Who’s In Charge?

In Iraq, that is.
Under a security agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad last November during president George Bush’s tenure, U.S. troops will withdraw from towns and cities by June 30 and from the whole country by the end of 2011.
Apparently the first milestone is in a bit of danger.

President Obama during his recent visit to Iraq:

    Under enormous strain and under enormous sacrifice, through controversy and difficulty and politics, you’ve kept your eyes focused on just doing your job. And because of that, every mission that’s been assigned — from getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections — you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement, and for that you have the thanks of the American people. That’s point number one.
    Point number two is, this is going to be a critical period, these next 18 months. I was just discussing this with your commander, but I think it’s something that all of you know. It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.

It looks like the Iraqis are taking responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty, and for some of ours. The US is no longer in charge of its own force deployments and the June 30 deadline may be out the window.
Colonel Volesky, Commander, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team 1st Cavalry Division :

    The 30 June date that’s — that’s out there, we are conducting an assessment right now with our Iraqi counterparts to determine what the way ahead is for security in Mosul. And based on that assessment, a decision will be made what we will do on 30 June. If the Iraqi government believes we should stay in Mosul to continue the security progress, we’ll support our Iraqi counterparts past 30 June and continue to build on the momentum that we’ve got here.

General Odierno, Commander US Forces Iraq:

    “If we believe that we’ll need troops to maintain presence in some of the cities, we’ll recommend that, but, ultimately, it’s the decision of Prime Minister [Nuri al-] Maliki,” said Odierno, who was speaking from a U.S. base in Iraq.

Who’s in charge?
Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki, born June 20, 1950, also known as Jawad al-Maliki, is the Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party.
Maliki has made four visits to neighboring Iran. During his most recent visit he said:

    “Our security achievements and redeeming Iraq from the sectarian war gave us the chance to exert more efforts to accelerate the process of reconstruction and development, which needs the presence of neighboring countries’ companies.”

He has made one visit to Russia.

    “Russian companies are already working on our territory and we want such Russian participation to widen and to grow,” the Shiite prime minister said as he was welcomed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Do you think that the US Secretary of State might have some influence in this important matter? It’s doubtful. Hillary Clinton called for Maliki to be removed from office in 2007. Senator Clinton urged Iraq’s parliament to select a “less divisive and more unifying figure”.
UPDATE: A reader has raised the issue of the second SOFA milestone, complete US military withdrawal before 2011. This leads to the obvious question: If Iraq is the final decider on June 30, as they appear to be, can’t they be expected to fulfill the same roll on 2011 with Washington’s compliance? And given the very real possibility of a non-compliance with 6/30, and the lack of any troop withdrawals to date or in the immediate future, and the current crackdown by the ruling Shi’ites on Sunnis under US military protection, isn’t it likely that any 2011 decision by Iraq would be for a continued US military presence beyond the end of next year?
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here.

11 thoughts on “Who’s In Charge?”

  1. From Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment:

    Odierno Certain that US Troops will be Out of Iraq by Late 2011
    General Ray Odierno, after months of appearing to want to wriggle out of the requirement in the Status of Forces Agreement that US troops depart Iraq by the end of 2011, reversed himself forcefully on CNN on Sunday:
    [John] King: “And on a scale of 1 to 10, sir, how confident are you, 10 being fully confident, that you will meet that deadline, that all U.S. troops will be gone at the end of 2011?”
    ODIERNO: “As you ask me today, I believe it’s a 10 that we will be gone by 2011.”
    The discrepancy between Odierno’s earlier statements to journalist Tom Ricks, reported in the latter’s The Gamble, is significant — he earlier maintained that the US would have 30,000 troops in Iraq in 2016.
    His appearance with King may have been necessitated by his recent interview in the Times of London, in which he questioned the June 30, 2009, deadline for an end to the patrolling of Iraqi cities by US combat troops. Odierno suggested that more, not fewer US troops might be needed in Mosul and Baquba over the next year.
    But his statement on Sunday about the end-process was unequivocal. There are two possible explanations. One is that Odierno’s main problem is with the timeline within the troop withdrawal timetable, not with the ultimate withdrawal. Thus, he is opposed to the ban on combat patrols by US troops after June of this year, and he is uncomfortable with the August 31, 2010 deadline for combat troops to be out of Iraq. But it may be that his dissatisfaction with those earlier deadlines derives precisely from his desire to shape Iraq’s security environment decisively before the total withdrawal.
    The other possibility is that he was becoming known for insubordination against al-Maliki’s and Obama’s plans for a US troop withdrawal, and finally had to express his commitment to the 2011 deadline if he was to keep his job and his career.
    In the former case, Odierno has clarified his own plans for the next 2 1/2 years in Iraq, which differ in some respects from what is envisaged in the Status of Forces Agreement and by Obama. In the latter case, we just saw a 180 degree turn on the part of a key American general, who has been subordinated to Obama and al-Maliki

