Saturday, September 19, 2009





Meanwhile David Bedein (Philadelphia Bulletin) reports RAND Corporation's "Withdrawing from Iraq: Alternative Schedules, Associated Risks, and Mitigating Strategies" from July was submitted to Department of Defense this week. Bedein notes that the report found that the central government in Baghdad would not be able to 'eradicate' al Qaeda in Iraq.The report was released in July and (my summary) it argues that a draw down is fine but US troops cannot leave Iraq. Because of al Qaeda in Iraq? No, the report is primarily arguing that a full US departure would lead Turkey to invade. And, since July, it's been a rare week that the report's assertion hasn't been decried by some Turkish news outlet. For example, Sunday Hurriyet Daily News ran the editorial "From the Bosphorus: Straight - RAND report wreaks of arrogance:"
There was a time, a certain age of innocence really, when it was possible to despise the CIA and associated intelligence agencies for their apparent evil. But today, we must regard them with contempt for their stupidity. A case in point of international diplomacy at its arrogant worst is the new RAND Corporation report upon which Daily News Ankara bureau chief Serkan DemirtaƟ reported in the weekend newspaper. The "sponsored" research by RAND basically urges the U.S. Obama Administration to threaten Turkey with "negative consequences" to its European Union bid should any incursion into northern Iraq impede American withdrawal from that desperate and war-torn country. [. . .]So we take great offense that RAND believes Turkey should be muscled into continuing this policy as insurance against a military incursion by Turkey in the wake of an Iraqi civil war sparked by the American exit. Such a report, particularly if embraced by Obama as policy, is simply a guarantee that the legitimacy of the "Kurdish opening" will be challenged by many in Turkey and probably derailed. Essentially, RAND's warning risks a self-fulfilling prophecy. We take particular offense that RAND would suggest U.S. coordination with European allies to make sure Turkey "understands" that any move into Iraq will harm the country's EU bid. RAND should "understand" Turkish sentiment. It is clear this institution does not. And this is why we can only summon contempt for a report that reeks of arrogance. This has not been a minor issue in Turkey and Hurriyet is among the most recent to weigh in and Sol's reporting on it today. It's surprising that a RAND report which has caused so much controversy hasn't been reported on by the networks or US daily papers. Or maybe not surprising.The authors of the report are Walt L. Perry, Stuart E. Johnson, Keith W. Crane, David C. Gompert, John Gordon, Robert E. Hunter, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Terrence K. Kelly, Eric Peltz and Howard Shatz. In their preface [PDF format warning, click here for report] they note:The analysis supporting this report was completed in May 2009, andthe illustrative schedules all assume implementation decisions having been made in time for implementation in May, if not earlier. To the extent that such decisions are made later, the schedules would likely be pushed back accordingly. We recognize that any drawdown schedule that calls for U.S. forces remaining in Iraq beyond the end of December 2011 would require renegotiating the Security Agreement between the United States and Iraq.

The SOFA might be renegotiated? The study was prepared at the request of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Are you starting to get why US outlets haven't really explored the RAND study? No, the Iraq War has not ended and doesn't appear to be. Steven Verburg (Wisconsin state Journal) reports, "About 200 Madison-based members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard are heading for Iraq in the next week."

Yesterday's snapshot noted the Istanbul meet-up of Ahmed Davutoglu (Turkey's Foreign Minister), Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister), Walid Mualem (Syria's Foreign Minister) Amr Moussa (Arab League Secretary General). Today's Zaman notes the meeting continued on Firday and that Turkey's Foreign Minister "Davutoglu also said the meeting in Istanbul would be preparation for the upcoming meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, which will be held in Baghdad, with Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presiding over the meeting." He states, "This is such an important project that, when realized, peoples living side by side for centuries will reunite in a shared economic basin. Our capabillities and assets will be mobilized to create a very powerful economic region." Barcin Yinanc (Hurriyet Daily News) reports, "Turkey again tried to assume the role of 'troubleshooter' Thursday as it pressed Syria and Iraq to ease the tension stemming from Iraqi accusations that Syria is behind bomb attacks in Baghdad." That's how it's reported in Turkey -- a long, long way from assertions Hoshyar Zebari has made on Al Jazeera TV where he repeatedly insists that Turkey sees Iraq in the right and Syria in the wrong.

Meanwhile, on the topic of Iraqi refugees, a rebuke to Nouri and his strong-arm attempts on relief agencies and the United Nations. Julian Isherwood (Politiken) reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi "has urged Denmark to reconsider the forced repatriation of Iraqis whose requests for asylum in Denmark have been refused." The Copenhagen Post adds that "Helle Lykke Nielsen, associate professor at the University of Souterhn Denmark's Centre for Middle East Studies, believes the message is a way of telling Denmark that its current method of forcing Iraqis back to their country needs to be changed." Nouri al-Maliki has been eager to force the returns. He's now joined by the dim bulb Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq. Testifying to Congress last week [see Thursday's snapshot here, Friday's here and Kat's post here], Hill insisted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Iraqi refugees had to return for Iraq's own security. Yeah, the widow who saw her husband and oldest son shot dead before her and now lives in Syria? Without her, all of Iraq will crumble. Chris Hill was so very lucky that the press had little interest in his testimony. It was with the House Foreign Relations Committee, for example, under direct questioning from US House Rep Ted Poe that Hill had to admit the US had prior knowledge that the assault on Camp Ashraf and the Iranian refugees in the camp would take place. Hill was blabbering on about assurances that Nouri had given that the residents would be treated fairly and humanely and Poe interruped.

US House Rep Ted Poe: Excuse me, just to clairy the question -- or the answer -- was this before or after the security forces came into Camp Ashraf that we got this assurance?

Chris Hill: This uh, was before, because our -- The UN mandate for the -- for us to run -- to be responsible for uh this camp ended at the end of 2008 -- after 2008 -- that is, starting January 1, this year -- it is the sovereign and sole responsiblity of the Iraqi govenment and because of that, we sought from them written assurances that they would treat them humanely and that they would not forcibly repatriate them where they would be -- they could be -- tortured or persecuted based on their religious or political beliefs.

US House Rep Ted Poe: It doesn't appear that they have been treated humanely if eleven of them were murdered and thirty-six others were arrested.

Chris Hill: Well on July 28th, Iraqi forces went in to try to set up a uh police station. They regarded that as uh an exercise of their sovereignty because Ashraf is in Iraq.

US House Rep Ted Poe: Did we know about that before it happened?

Chris Hill: We -- I understand that -- They told us that -- Yes, they were going to do this.

So not only were their warnings from members of the British Parliament but Nouri -- according to Hill -- informed the US government that the 'action' was going to take place July 28th. For those who've forgotten, US troops were in the area when the assault took place and were ordered to stand down as they saw people bloodied. After his exchange with Poe, way after, US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee raised the issue and he fell back to "my previous answer" (to Poe) and declared that the US had "two committments that wev'e seen in -- what we've had in writing from the Iraqi government. One, that they will respect the human rights of the camp residents. And, two, that they will not engage in any forced repatriations to Iran." Yes, that was a ridiculous response. Nouri had already broken the early agreement with the assault on July 28th. As US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee observed, "Well I think that they're handling their business poorly and I would ask that, if there are human rights violations this blaring, we need to have answer and I appreciate if we'll have the opportunity to get them."

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