Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQ UPDATE....Nouri al-Maliki's statement to a group of Arab ambassadors yesterday that any security agreement with the U.S. would have to include a timetable for withdrawal of American troops was a little hard to interpret. Was he serious? Just telling Arab leaders what they wanted to hear? Playing for the home crowd? Or what?

Today, his national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, made things clearer:

"We will not accept any memorandum of understanding if it does not give a specific date for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops," Mr al-Rubaie told reporters in Iraq's holy city of Najaf.

"Our stance in the negotiations under way with the American side will be strong," he said, but added that it was proving "very difficult" to set a pullout date.

Needless to say, this is all part of the negotiation process, with Maliki feeling a lot of pressure from Sadrists and others who have successfully used the U.S. occupation as a campaign issue against him. With elections coming up later this year, Maliki doesn't want to get outflanked on his right.

Still, a public statement this unequivocal suggests that Maliki might actually be serious about this. I'd still give it less than 50-50 odds, but it's looking increasingly possible that we might end up with some kind of (nuanced, caveatted) timeline for U.S. troop withdrawals before Barack Obama even takes office.

UPDATE: The BBC report linked above says that "Mr al-Rubaie was speaking after meeting Iraq's top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani" — implying that Sistani may have been responsible for al-Rabaie's newfound hawkishness. Over at American Footprints, Eric Martin links to a report from Alalam that does more than imply:

The Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most revered Shiite leader in Iraq on Tuesday rejected any security agreement with US, stressing such deal will affect the country's sovereignty.

In a meeting with Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq Al-Rubaie who was briefing al-Sistani in Najaf on the progress of the government's security efforts, and the talks on US security deal, Ayatollah said his country will not accept such a security deal which is seeking to justify the illegal presence of US military troops in the war-torn country.

The wording here is odd and no other source has confirmed that Sistani himself said anything about the agreement, so don't take this too seriously yet. Just think of it as gossip worth keeping an eye on. As Eric puts it, "If Sistani says go, we go."

Kevin Drum 6:09 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

To really figure how things are going to turn out you need to know the direction that the mahogany lever under Dick Cheney's desk is pointing.

Posted by: optical weenie on July 8, 2008 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Maliki has given Obama agnostic theism the perfect opening to refine his “refining.”

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 8, 2008 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, wrong link verbiage inside the HTML. Same hyperlink, correct phrasing:

Maliki has given Obama the perfect opening to refine his “refining.”

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 8, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, care to expand on your view that the Bush surveillance program is likely "tightly focused on international terrorist activity"? It's met with a lot of incredulity in the previous thread.

Posted by: Crust on July 8, 2008 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Crust: Yeah, I noticed. Nobody actually presented any evidence to think Bush is spying on his political enemies, though, so for now I'll stick to my guess that NSA isn't doing it. However, it's probably best to leave that to the other thread.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on July 8, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Stand by for a "clarification" from Mr. al-Maliki. I'm guessing that he's getting a detailed description of his political future, even as we speak.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on July 8, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think what Maliki really wants is to delay any status of forces agreement until after the Iraqi elections. He'll probably agree to permanent troops after the election is over. But he needs to take a tough stance against America to win the elections. The public bluster is just a cover for his eventual cave-in.

Posted by: fostert on July 8, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Always have to look tough for the Camel Hassans constituency (Iraq equivalents of NASCAR dads). Universal political BS.

In truth I don't think the Iraq government dares to stick its collective heads outside the Green Zone lest said heads be lopped off slowly and painfully.

Posted by: Luther on July 8, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I love how you say "before Barack Obama takes office."

***The end of the Bush presidency***

I think it was David Corn that once said that the Bush trust-me routine has run out of gas.

Perspectives: Was it not Bush's repetitive maxim/standard that
"As the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down."
His arrogance is incredible.

What was that army men thing--oh yeah,--
Georgie Bush--Our sons and daughters are NOT your little green army men.

Thank you Kevin for a most welcome post.

Posted by: consider wisely always/a different voice on July 8, 2008 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

I know - s/b other thread, but, Kevin you can read the following and still "stick to your guess?"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/19/AR2005121901777.html

Have you forgotten about things like this? Why in gods name would you give them the benefit of doubt?

And on this topic.
You're crazy if you think there's a chance of any kind of an arrangement to fully withdraw troops being made by the Bush admin. No way.