    I watched in mounting disgust over the years as Sheriff Dick and Deputy Dubya played that old game of “hiding behind the troops.” Now, we’ve got our troops — or at least their General Motors generals — hiding behind our Iraqi puppet, Nuri Al-Maliki. President Obama has given generals Petraeus and Odierno an achievable goal (like leaving Iraq) along with an overly-generous amount of time in which to actually FINISH something. Naturally, Cheney and Dubya’s hand-picked generals have predictably started thinking they could pull a MacArthur on Obama and not get a Truman in response. Odierno’s recent falling back into line (at least if you ask him “today”) marks something of a welcome development. How much of one, we will not know until we ask our General Motors generals what they think and hear them answer: “The President sets policy. We just go where he sends us and do what he tells us to do.”

  2. There is only one real reason for delaying full withdrawal until 2011, and that is to buy time to figure out how to justify a permanent occupation.
    The U.S. has taken a great deal from the Israeli playbook.

  3. Mochael,
    Regarding Odierno’s “2011” remark, I commented briefly at Prof. Cole’s blog, saying he was wrong to call the remark unequivocal, and more at length on Tom Ricks’s:
    Odierno replied, “As you ask me today, I believe it’s a 10 that we will be gone by 2011.”
    “As you ask me today” means that Odierno’s belief applies only “today”. The door is open. It did not come with a lifetime guarantee.
    So the Huffington headline “Odierno Certain That All US Troops Will Be Out Of Iraq By 2011” is bogus, as is [Marc} Lynch’s observation that Odierno’s comment means that “the U.S. is firmly committed to removing its troops by the end of 2011”.
    Ask Odierno again tomorrow, or the next day.
    “As you ask me today” is simply another way of stating what has been the US policy since mid-2003, and that is that the withdrawal of US forces depends upon the situation. The facts on the ground (with some help from the US military) have dictated a continuing US military presence up to the present time, and will continue to do so, in my opinion.//end

  4. Don,
    As a lifelong student of Korzybskian General Semantics, I applaud the careful parsing of loaded lizard-language terminolgoy, especially through the use of various safety-devices like scare-quotes and subscript dating. Certainly, what Odierno/Petraeus(2009) says about leaving Iraq will not necessarily agree with what Odierno/Petraeus(2010) says about staying in Iraq, “just until things ‘stabilize’ a bit longer” (after seven-years-going-on-a decade). The key weasel-phrase “conditions based” has worked for our occupation’s various proconsuls too often in the past for them to willingly commit to a measurable schedule for actually FINISHING anything. Our General Motors generals really do love living in Saddam Hussein’s old palaces and/or their multi-billion-dollar imperial “bases.” Such a grandiose lifestyle sure beats the hell out of barracks accommodations back at Fort Podunk, U.S.A.
    But will an exasperated and fed-up American electorate really allow President Obama the leeway to cave-in to his own military subordinates in so obvious and craven a fashion? I dont’ think so. The American public wrote off IraqNamIstan years ago as a monumental mistake not worth anywhere near what it has cost us (let alone what it has cost the Iraqis and Afghans). I understand the stalling strategy of our military and its handmaiden conventional-wisdom media, but I think they fundamentally misunderstand what Barbara Tuchman said about the “reduced-American-casualties-means-“winning” formula marketed so unsuccessfully by Richard Nixon in Southeast Asia:

    Nixon’s [“Vietnamization”] plan failed to recognize that something more than a distress at casualties was active in the dissent; that many people felt a sense of wrong in the war, a violation of the way they felt about their country; that although protest would subside for a while with the return of the troops, the deeper feeling was a corollary of the war itself and would grow stronger with continued belligerence.

