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Tilting at Windmills

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March 31, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MALIKI AND THE IRANIANS....So what's the story behind the "elaborate negotiations" that led to Muqtada al-Sadr issuing a statement in Najaf and asking his partisans to stand down in Baghdad and Basra? Leila Fadel of McClatchy has the details:

Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.

....The Iraqi lawmakers held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said.

Ali al Adeeb, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.

....The Qom discussions may or may not bring an end to the fighting but they almost certainly have undermined Maliki — who made repeated declarations that there would be no negotiations and that he would treat as outlaws those who did not turn in their weapons for cash. The blow to his own credibility was worsened by the fact that members of his own party had helped organize the Iran initiative.

"The delegation was from the United Iraqi Alliance (dominated by the Dawa party and the Supreme Council of Iraq), and the Prime Minister was only informed. It was a political maneuver by us," said Haider al Abadi, a legislator from Maliki's Dawa party.

Two comments. First: what a humiliation for Maliki. Not only did he blink first, but afterward his own people publicly undermined what little authority he had left. Yeesh.

Second: the head of the Badr Organization sure does seem to have, um, remarkably speedy access to the head of Iran's Qods force, doesn't he? It's something to ponder the next time some Bush administration or U.S. Army spokesperson casually maligns Sadr as "Iranian backed" but maintains a discreet silence when it comes to the far deeper and longer-lived Iranian ties of Maliki's own Dawa/Badr alliance. Just sayin'.

Kevin Drum 1:22 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Take this with a huge grain of salt. A reporter from Baghdad, with a "special correspondent" from Basra, supposedly having the inside story about a war zone several hundred miles away?

Posted by: brian on March 31, 2008 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Two comments. First: what a humiliation for Maliki. Not only did he blink first, but afterward his own people publicly undermined what little authority he had left. Yeesh.

So what? See how it turns out first. Then we'll know if it was really a huge humiliation or not. If his earlier claim about treating people who don't turn their weapons in as enemies was based on an overestimation of his own abilities, than it was the earlier statement that was a humiliation-- not necessarily his current deal-making. I'd expect a Republican neocon hard-liner who dogmatically calls all negotiation with guys like the Qods wrong to say something like striking a deal with them is a humiliation for al Maliki.

Posted by: Swan on March 31, 2008 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Sheesh, Swan,

He's making deals but just yesterday it was all "no retreat, no surrender" and "the Sadrists are worse than Al Qaeda".

Would you like him to wear a beanie hat too?

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on March 31, 2008 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Swan,

Of course, dear. Everyone who disagrees with you is a Republican, or a neocon. Now it's past your bedtime. Have you palmed your meds again?

Posted by: nurse ratched on March 31, 2008 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Well said. Two more takeaways. The Iraqi government didn't turn to the US for diplomatic help - it turned to Iran. And this does not guarantee the end of this flirtation with Civil War. So why are our troops left in the middle of this mess???

Posted by: pgl on March 31, 2008 at 6:11 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Maliki will now be called Commander Qodpiece.

Posted by: Mudge on March 31, 2008 at 6:12 AM | PERMALINK

OK, this war is making a lot more sense to me. I am sure glad we are risking our soldiers to non-mediate a tripartite (quadripartite?) civil war over the corpse of Iraq. Real mediation being supplied by Iran while we... bomb from the sidelines. I am sure that makes us popular in Iraq.

Posted by: searp on March 31, 2008 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

[trolling deleted]

Posted by: ob;ong on March 31, 2008 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

As has been pointed out elsewhere, whatever the truth of the events at issue it is most certainly good news for Rudolph William Louis "Rudy" Giuliani.

Posted by: steve duncan on March 31, 2008 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

"He'll have but a few months, if that, to chuck his left wing idealism and start getting his hands dirty and if he fails to understand this or is not up to the task we are in serious trouble."
Posted by: ob;ong on March 31, 2008 at 7:58 AM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So true. I hear he's actually more attuned to the coming battle than you may know. As we speak he's secretly (until now!) undergoing intense training in the fine, upstanding arts of waterboarding and testicle electrode placement. And we all know as filthy as those damned dirty Muslims are Obama will truly be getting his hands dirty once real world applications come to bear.

