Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 29, 2008
By: Eric Martin

THIS IS WHERE I BELONG...The most prominent remaining goal of the Bush administration with respect to its Iraq policy is to secure a long term treaty that would allow for a continued presence of US troops in that country for the foreseeable future and, presumably, tie the hands of the incoming administration (or at least create a heavy presumption in favor of consistency) with respect to such matters.

With an eye on the domestic election calendar (as well as the impending withdrawal of the extra "surge" related troops), the Bush administration has set a deadline of the end of July for the deal to be hammered out. In the meantime, the Bush team has been putting considerable pressure on the Iraqi government to take the necessary steps to forge an acceptable accord. Some of the impetus for its decision to push the Maliki government to woo back the Sunni bloc is to provide the imprimatur of broad-based legitimacy to the treaty, or at least the appearance thereof. There has also been speculation that at least part of the motivation for the recent anti-Sadr operations is to intimidate/weaken Sadr in order to mute his expected opposition to the treaty.

It's not just Sadr though. The long term treaty is opposed by large segments of the Iraqi population - perhaps majorities - as well as by other prominent political and religious leaders. Fearing this public backlash, the negotiations between the Bush administration and the Maliki government have been conducted largely in secret, without information or updates provided to the Iraqi people, let alone consultation. That might change, however. Iraqi political and religious leaders are beginning to push back, both on the somewhat arbitrary (by Iraqi standards at least) July deadline and against the treaty itself:

An agreement between the United States and Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain operating in Iraq past 2008 should be put to a popular referendum, Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged in an online message to his followers.

The message also calls for weekly protests against the agreement, being negotiated by the two governments.

Al-Sadr also called for "an organized media action" and "a unified political and parliamentary movement" to oppose the standards of forces agreement, which would replace the U.N. resolution that allows U.S. troops to operate in Iraq when it expires at the end of the year.

Al-Hayat reports (via Juan Cole), that Sistani is on board with the national referendum idea as well:

Sources close to the office of the Shiite Supreme Exemplar, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, told al-Hayat that he called on...Iraqi prime minister [Maliki] during the latter's visit to Najaf recently, to deal cautiously with the agreement and called on him to organize a national referendum on it. [emph. added throughout]

Sadr's vocal opposition and, if true, Sistani's more subtle objections, may be yielding results. From the same al-Hayat article (via badger):

Sources said Iraq has informed the American delegation of its intention to extend the talks to the end of the year, on account of unfavorable domestic conditions, and [they informed the Americans also of the need for] deep study of the form of the American military presence in Iraq, and of the proposals for ending [that presence] in case it is no longer necessary.

The Bush administration, consistent with its selective dedication to democracy, will staunchly oppose a national referendum on this subject - despite the enormity of the issue to be decided and the long term effects the decision could have on Iraqi society. You see, some purple fingers are prettier than others (just ask the residents of Gaza). Nevertheless, the Bush team wil continue to rationalize its decision to keep 150,000 troops in Iraq on the grounds that these forces are needed to protect the Iraqi people (at least those not located in Fallujah, Sadr City and other targeted areas). Even if the Iraqi people don't agree. What do they know after all?

Tell me now if you want me to stay. It don't matter, 'cause I'd stay here anyway.

Eric Martin 11:32 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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A treaty requires action by the Senate. Any chance Harry Reid is going to let this thing come to the floor?

I have been reading about some extra constitutional treaty alternative that the administration thinks will tie the next President's hands. Sorry, that dog don't hunt except in the fevered neo-con imagination.

About now Bush is realizing just how stupid the permanent campaign and the 50+1 mandate really are. He just doesn't have any ability to really accomplish anything permanent. All he can do is hold on until he leaves office.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 29, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

You're missing one element of the story--under the Constitution, a valid Treaty requires approval by the US Senate (Article II, section 2). The administration doesn't want to put its agreement with Iraq in front of the Senate, for obvious reasons. So , while what is discussed here is fairly called a "Treaty," the Bushies won't actually admit that that's what it is, so they can unilaterally enter into it without Senate approval. Looks like the Iraqi people aren't the only ones being denied a vote on this...

Posted by: monboddo on May 29, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think Ron has it right.

The Bush administration won't be able to get a treaty approved by the Senate. They'll tack together some half-assed "agreement" in secret with al Maliki, but it won't be considered binding by the new Democratic president. Bush's only hope of having a permanent influence on the occupation is McCain becoming president. McCain seems happy to stay in Iraq until the sun explodes without the formality of a treaty.

Posted by: cowalker on May 29, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

cowalker wrote: "McCain seems happy to stay in Iraq until the sun explodes ..."

No, just until all of the oil has been extracted.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 29, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

"All he can do is hold on until he leaves office."

I wonder. There is a very troubling post at Moon of Alabama regarding the replacement of Rice with Hadley, moving Abrams ot head of the National Security Council, the replacement of Chris Hill with Bolton, the replacement of Gates, and the replacement of Paulson, in order to allow a more "forceful pursuit of the President's aim to make history."


Someone's unfounded nightmare, one would hope. But given the actual nightmare this administration is responsible for, perhaps not.

