At the beginning of this week, Iraqi political leaders announced in a press conference that they had reached a major deal on several of the US-recommended benchmarks for political progress in Iraq. Between the resignation of Fredo and Wide Stance Larry Craig and all the other hoopla that has occurred this week, this event got somewhat ignored. But it would have been a linchpin to the
White House Iraq report scheduled for the middle of next month. Finally, we are starting to see real political progress, a coming together by the Shiite and Sunni and even Kurdish groups to reach solutions on such issues as de-Ba'athification and freeing some Sunni prisoners and more.
Except for one thing... it was a complete shadow play. Total bullshit.
From Baghdad, Charles Crain
writes that the first sign that this was not much of a deal was that one of the participants isn't even part of the government, and has no plans to return:
But a day after signing the deal the country's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, announced that the Sunni bloc that walked out of the government August 1 still had no plans to return. "Our previous experience with the government has not been encouraging," he explained, "and we will not go back just because of promises, unless there are real and tangible reforms."
The deal was made between the figureheads at the top of the government and some of the various factions, but not others which are very significant and crucial to any parliamentary success.
And Sunday's deal was more notable for who wasn't involved than who was. The agreement didn't include representatives from the bloc loyal to Shi'ite politician and militia chieftain Moqtada al-Sadr. A senior Western diplomat earlier this month praised Maliki for distancing himself from Sadr, widely viewed as the Shi'ite leader most responsible for sectarian violence, but American officials are well aware that Sadr and his followers cannot simply be marginalized.
The Sadrists are a powerful presence in parliament and in several key government ministries. Their Mahdi Army militia has infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces. As a practical matter, an agreement to reconcile with former Ba'athists is next to meaningless without Sadr's acquiescence. And the Sadrists weren't absent simply from Sunday's deal. At the moment they are not even part of the government; like their Sunni adversaries they are engaged in a boycott.
So this was a major deal between one piece of the Shiite block, a Sunni politician who isn't even part of the government, and none of the other major factions. As we've seen today, Sadr isn't even totally in control of his own militia
, who would certainly be able to veto the move for any Ba'athists trying to reclaim their positions. The Parliament hasn't met in a month, and there's no indication they would actually pass any of these recommendations made by this "panel of leaders" which is emasculated politically. It's a fake document with no staying power.
One of the sharpest commentators on Iraq, Marc Lynch, adds
Jalal Talabani's emergency summit (last week) produced a political coalition based upon the Maliki 4 - a sectarian four party bloc (the two Kurdish parties, SIIC and Dawa) which prefers to call itself "moderate" (it isn't) or "the majority" (it isn't). A few days ago, the Maliki 4 managed to get Tareq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Tawafuq Bloc to sign on to an agreement which promised movement on some key issues, including Sunni prisoners and an end to deBaathification.
This agreement was likely produced for the sole purpose of giving Ryan Crocker something to bring back to Congress (and is what I expected weeks ago). But it doesn't actually solve anything: Hashemi has made very clear that he has no intention of rejoining Maliki's government, the agreements exist only on paper at this point, and nothing has been done about the deeply sectarian nature of what passes for the Iraqi state.
Hashemi likely agreed to sit up on stage for this kabuki because he's just as constrained by Sunni forces who want something to show for working with Maliki. But when this fails they are just as likely to completely break with the government and no longer even make a show of anything but open warfare.Ilan Goldenberg
has more, and notes that nobody has yet seen this "grand compromise" touted by Maliki and his cadre, probably because it's totally meaningless. Plus:
Back in early July the cabinet (Or should I say half cabinet , since all of the Sunnis as well as the Sadrists were already boycotting) approved an oil law which the Kurds and Sunnis both objected to. You had two to three days of news stories about it, but it became pretty apparent very quickly that there was no chance it would actually pass parliament. Conveniently, this happened one week before the Administration was set to give its midterm July 15 report on Iraq.
Now, we have Maliki taking heat from all sides and interestingly enough we have a "major" breakthrough.
Maliki is both trying to save his own bacon from a lobbyist-administered coup
, and trying to help keep the American support that he needs to survive, so he concocted this little deal, which plays right into the hands of the GOP spin machine. The dissembling is not limited to The Green Zone Fog
, as described by Rep. Tauscher today. There's going to be happy talk everywhere, a surge of lies which those who want an end to the occupation of Iraq will have to bat down in our own private Whack-A-Mole. We can point to nonpartisan reports
, like the GAO's which will be released next week:
Congressional auditors have determined that the Iraqi government has failed to meet the vast majority of political and military goals laid out by lawmakers to assess President Bush's Iraq war strategy, The Associated Press has learned.
The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, will report that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks to measure the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq are unfulfilled ahead of a Sept. 15 deadline for Bush to give a detailed accounting of the situation eight months after he announced the policy, according to three officials familiar with the matter.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been made public, also said the administration is preparing a case to play down its findings, arguing that Congress ordered the GAO to use unfair, "all or nothing'' standards when compiling the document.
There's just going to be a mass of bullshit coming in September. This so-called "political deal" is part of it. Be aware, and step lively.
Labels: David Petraeus, de-Baathification, GAO, Iraq, Iraqi Parliament, Muqtada al-Sadr, Nouri al-Maliki, Ryan Crocker, September strategy, Shiites, Sunnis, Tariq al-Hashemi