Posted by: steve duncan on March 31, 2008 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

There's no doubt that, after seven years of lies, indifference, and blunders, Bush is going to hand Hillary or Obama a godawful mess. And there's no doubt either that the Democrats will start being blamed for everything whatsoever on January 21, 2009. Our little shit Ob;ong here is already getting warmed up. I have no idea what kind of reality these people live in, but hopefully the American people have given up on those morons by now.

When Obama talks about bipartisanship and "reaching across the aisle" it makes my blood run cold. If he just means offering deals to the few surviving non-mentally-ill Republicans in the Senate and the House, in order to split the Republicans and marginalize the Republican Congressional leadership, wonderful. But if he actually tries to work with the Republican leadership they'll be on him like a pack of starving weasels and leave nothing behind but chunks of bone and the fillings in his teeth.

Posted by: John Emerson on March 31, 2008 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Ob;ong (or is it oblong?) makes the statement about two ways to fight a counterinsurgency. He of course cites two ways that an imperialistic power can handle an insurgency that threatens their interests. Insurgencies arose in Viet Nam and Afghanistan during French and Russian occupation. Insurgencies exist in the Philippines that date back to the days of U.S. possession. But his comment that one option is to leave underscores the imperialistic natue of the situation.

There is no cohesive insurgency in Iraq, largely because there has never been a functional government in Iraq. The various interests seek to establish and exercise primal control over the first functional government. The recent events concerning Basra further prove the depth of influence of Iran on the future of Iraq. Remember back to the days when Basra was touted as a city that was calm and coming back, to use the recent ressurection by Bush of Harding's term, to normalcy.

The other option cited by Ob;ong is to fight the war the way it needs to be fought. We have been there 5 years. Our finest military minds have been involved in the issue that entire time. Ob;ong needs to send an e-mail to the military with his secret formula. Theyhave not been successful for 5 years, they need fresh ideas.

Posted by: Mudge on March 31, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Oddly the negotiations are between factions within the United Iraqi Alliance, since al Sadr's followers for part of the UIA delegation in parliament (and gave crucial support to al Maliki when he was initially chosen as Prime Minister).

Very humiliating for the USA and al Maliki, but also very humiliating for an Iranian -- Ayatollah Sistani head Shi'ite clergyman in Iran. The UIA ran for election with his photo on it's posters and he has had pre-eminent role in, at least, trying to prevent open warfare within the UIA.

He now seems as irrelevant as George Bush, and, quite frankly, I consider this a greater loss for Iraq as I have a higher opinion of al Sistani's judgment than of Bush's.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on March 31, 2008 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Ob;ong or oblong or sad schlong:
Didn't see any liberal "revelry" in the post nor mention of Obama. Just plenty of bad news coming out of Iraq...you remember, the tragic clusterfuck initiated by neocon morons and cheered by ignorant asses like yourself. Your "fight the war the way it needs to be fought" is disgusting - this war never needed fighting in the first place. 4000 dead Americans, 600,000 dead Iraqis and a destroyed country not enough for you?

The next president of this country will be seriously fucked:

You got something right. After 8 years of Bush and the Republicans, the next president will have quite a challenge stepping this country back from the brink. I find it interesting that you drone on the rest of your post about Obama. Getting nervous? Good.

Posted by: ckelly on March 31, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Funny and sad how liberals revel in the bad news coming from Iraq

Funny and sad how neoconservatives stick their fingers in their ears and yell "la la la la la la" whenever they hear bad news about the Really Big Idea That Couldn't Possibly Go Wrong.

Maybe if they'd been a little better at facing hard truths, instead of denying them as part of a partisan "permanent campaign," they wouldn't have done so much harm to their country.