    The American public seldom, if ever, rekindles enthusiasm for drawn-out quagmires once the decisive letting-go has already occurred — as it has with regard to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent polls confirm that Americans want no part of Afghanistan and could care less if America has “won” or not in Iraq. The American military and friends in the MSM still haven’t caught on to the electoral reality that has trounced the discredited Republican Party for two straight election cycles. Any continued dalliance in the face of the public’s demand for withdrawal contains perilous risks for President Obama and the Democratic Party should they fail to deliver what the public demands — regardless of what the generals and our few remaining newspapers have to say.
    I agree with you and Shirin that what we hear “today” from our self-styled military “leadership” (regarding IraqNamIstan and other imperial projects) has only the purpose of creating ambiguity about what they will say “tomorrow” when, they hope, they will have “changed the facts on the ground” (as their A.Z.E. masters have taught them to parrot) and browbeaten Iraq’s “leaders” into “asking” them to stay forever.
    I understand what our military (and their fascist enablers in the Republican Party) think they can pull off through sheer intransigence and assiduous attempts to undermine the authority of their commander-in-chief. Nonetheless, I still haven’t seen conclusive evidence that President Obama wants to see his presidency collapse in a heap of rubble should he disregard the American public the way presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon did. Too much worthless, destructive shit has happened for far too many years. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall and broken into thousands of pieces; and “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”
    Generals Petraeus and Odierno think otherwise, but I don’t agree with them. And I have to think that in a relatively short time President Obama won’t either.

  5. But will an exasperated and fed-up American electorate really allow President Obama the leeway to cave-in to his own military subordinates in so obvious and craven a fashion?
    An exonerated and relatively well-fed American electorate is allowing President Obama to wash his hands of the fate of the Palestinians, to escalate the Af-Pak war, to continue to intercept all the US electronic and telephone communications he wants to, and to increase the nation’s indebtedness by an order of magnitude and destroy the dollar in the process. We won’t even notice another few pairs of hands on Obamas strings.
    We did our part. We voted for change!
    Looks like we’ll have to wait four years and vote for change again, eh?
    If events still haven’t interrupted our pipe dreams by then.

  6. Michael,
    The “electoral reality” is that (1) voting the Dems in has not resulted in any difference and (2) voters, thanks to our me-too two party system, have nowhere else to go and the Dems know it.
    The military reality is that the main factor quashing the Vietnam fig-leaf foul-up of futility was a revolt in the ranks of conscripted soldiers, a factor which doesn’t exist with the current well-paid and highly-motivated oo-ah volunteer force.
    Anyhow, the point of this thread, my point anyhow, is that the US has (unless Obama over-rules the Pentagon) found it expedient to depend upon our newly created colonial empire leader to make decisions regarding the deployment of US troops, a novel feature of warfare that I believe has gone hitherto unexplored, or has ever even been considered, and to that creative discovery we must give full credit to General David Petraeus, two command levels below the CinC.
    It wasn’t supposed to be this way. “Barack Obama has prospered in this presidential campaign because of the steadiness of his temperament and the judicious quality of his decision-making.”–Time, Oct 22, 2008
    So now, thanks to Petraeus, we’re depending upon the decison-making of Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki instead of Barack Hussein Obama? Did you vote for him (Maliki)? Who’s in charge?

  7. “So now, thanks to Petraeus, we’re depending upon the decison-making of Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki instead of Barack Hussein Obama? Did you vote for him (Maliki)? Who’s in charge?”
    With a war full of lies flying everywhere for the last six years, still your newspaper, they don’t know the difference in name of Iraq from Iran…
    read This
    creditably looks you trying hard using full names to make readers to believe, isn’t?