Posted by: bh on July 8, 2008 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

BH -- Good point; how many files is the Eff-Be-Eye accumulating right now in for "pre-emptive antiterrorism" before this year's political conventions.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 8, 2008 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter if Maliki is just posturing. The point is, he's giving a putative President Obama justification for yanking the troops himself, by using Mailiki's own words. "The American people want to leave. The Iraqi people want us to leave. The Iraqi government wants us to leave. Who wants us to stay? Republican dead-enders and Al Qaeda want us to stay."

This assumes, of course, Obama's vow to pull the troops wasn't an(other) example of Obama's own posturing.

Posted by: mg on July 8, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody actually presented any evidence to think Bush is spying on his political enemies, though, so for now I'll stick to my guess that NSA isn't doing it.

Uh, Kev? Maybe the reason nobody has presented any evidence that Bush is spying on his political enemies is because it's secret!! And more to the point, completely unsupervised.

Now I don't know if they are or not either, but the question that pops into my mind turns the whole "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" concept that the right loves so much on its head: if they aren't doing anything nefarious with their secret spying, why can't they present their evidence to the FISA court and get a warrant?

Posted by: ResumeMan on July 8, 2008 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Occupation is to nationalism what steroids are to Roger Clemmons. Whatever popular support Maliki has will evaporate unless he actively moves to end the occupation

Posted by: keith g on July 8, 2008 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. al-Maliki, say hello to Ngo Dinh Diem.

Posted by: TB on July 8, 2008 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

I try to relate to the negativity of the posts.

However,
as Thomas Jefferson noted--It should be ever held in mind that insult and war are the consequences of a lack of respectability in the national character.

No shit, too.
Can't your give credit to our host here for noting the issues?

Posted by: consider wisely always on July 8, 2008 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Got my conspiracy hat on... but if a deal on a withdrawal plan gets "signed" before the election, wouldn't that take the Iraq war resolution issue off the table for Barama, and blunt a major segment of his platform? Advantage: McBush?

Posted by: pencarrow on July 8, 2008 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's still a $12 billion dollar monthly expense in Iraq with soaring gas prices, falling dollar, sub-prime mortgage scandal, failing airlines...how could it benefit Oldie McSenile McCain?
Even the Marines are against McCain.

Posted by: get real on July 8, 2008 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Hey. They want us gone. Since we already declared victory, what's holding us up?

Posted by: bobbywally on July 8, 2008 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

So long as any American faces the twin specters of slightly higher marginal rates of income tax, and gay marriage, we must stay.

So long as the shadow of a Democrat White House and a Democrat Congress falls across our great land, we must stay.

Iraq -- not so much a war, as the world's most expensive campaign commercial

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 8, 2008 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq seems like a rather minor nit at the moment, now that Bush has got Russia ready to nuke our asses. Could this dipshit fuck up anything else?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 8, 2008 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

What I found amazing in this recent news was not the call for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops but a firm NO to any American idea of permanent bases in Iraq. Now THAT's going to be a problem for the oil gang and the neocons.

Posted by: nepeta on July 8, 2008 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Looks to me like the Iraqis just endorsed Barack Obama. I expect the Bushies will do whatever they can to foment an all out civil war in Iraq before our election and really fan the flames into a shitstorm before Obama takes office.

Posted by: markg8 on July 8, 2008 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

There comes a time during all "intercourse" when withdrawal has to happen.

I believe our presence is getting more flacid by the day.

Permanent bases are the problem.

But they were the plan all along.

Awkward.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on July 8, 2008 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

There comes a time during all "intercourse" when withdrawal has to happen.

I believe our presence is getting more flacid by the day.

Permanent bases are the problem.

But they were the plan all along.

Awkward.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on July 8, 2008 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

Scuttlebutt for about the last month has been that Sistani was getting tougher on this issue.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 8, 2008 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Fostert wisely says the Iraqi gov't is tiptoeing a tightwire and that after the coming elections he'll cave to the Bush/McCain demands. But for now 'he must take a tough stand against the Americans'.

I say: Maliki = Ngo Dinh Diem.

Posted by: JohnMcC on July 8, 2008 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

In a couple of years the Iraqi security forces become strong enough to hold the country on their own. Once that happens, the Iraqi government have some strong motivations to kick the U.S. military out.

Yes, this is contrary to what Bush (and McCain) want, but look at all the things that have happened in Iraq so far that were contrary to U.S. intentions, starting with the insurgency. The fact is that the U.S. has no leverage over the Iraqi government, and so you can expect it will leave when asked.

Posted by: bobo the chimp on July 9, 2008 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Call Pelosi @1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Mike Meyer on July 9, 2008 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

"The wording here is odd ..."? WTF???