Posted by: joe on March 31, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Tony Blair said (2/21/07)
" "Over the past months, we have been conducting an operation in Basra, with the 10th Division of the Iraqi Army, to reach the stage where Basra can be secured by the Iraqis themselves. The situation in Basra is very different from Baghdad. ... As a result of this operation [in Basra], which is now complete, the Iraqi Forces now have the primary role for security in most parts of the city."

Posted by: TJM on March 31, 2008 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Cernig wrote:

He's making deals but just yesterday it was all "no retreat, no surrender" and "the Sadrists are worse than Al Qaeda".

Cernig, if that's shooting yourself in the foot, then how is swearing off doing that humiliating?

If he's making the right moves now, then he's cutting off humiliation. He's not leaving himself exposed to more humilation just so he can pretend he's infallible and hope for the best in a plan of action he knows look like it's going nowhere.

Posted by: Swan on March 31, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Are we meant to believe that

"Sadr...is in Qom pursuing religious studies.

I don't think so.

Posted by: ex-liberal on March 31, 2008 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, it really doesn't matter what side of the presidential race you are on at the moment. The minute the Democrat is handed the mess in Iraq, all of us will be proud owners. So you might as well educate yourself now. When Barak Obama said he would negotiate with the Iranians and everybody, including the Hillary fans, jumped all over him, he meant to say: "we are negotiating with the Iranians right now; it is just nobody on either side wants to own up to it." This kind of secret back-door deal making is very unhealthy for all parties, that is all the citizes of the concerned countries. It propagates conspiracies and unaccounability on the part of officials. It re-enforces the paranoia about the Iranian government.

As I posted two days ago, Sadr doesn't want outright confrontation w/ Maliki and was in the process of negotiations. That Iran played a heavy hand in these is no surprise to people familiar with the politics of the region. Iran supported both the Sadr and Hakim dynasties, one now headed by Moqtada and his Mahdi Army and the other by Hakim, Badr Brigade and SCIRI.
Sistani is a character too gentle and liberal for the current politics of Iraq. He is irrelevant. People who would have supported him left the country long ago.
Sadr wants a piece of the pie and will get it. If the Americans, through negotiations with Iran, make this peaceful then some hope for stability is on the horizon. If not... Well we will be back to wack-a-mole. Fighting in turn the Sunnis and the Shiites.
What American citizens need to do-other than to demand transparency--is to urge their government to facilitate a fair and lucrative international oil bidding process for Iraq, promise to get the hell out of there once the country calms down, and pass a resolution in congress to never, ever do this again.

Posted by: Marzi on March 31, 2008 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

An interesting statement in the McClatchy article:

..."We had evidence (that Muqtada and Iranian-backed militants were fighting security forces) and we sent people urgently...If we had been waiting for one year in Baghdad we wouldn't have had this result." The delegation is expected to return to Iraq Monday...

This highlights the powerlessness of the Baghdad government and simultaneously highlights the power of Iran to catalyze quick results. Ultimately this is in many ways a message to the US that the control we have in Iraq is illusory and that effective leadership in Baghdad isn't going to happen as long as we remain in Iraq and prop up the government.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 31, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

McClatchy is the new AP.

Posted by: model62 on March 31, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

With a cease fire being brokered in Iran, it brings up the question: Why are we in Iraq?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on March 31, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Marzi:promise to get the hell out of there once the country calms down,

Sounds like a hundred years should cover it.

This kind of open-ended point at which something like getting out can be discussed is self-defeating. How calm is calm? Like Detroit? London? Beirut?

You might as well admit that the (idiotic) analogies of South Korea, Germany and Japan are entirely apropos.

Whether it's HRC or BHO, the only decision necessary is under what timetable are the troops coming hone.
The second decision is under what terms does the US get the oil produced by the free and democratic state of Iraq (or which parts call themselves such, includes Kurdistan).