  8. Don,
    If you like more about Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki, read the below (arbic text)the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party.
    the truth is according to article below, he was a Ba’ath party member working as an auditor in the educations office (linked to ministry of education in the city) in Babylon city (former Hilla City) he was a Ba’ath member as senior member ((عضو فرقة) promoted him to be a primary school teacher, then in he fled to Syria when old regime start tracking down on the Al-Da’awa party members.
    there is more why Maliki has made four visits to neighboring Iran…… read you will find why
    حاول أحد وجهاء مدينة “طويريج” إخفاء ما بداخله، وهو يتحدث عن تاريخ رئيس وزراء العراق نوري المالكي وزعيم حزب الدعوة الإسلامي، الذي عارض نظام صدام حسين على مدار 25 عام.
    تعد مدينة “طويريج”، التي تتوسط مدينتي كربلاء وبابل، مسقط رأس المالكي، وتتسم بطابعها القبلي المتسامح، وكانت توصف بأنها “خمارة أهل النجف وكربلاء” لكونها قريبة من هاتين المدينتين المقدستين اللتان يمنع فيهما بيع الخمور، ويقع فيها ناد ترفيهي كبير كان يحمل اسم “نادي الموظفين” يرتاده سكان المدن القريبه ليعودوا في آخر النهار منتشين من شرب الخمر التراثي العراقي الذي يسمى “العرق”، وتتميز تلك المدينة الصغيرة بمناخ معتدل خصوصا في صيف العراق الحار، حيث تهب على شوارعها نسائم باردة من محيطها الكثيف بغابات النخيل وشواطئها، وحصلت على اسمها المتداول حاليا من قبل جيش الاحتلال البريطاني قبل 80 عام وذلك لوجود شارعين جاهزين فيها لسير العربات العسكرية فسميت “two way ready”، لكن أهالي المدينة عربوها بعد ذلك فصارت كما تعرف الآن “طويريج”.
    المصدر، الذي رفض الكشف عن اسمه، كان زميلا في يوم ما للمالكي حين كان يعمل في سلك التعليم أواخر عقد السبعينات، وقال في حديثه هامسا: “إن جميع أهالي طويريج يعرفون المالكي، لكنهم الآن يخشون البوح بهذا السر خوفا على حياتهم من ميليشيات حزب الدعوة المتنفذة داخل الحكومة وسطوة أخوته وأبناء عمومته الذين يعملون الآن في مراكز حكومية بارزه ومهمة، وسط غياب سلطة القانون”.
    يضيف الرجل، الذي قارب الستين من عمره، بعد أن تحسس (عقاله) المتدلي قليلا إلى الأمام: “كان نوري المالكي يعمل موظفا بسيطا في قسم الأرشيف في مديرية تربية مدينة بابل، لكنه حصل على تأهيل خاص كونه عضوا في حزب البعث الحاكم،آنذاك، يخوله العمل كمعلم في المدارس الابتدائية، وسريعا تفوق بنشاطه الحزبي حتى وصل إلى درجة (عضو فرقة) وهي مرتبة قيادية في حزب البعث المحظور حاليا، وصار عام 1979 مديرا لمدرسة (جناجه) الابتدائية في طويريج”.
    أكد المصدر أن “المالكي كان يحظى بدعم ورعاية ابن عمه طاهر يحيى العلي، القيادي البارز في حزب البعث، الذي تولى مناصب عدة، كان آخرها محافظ كربلاء ومسئول تنظيمات الفرات الأوسط لحزب البعث حتى عام 2003 والمقيم حاليا في سوريا ويساهم في لملمة تنظيم البعث”.
    السر الأكثر غرابة، الذي تحدث به المصدر ولم يكشف عنه سابقا، هو أن “نوري كامل المالكي ينتمي إلى قبيلة بني مالك العربية من جهة أمه وأن والده من أصول إيرانية استوطنت في مدينة طويريج القريبة من كربلاء قبل ما يقرب من 150 عامًا وعملت في مهنة الزراعة”.
