyond 2011 (and possibly it is for the Iraqi press). It? He's dimissed the review of the Mahdi militia from last week. He also called out Moqtada al-Sadr and his militia's claim that they can attack US forces insisting that the presence of US forces on Iraqi soil was a result of the "legitimate will of the Parliament." (He's referring to the 2008 Thanksgiving Day vote on the SOFA. And while he may have a point, a stronger point would be that the Iraqi people were promised a voice in the process -- without that promise, some believe Parliament wouldn't have passed the SOFA -- I disagree, but a number of people believe that -- and the promised referendum that they'd vote in never came to be.) And a new group joins the chorus of 'extend' that Kurdish officials have been chanting. Dar Addustour reports that the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Association has come out in favor of US forces remaining on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011 stating that their presence is necessary to provide safety for Iraq's religious and ethnic minorities. The organization also maintains that the continued presence of US forces would allow Iraqi forces the opportunities to refine their own performance. Nouri al-Maliki is expected to call a meeting shortly to discuss keeping US forces on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011.

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