Posted by: TJM on March 31, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, it really doesn't matter what side of the presidential race you are on at the moment. The minute the Democrat is handed the mess in Iraq, all of us will be proud owners. So you might as well educate yourself now

Already have educated myself, fucko, and NO, we will NOT own the mess in Iraq. Bush owns the mess in Iraq--despite every attempt by the Congress to provide oversight after giving him the authorization to invade, his administration has resisted all attempts to be reined in and given conditions that we are only now just realizing would have been a good idea a few years ago.

It IS a civil war. We are stuck in the middle of it. And the Surge is an immense failure at getting the Iraqis to engage in meaningful political reconcilliation.

On Sunday General Hayden told us the threat that directly faces this country comes from Pakistan and the area where al Qaeda has reconstituted itself. Thanks to the war in Iraq, we don't have the troops to confront that threat.

So, no. As a Democrat, I won't "own" a war Bush started and waged and screwed up while our real enemies rebuilt themselves in a country Bush has given billions of dollars to while thwarting any attempt by the Democrats in Congress to perform their basic oversight function.

Posted by: Pale Rider on March 31, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

The main reason for Maliki's attack on Basra is oil revenue for the Baghdad government. But there has been plenty of evidence, all along, that ALL of the Shiites, -- Maliki, Badr, Sadr, whomever -- deal most easily with Iran. That the Iraqi Shiites also fight among themselves is a minor point, by comparison. The reason the U.S. is staying in Iraq is to prevent Iran, in an easy alliance with one or all of the Shiite groups, from having effective control over most of the oil there (--the southern fields are the biggest, not in Kurdistan.) The U.S. has been trying to use fighting among the Shiites to jockey for influence, to bring Iraq "back together" and make a Western ally (almost certainly under another dictator of some sort.) If the Iranians broker the truce instead, the game is lost. The U.S. has lost the main objective. Perhaps the people in the U.S. will finally get the idea that the U.S. has no sway in this area, except at the point of a gun?

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on March 31, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider:
Your country invaded an innocent nation, destroyed most of its infrastructure, killed its innocent citizens, and you don't want to own it? Maybe you should have campaigned harder for the other side, gone to more anti-war rallys, been more convincing in your arguments...What are you going to do with the four million dispaced Iraqis? Just leave them to their fate? Your country doesn't even want to give their translators amnesty here. Rohrbacher (R-CA) said today that the ones already here need to be sent back. What kind of a citizen of democracy are you?
Iraq is a mess we created. We need to take care that it deosn't turn into a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. There is a just and progressive way to achieve that. So buck up. And stop sloganeering; it's tiresome.

Posted by: Marzi on March 31, 2008 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Your country invaded an innocent nation, destroyed most of its infrastructure, killed its innocent citizens, and you don't want to own it?

Ah, but that's not how you framed this--you said that when a Democrat takes over, we'll all own it.

Sorry, asshole--I voted AGAINST these fuckers. I voted AGAINST members of Congress who voted to authorize the war. I voted AGAINST them in 2000 and AGAINST them in 2002 and AGAINST them in 2004 and AGAINST them in 2006. In our Democracy, when I vote AGAINST the fuckers who perpetrate war, I don't "own" that war. I "opposed" that war. And I voted that way both in and out of uniform. So I am vested in this in many different ways.

Maybe you should have campaigned harder for the other side, gone to more anti-war rallys, been more convincing in your arguments...

See above. Plus I have been posting here and everywhere else for 2.5 years. Oh, and have a look at my handiwork here with a pro-war set of Republicans:
http://bluegirlredmissouri.blogspot.com/2008/03/uncle-bimbo-badgers-wheelchair-bound.html

and here:
http://bluegirlredmissouri.blogspot.com/2008/03/intellectual-dishonesty-from-wingnuts.html

And so on and so forth. Yes, I'm blogwhoring. But that is me standing up for a wheelchair-bound Veteran for Peace against the bullying of Blackfive's Uncle Jimbo. What the fuck did you do today, besides bitch at me?

What are you going to do with the four million dispaced Iraqis? Just leave them to their fate?

If we had a State Department, we could help them. Again, I voted against these fuckers.

