Wednesday, December 14, 2011

These days he's just boring





Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues his visit in the US. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) reports that Nouri has several issues to address in the visit including the issue of trainers and immunity, bilateral relations, garnering US support at the UN for removing Iraq from Chapter VII, security, energy, education, and judicial partnerships and the F16 aircraft order. Sheikh notes the F-16s are in place of the F-18s Iraq wanted but the US wouldn't sign off on due to concerns that technology might be leaked to Iran. Al Rafidayn notes that US Nationcal Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor declared yesterday that the US had agreed to sell Iraq a second batch (18) of F-16s.
There's a development on the trainers front. In what Al Mada calls a remarkable development, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi publicly declared yesterday that Parliament has agreed to grant foreign troops "partial immunity." US talks broke down over one legal reading-- no the official administration reading of the law - that US troops could not stay in Iraq without immunity granted by the Parliament. As negotiations continue, the Parliament is now ready to offer "partial immunity."
CONAN: Though the president cheers his accomplishment, you say not so fast.
KOPPEL: I do say not so fast, and I think he knows better. But he's right, he did make the campaign promise to get all the troops out, and all the troops will be out, save 157 who will be guarding the embassy, and a few hundred U.S. military trainers. But as you pointed out, 16 to 17 thousand others will be remaining behind, and the extraordinary thing, Neal, is we're hearing echoes now of what we heard nine years ago. You know, we can't have that smoking gun be a mushroom cloud. No one is actually using that particular formulation anymore, but the fear of nuclear weapons. The danger of a nation that is supporting terrorism. Oil, which was the great unspoken issue in 2002 and 2003, very much a part of this. The difference, of course, now is that the target is Iran, not Iraq. But the two are very close to one another, and the fact of the matter is that Iran is exercising an enormous influence throughout Iraq. And the oil fields, which have under the surface, they have something - I believe it's the second-largest reserves of any country in the world. That's all very close to Iran, and if Iran were to exercise significant political, let alone military, control in that region, together with their own oil and gas, they would have the capacity to wreak havoc on Western economies.
During the segment, they took calls from listeners and noted Ted's report on last night's Rock Center with Brian Williams (NBC). Here's an excerpt of Ted's report from Iraq and it's where they are discussing the US consulate in Basra.

Ted Koppel: If those Iranian backed militias were to launch a full scale attack on this consulate, would the US calvary ride to the rescue?

US Ambassador James Jeffrey: We depend upon the Iraqis and if we need security support, we will turn to them and we will tell them, "I've got a problem in Basra and you need to help us.

Ted Koppel: The question is will they?

US Ambassador James Jeffrey: I believe they will.

Ted Koppel: That's what an ambassador has to say about his hosts. This is the man who might actually have to deal with that nightmare, Lt Gen Robert Caslan. General, how are you going to get 1320 people out of there? I mean if you've 24 hours notice that something like this was going to happen, you're telling me the Iraqi government would evacuate immediately? Would get them all out of there?

Lt Gen Robert Caslan: I would argue that we do have, in theater, whether it's in Kuwait or elsewhere in theater, that we fall under the central command, Centcom, and I feel confident that Centcom has the necessary assets to take whatever measures they need to to counter that attack.
In addition to the reporting on Rock Center with Brian Williams (there are online features from last night's show including some that are online only, FYI) Brian Williams also spoke with Ted after the report. Excerpt of that.

Brian Williams: I wrote down the words "dangerously exposed?" while watching the piece. So many people speaking through clenched jaws. You can almost hear it in the voice of that Lieutenant Colonel from the 1st cavalry. Why aren't the remaining Americans to be considered dangerously exposed?

Ted Koppel: They are. They are dangerously exposed. And you have to remember, Brian, that the military command in Iraq did not want the US troops heading home. The commanding general asked for 27,000 troops to stay behind. The fact of the matter is, if the Iranians were to launch an attack against the consulate in Basra, you have to be willing to put your money on the Iraqi government. And if the Iraqi government doesn't do it, who else is going to do it? Well as you've heard there are a lot of American troops in that region and I would put my quota on saying, they're coming back and they'll be the ones to evacuate.

Ted is raising serious issues and, to their credit, NPR today and NBC last night (and anchor Brian Williams) were willing to go beyond the nonsense on Iraq that has cluttered up so many networks -- broadcast and cable, commercial and PBS (The NewsHour hasn't done anything like what NPR and NBC have done this week). With Nouri al-Maliki visiting the US right now, you would assume everyone would be trying to offer something deeper than a bumper sticker and platitudes. But that's all the airwaves have been interested in. Some might argue CNN deserves credit for Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq's report which includes:
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was "shocked" to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." He said Washington is leaving Iraq "with a dictator" who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country's security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks.
"America left Iraq with almost no infrastructure. The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship," he said. "People are not going to accept that, and most likely they are going to ask for the division of the country. And this is going to be a disaster. Dividing the country isn't going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that."
Any credit the above might get it outweighed by an attempt to distort reality -- either due to time, space or just not being honest. They also insist:
Al-Maliki won a second term as prime minister in 2010 after a months-long dispute among the leading parties in the country's parliamentary elections. Al-Mutlaq's largely secular Iraqiya movement won two more seats than al-Maliki's party, but a merger of the premier's Shiite Muslim slate with a smaller Shiite bloc put him first in line to form a government.
No, that is not what happened and that's grossly embarrassing for CNN. I'm embarrassed for them. The Constitution outlines what happens in the elections. Nouri didn't follow it. He also got an opinion from the court he controls in his favor. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) had the first crack at forming a government. But Nouri refused to follow the Constitution. The United Nations actually was exploring a request from some Iraqi officials to put a caretaker government in place (during the political stalemate caused by Nouri refusing to step down) but the US government blocked that. I don't expect CNN to tell the truth about what the US government did; however, the Iraqi Constitution is a public document. And how the government is formed following an election is detailed precisely in the Constitution. There's no need to 'invent' or 'improve' upon reality. Just stick to the law. Nouri refused to and CNN refuses today to inform people of that fact.
Nouri's visit ends shortly. His return to Iraq should be very interesting. We're back to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's press conference yesterday. In it, Dar Addustour reports, he declared that he and/or members of Parliament -- not Nouri -- was the target of the assassination attempt, he also stated that 15,000 US employees for diplomatic reasons was illogical, and that Nouri will be appearing before Parliament to answer questions regarding the country's military readiness.

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