As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Enter Fourthbranch

As we reach the fifth anniversary of the beginning of an unnecessary, pre-emptive, disastrous war with far-reaching consequences for Iraqis, Americans, and the whole globe, Dick Cheney has taken control of the effort to make sure this catastrophe lasts 100 years longer or more.

Vice President Dick Cheney played the part of backroom power broker for two days and came away on Tuesday with pledges from Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds to firm up a new blueprint for U.S.-Iraq relations that will stretch beyond the Bush presidency.

Cheney flew in a cargo plane to Iraqi Kurdistan in the north to finish two days of private meetings with powerful politicians in Iraq. On Monday, he had talks with officials in Baghdad — even venturing outside the secured Green Zone to dine and have private discussions.

Topics ranged from security in Iraq to Iran's rising influence in Mideast, but a key item was about crafting a long-term agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, plus a narrower deal to define the legal basis for continued U.S. troop presence.

The deal would take the place of a U.N. Security Council resolution that expires in December, the same time Bush will be packing up to leave office. The administration says the deal will not seek permanent U.S. bases in Iraq or codify troop levels, nor tie the hands of a future commander in chief as some Democrats fear.

Not at all, there doesn't seem any reason to fear that such an agreement "will stretch beyond the Bush presidency," despite that being its essential goal.

Cheney - last seen continuing to push a discredited link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and citing as proof the work of Stephen Hayes, who in turn cites as proof the work of... Cheney - has always been interested in a longer game in Iraq. He's never had much use for the normal rules, and so ignoring Congressional approval of a treaty that will go far beyond a normal status of forces agreement is par for the course.

But the real purpose of this trip is a kind of whistle-stop tour for John McCain and keeping the White House in imperialist hands.

Read today’s comments by Iraq’s foreign minister about the perils of a too-sudden American withdrawal, and take into account that he said these things a day after Vice President Cheney and John McCain visited with him. After reading his comments and their timing, it isn’t far-fetched to assume the following:

1. His message was written and coordinated with McCain and the White House; and
2. The Iraqi government is now an active agent in support of the McCain candidacy.

It’s a little galling to see the Iraqi regime plead with us to continue the sacrifice of our soldiers, military readiness, and treasury when they are sitting upon billions of their own unspent oil monies, and still fail to move towards the necessary political reconciliation that would make our withdrawal possible. But Democrats need to realize that the al-Maliki government will be actively supporting the White House and McCain message to stay the course, and wants John McCain elected to ensure this and continue their existing free ride and graft.

So, Fourthbranch rides into Iraq for a surprise visit to negotiate a deal that would ensure continued protection and enrichment of the Shiite theocracy that is the Iraqi government. In return they don't have to give up the oil money they're hording or allow Sunnis into the government or the security forces or meet benchmarks or anything - they just have to say quietly and with much solemnity that troop withdrawals will lead to chaos. It's somehow perfectly aligned with McCain's message, oddly enough, as well as keeping in concert with the permanent Middle Eastern presence Fourthbranch has envisioned for over a decade.

One can only imagine the riches he promised the propped-up regional leaders in return for their parroting his message. It's worth noting that the Iraqis most often heard in the US media - in fact, the only Iraqis - have a powerful incentive for the US to stay, if only for their own self-preservation. Here's Marc Lynch in a must-read think piece about withdrawal:

The current government, and more broadly the Green Zone political class, is one of the few Iraqi groupings which genuinely wants or needs a sustained American presence – as the guarantor of its political survival. At the same time, they have been one of the greatest obstacles to national reconciliation, and have proved largely resistant to American pressure. Since surviving a series of attempts to unseat his government, Maliki seems to feel politically secure and has spoken often about his belief that national reconciliation has already been achieved. Support for relatively unconditional American backing is similarly strong among the Green Zone Kurdish leadership. Even the Green Zone Sunnis, who have often been the most critical of the US in public and have long since quit the Maliki government, need the Americans to maintain their political positions.

The Green Zone dominant parties share a common situation, of disproportionate power in the national government and an eroding position within their own constituencies. The Sunni parties feel threatened by the rise of the Anbar Salvation Council and the Awakenings, and by their failure to achieve substantial national reconciliation legislation to strengthen their political hand with their constituency. The united Shia list of the UIA has long-since fragmented, with the Sadrists and Fadhila and other Shia parties now largely on the outside. By most reports, ISCI has lost ground with Shia voters, and would likely lose in elections (provincial or national). ISCI's political leadership therefore depends on US support for its political weight, and despite its strong Iranian ties would likely be loathe to see the US leave. The Supreme Council's response to a withdrawal would be clearly shaped by its terms, and by the role – implicit or explicit – of Iran in the presumed post-US order. At the same time, in the context of an agreement (tacit or overt) with Iran, its role could be guaranteed. Without such a guarantee, however, the incentives would be strong to unleash the Badr Brigades to stir up trouble in hopes of preventing the US from following through on its plans to depart.

No Iraqi actor would scream more loudly or offer more dire warnings of impending doom than the current Green Zone elite – and, not coincidentally, these are the voices most often heard in Washington and by politicians on short visits to Baghdad. But their warnings should be understood at least in part as expressions of their own political self-interest. No Iraqi actor is more likely to quickly readjust its behavior and calculations should such a withdrawal be announced. With the US set to depart, the whole range of national reconciliation initiatives which are currently seen as at best luxuries and at worst mortal threats would suddenly become a much more intense matter of self-interest. The integration of the Sunni Awakenings, for instance, would move from a challenge to Shia hegemony over the security forces into the best possible way to pre-empt their military challenge. The credible commitment to withdrawal would give the US much-needed leverage over the Green Zone leadership.

It's like a parallel Village. And Cheney knows just how to placate them.

Labels: , , , , , ,