Posted by: on May 29, 2008 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Could someone please explain to "Guest: Eric Martin" what "democracy" is?

Because the concept appears to escape him.


Posted by: a on May 29, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with much of what is said.

They won't call it a treaty for the reasons stated (though that's what it is).

The next Dem Prez won't feel bound by it because of that, but the Bush team will try anyway (could create some limited presumption against withdrawal, or some face-saving means if the Dem doesn't want out right away or at all).

McCain is the best hope. Which, I think, is also why they want this thing done by July (and they set July as the deadline knowing that it could easily be pushed back).

This will give McCain some campaign ammo: We can't abandon the Iraqis who have asked us to stay!

Posted by: Eric Martin on May 29, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure how likely any status of forces agreement was going to be before November at any rate. I'm more curious as to the status of the regional elections penciled in for October (as in surprise).

Posted by: jhm on May 29, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

So, Iraq delays treaty talks until a new admin is elected and hopes like hell for a Dem so they can say no to perm bases. If McCain is elected, and Maliki continues to object, he'll be out on his ass. Democracy be damned.

Funny, and they thought it was their country.

Posted by: The fake fake AL on May 29, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Treaty? That's not happening. What Bush can do is sign an agreement that purports to commit the US to a long-term presence. What Obama can do is tell the world that any such agreement is beyond Bush's authority and will be disregarded. This would be a bit of a diplomatic brouhaha, but it is simple enough to understand. The USA can't and won't be bound by the extra-legal pronouncements of GWBush.

Posted by: tom on May 29, 2008 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

not sure i approve of ray's words in the aggressor's mouth.

Posted by: dbreger on May 29, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the certainty that such a treaty would not pass the Senate...

The Lieberman/Kyl Amendment (a "Sense of the Senate" resolution regarding military action against Iran) passed EASILY less than a year ago. Half the Dems voted for it, and all the Repubs.

At least half the Dems are still down with the PNAC plan.

Posted by: flubber on May 29, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK


Apologies to the Davies family.


Rumor has it those elections are being pushed back as well.

Posted by: Eric Martin on May 29, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

...tie the hands of the incoming administration

How does Bush really do that? It ain't going to happen.

Getting the oil for Western Contractors and their collective pipeline dream was the only thing it all about. Trust me, we Americans would get oil cheaper if Iraq nationalised their oil for Iraqis and we pulled out. This New American Century occupation dream is nothing but a bust of inflated trillion dollar push for US bankruptcy expenditures and is a constant drain And lethal on US national military competency. Bush is over there with a gun to everyone's head in Mideast forcing them to do business with the US and nobody else. It only guarantees than Iran absolutely NEEDS nuclear weapons in order to get Bush to go home. And it's not like the UN doesn't know that too.

Everybody KNOWS why McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years. It's the oil stupid. This nation will go bankrupt trying to protect what has never been ours.

Posted by: Me-again on May 29, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Any chance of letting US hold a "national referendum" on it? Democracy, ya know?

Posted by: Nannyberry on May 29, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

What do you mean, "selective dedication to democracy"? This administration didn't even want legitimate votes counted in Florida in the year 2000! Why would they want the popular vote to matter in an occupied country half a world away?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 29, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Here is some recommended language for the referendum:

How long would you like our generous and freedom-loving American friends and benefactors to stay in Iraq?
1) 10 years
2) 50 years
3) As long as it takes until democracy reigns, women are free, and all the ponies are distributed

Posted by: jb on May 29, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Any chance of letting US hold a "national referendum"

Too many blue middle fingers.

Posted by: Brojo on May 29, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Cue Trashy blathering about the commitments the next president will honor to our so-called "allies" in Iraq in 3...2...

Posted by: Gregory on May 29, 2008 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: washerdreyer on May 29, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo is on a roll this week.

Posted by: thersites on May 29, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK


Repaired. Thanks for the head's up.

Posted by: Eric Martin on May 29, 2008 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

The US is going the same route as all post-colonial era empires, she just hasn't recognized it yet because fascist morons have their hands on the tiller.

Anyway GW is the touch of death overseas even more than here. Karzai has done a better job of distancing himself without doing much.

Maliki is staying close enough to have the extra security of US firepower. If he ever concluded he could do without it.... Just like Abbas, being favored by the US is no favor.

Stupid is as stupid does, and we're doing pretty well with preznit, Rice, Cheney, et al.

Posted by: notthere on May 29, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for this post. I am a daily reader of Dr Cole's "Informed Comment" blog... today's reports on the popular opposition in IRaq to the USA security agreement is the type of story that none of the MSM outlets are reporting. Cole reported last week that Al Sistani is considering a fatwa saying resistance to foreign occupation is valid. None of this is being reported... yet we are continually fed the line from the Pentagon and the WH that the surge is succeeding.

Posted by: leftymn on May 29, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

"I am a daily reader of Dr Cole's "Informed Comment" blog..."

You might find the site referenced by Eric Martin, "Missing Links", ('Badger'), even more useful, for Iraq issues. His translations of stories from the Iraqi and other Arab press provide a point of view not to be had elsewhere. Truly excellent.


Posted by: G Hazeltine on May 30, 2008 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK
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