    يقول المصدر: “إن المالكي وأقاربه يسمون بـ (الجناجيين) نسبة إلى قريتهم التي نزحوا منها في إيران، وأيضا سميت القرية التي يعيشون فيها في طويريج بقرية جناجه”، ويستدل المصدر على أصول المالكي الإيرانية باختلاف لون بشرته وشكله قائلا :”إنه ذو بشرة بيضاء وعريض الجبهة، كما أن جميع أقاربه من ذوي البشرة البيضاء المشربة بحمرة، وعددا كبيرا منهم ذو شعر أشقر”، وقال ضاحكا: “لمن يريد أن يتأكد فلينظر إلى رجال حمايته الذي يرافقونه دائما وهم من أبناء عمومته ويتأكد بنفسه بأن هؤلاء ليسوا من العرب”.
    مدينة طويريج، الفقيرة والمعدمة والتي تفتقد إلى الخدمات الأساسية، صارت تعج بالسيارات الحديثة، التي يستخدمها أفراد عائلة المالكي علاوة على منازل فخمة شيدت قريبا في قرية جناجة، التي يعمل غالبية أفرادها في فريق الحماية الخاص لرئيس الوزراء.
    كان القلق والتهرب والخوف واضحا على وجوه أهالي المدينة عند سؤالهم عن حقيقة أصول عائلة جناجه التي ينتمي إليها المالكي، لكن أشجعهم يرد: “يقولون قديما إنهم نزحوا من إيران”.
    يضيف المصدر، الذي لا يزال يصر على عدم الكشف عن اسمه: إن سبب هجرة المالكي من العراق إلى إيران والتحاقه بحزب الدعوة، كان بسبب “اثنين من أبناء خاله اللذين كانا يعملان في التنظيمات السرية لحزب الدعوة الإسلامي وكشفت أجهزة الأمن التابعة لنظام صدام حسين ذلك، مما جعلهم يعتقدون بأن نوري المالكي عضو الفرقة في تنظيمات حزب البعث يتستر على أقاربه المنتمين لأحزاب محظورة، فتم فصله من الحزب ومعاقبته، فهرب على أثرها إلى إيران معلنا نفسه معارضا ومناضلا في حزب الدعوة”.
    لكن عمله السابق في حزب البعث وجنيه الكثير من المكاسب، دفعه للانتقال من إيران الى سوريا، التي تحكم أيضا من قبل حزب البعث “فصار يعمل على محورين الأول هو حزب البعث والثاني حزب الدعوة”، حسب تحليل المصدر.
    وتبقى تصريحات المالكي ومشاريعه السياسية، التي تحمل دائما وجهين، مثار استغراب المحللين، فمن ناحية علاقته المتميزة بالجارة سوريا الداعم الأول لفصائل البعثيين المناوئين للمشروع الديمقراطي في العراق، وتمنعه الدائم عن إدانتها، ومن ناحية علاقاته المتميزة مع الجارة العدو إيران الداعمة، هي الأخرى، لجميع الفصائل المناوئة للديمقراطية بما فيهم تنظيم القاعدة، ولعل أصول المالكي الإيرانية وانتماءه لحزب البعث مفتاحان للدخول إلى دهاليز عقل المالكي ومشروعه القادم، الذي يستهدف إجراء مصالحة وطنية مشروطة مع فصائل حزب البعث بقيادة طاهر يحيى العلي، المرضي عنه من قبل النظام السوري، وكذلك الاستمرار بخدمة المصالح الإيرانية، التي تستهدف إفشال الدولة الديمقراطية العراقية الجديدة.
    قد تكون إشاعة عمرها 25 عامًا يحاول المالكي إخفاءها وقد تكون حقيقة لكن عالم الخوف الذي يسود الان يمنع كشفها معززة بالوثائق التي صار من المستحيل الحصول عليها، لان اول الاعمال التي قامت بها حركتنا الوطنية هي اتلاف ذلك الارشيف الضخم من الاوراق والملفات الامنية وغيرها في جميع مؤسسات الدولة.
    * صحيفة السياسي

  9. Maliki has made four visits to neighboring Iran.

    Among the Shiite factions close to Iran, only Maliki’s party simultaneously possesses all the characteristics of achieving a unified, friendly, and independent Shiite-dominated Iraq that could secure Iran’s interests.

    Brenda ShafferFormer Research Fellow, International Security Program, 1999-2000; Former Research Director, Caspian Studies Project, 2004-2007, Current Affiliation: Faculty Member, School of Political Science and Dept. of Asian Studies, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel

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