Your country doesn't even want to give their translators amnesty here. Rohrbacher (R-CA) said today that the ones already here need to be sent back. What kind of a citizen of democracy are you?

My state welcomed the Hmong and we welcomed the Vietnamese. My state has done a lot to welcome people displaced by the wars my government has fought. See, I vote AGAINST people like Dana Rohrbacher, so you can fuck off with that analogy as well.

Iraq is a mess we created. We need to take care that it deosn't turn into a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. There is a just and progressive way to achieve that. So buck up. And stop sloganeering; it's tiresome.

Uh huh. You throw that "we" around like a concern troll. Fuck off--I don't own this war. I oppose this war and I want all of our troops out now.

Your shit is the tiresome shit--no, we are not all going to have to come together and jointly take the blame for George W Bush's war. You, Bush, Lieberman and McCain can join hands and skip to your lou all you want singing that refrain, but I remain on the side of the opposition that was right in 2003 and is right today.

Posted by: Pale Rider on March 31, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Informed during a Good Morning America interview broadcast Wednesday that two-thirds of Americans now think the war was not worth fighting, Cheney said: "So?"

"So you don't care what the American people think?" ABC's Martha Raddatz asked.

He added: "I think we cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations of the public opinion polls. There has in fact been fundamental change and transformation and improvement for the better. That's a huge accomplishment."

If he doesn't care what I think, then how do I own the war? Answer me that, fucko. Answer me how I'm supposed to "own" the war when the VP doesn't give two shits what the people who oppose the war think about it?

Posted by: Pale Rider on March 31, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Does this man "own" the war? What's up with wingnuts picking on dudes in wheelchairs today? Is that all they can handle?

Police arrest anti-war protester, 80, at mall
BY ANASTASIA ECONOMIDES AND MATTHEW CHAYES |
March 30, 2008

An 80-year-old church deacon was removed from the Smith Haven Mall yesterday in a wheelchair and arrested by police for refusing to remove a T-shirt protesting the Iraq War.

Police said that Don Zirkel, of Bethpage, was disturbing shoppers at the Lake Grove mall with his T-shirt, which had what they described as "graphic anti-war images." Zirkel, a deacon at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Wyandanch, said his shirt had the death tolls of American military personnel and Iraqis - 4,000 and 1 million - and the words "Dead" and "Enough." The shirt also has three blotches resembling blood splatters.

Police said in a release last night that Zirkel was handing out anti-war pamphlets to mallgoers and that mall security told him to stop and turn his shirt inside out. Zirkel refused to turn his shirt inside out and wouldn't leave, police said. Security placed him on "civilian arrest" and called police. When police arrived, Zirkel passively resisted attempts to bring him to a police car, the release said.

But Zirkel said he was sitting in the food court drinking coffee with his wife Marie, 77, and several others when police and mall security officers approached and demanded they remove their anti-war T-shirts.

The others complied, but Zirkel said he refused, and when he wouldn't stand up to be removed and arrested, authorities brought over a wheelchair. "They forcibly picked me up and put me in the wheelchair," said Zirkel, a deacon at one of the poorest Catholic parishes on Long Island, where a devastating fire recently destroyed the rectory and storage areas.

Zirkel was charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was released on bail. A spokeswoman for mall owner Simon Property Group did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

How does an 80 year old man in a wheelchair "resist arrest?" Did they want to tase him over a t-shirt?

That guy doesn't own your fucking war either, does he?

Posted by: Pale Rider on March 31, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

We don't want a solution, we just want the oil. Any other hypothesis just doesn't fit the fact pattern.

Posted by: MLuther on March 31, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Deacon Zirkel has taken ownership of the war by allowing himself to be arrested for protesting against it. Few Americans risk arrest or other punishment for protesting the war, withholding their income taxes or for obstructing its prosecution.

More Americans need to accept ownership of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, but most fear the consequences of confrontation with their government. I do. Deacon Zirkel deserves respect and support.

Posted by: Brojo on March 31, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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