It sounds crystal clear to me. USA GTFO NOYFB

Posted by: b on July 9, 2008 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

Did you ever read the "resignation policy" of the company you work for ? Does is say something like "at least two weeks notice" ? Ever wonder what would happen if you gave then 20 years notice .. could they lay you off before the 20 years were up ?

Well this is what the Iraqis are selling .. Obama says 16 months .. the Iraqis say 3 years

Posted by: Neo on July 9, 2008 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK


Progress Cited on U.S.-Iraq Pacts
Foreign Minister Says Nations Are Working to Resolve Differences

"We have reached a comfortable stage of negotiations, and the differences have been narrowed," Hoshyar Zebari told reporters

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/02/AR2008070201678.html?nav=rss_world/mideast
====================

"I expect the Bushies will do whatever they can to foment an all out civil war in Iraq before our election and really fan the flames into a shitstorm before Obama takes office."
Posted by: markg8 on July 8, 2008 at 11:09 PM |

The problem with expectations is, sooner or later, you're disappointed.

But with expectations like those, wouldn't it be a good thing if they didn't pan out. Sorta makes it difficult to decide what to wish for, no?

Posted by: majarosh on July 9, 2008 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

To really figure how things are going to turn out you need to know the direction that the mahogany lever under Dick Cheney's desk is pointing.

If it's up, we're bombing someone; if it's down, we aren't.

Posted by: Gregory on July 9, 2008 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody actually presented any evidence to think Bush is spying on his political enemies, though, so for now I'll stick to my guess that NSA isn't doing it.

Oh, for crying out loud, Kevin! First of all, someone did cite Boldton's comment that he was using NSA intercepts on his perceived political enemies at State. Second of all, as I and others pointed out, abuse of power is human nature enough to assume it will happen -- the Founders sure thought so! -- and the Bush Administration has stonewalled investigations. The fact that they're fighting so hard to shut down discovery in the telecom lawsuits is a pretty clear indication there's something there they don't want us to know.

Moreover, Kevin, it's long past time to imagine the Bush Administration deserves the benefit of the doubt. Sheesh!1

Posted by: Gregory on July 9, 2008 at 7:37 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Gregory:
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Except that there's some evidence.

Posted by: kenga on July 9, 2008 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

No. A known bad actor taking steps to conceal evidence is itself cause for suspicion.

And again, there's some evidence. (Hell, BushCo by know has admitted they broke the FISA law.)

And again, there's no reason at all to give these clowns the benefit of the doubt. Kevin was stupid to have done so.

Posted by: Gregory on July 9, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK
Nobody actually presented any evidence to think Bush is spying on his political enemies, though, so for now I'll stick to my guess that NSA isn't doing it.

That's true, the only evidence presented was that John Bolton was doing that, and, of course, like every other abuse by a high official in this administration, that was just an isolated case, not part of any pattern.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 9, 2008 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, thank you for the reply.

Your original statement was that you think the NSA programs under Bush are "tightly focused on international terrorist activity". And you add that no-one has "presented any evidence to think Bush is spying on his political enemies".

There are many ways to pretty clearly falsify your original claim, not beyond all doubt, but pretty clearly.

For example, if the Bush administration was really just going after terrorists why not convince Congress to amend FISA as required to accommodate the program rather than commit felonies? As you know, the Bush administration got all the amendments they requested in the months after 9/11 and even turned down a proposed amendment that they said was unnecessary (the DeWine amendment that would have weakened the evidentiary standard for FISA warrants). In late 2001, the Congress would have acceded to any plausible request connected to fighting international terrorism.

Or to give you a second example, consider that in 2004 most of the senior echelon of the Department of Justice -- including AG Ashcroft and Comey -- as well as the head of the FBI -- Mueller -- threatened to resign over an NSA program. All these Republicans threatening to resign en masse in an election year. Doesn't that seem a little implausible if the program was "tightly focused on international terrorist activity"?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. If it wasn't just about catching terrorists what were they doing? I don't know. A natural possibility is spying on political enemies as you say. Or Bush could have been spying on his own administration and/or the press to catch leakers. Or perhaps they were using warrantless surveillance against organized crime or protest groups. Or some combination. The bottom line is they were doing something that they figured would have shocked the conscience of Congress and did shock the conscience of many senior Republicans such as Comey, Ashcroft and Mueller.

Posted by: Crust on July 9, 2008 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

We make conditions that others must meet before we will speak to them (otherwise it's "appeasement"), so why shouldn't others return the favor?

Posted by: Nancy Irving on July 10, 2008 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK
Post a comment









Remember personal info?










 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly