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August 28, 2007

Political Progress
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So, Maliki and the President are now touting this new political agreement, which no one has seen yet but is supposed to settle the de-Baathification and provincial elections questions. 

There is no way to tell until we see the text of the agreement, but I think most likely this is posturing on the part of Maliki.  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. Here is a reality check on de-Baathfication.  It is still has to pass parliament.  Here’s what happened last time there was a supposed agreement on de-Baathficiation.

On March 26, a draft law titled the Reconciliation and Accountability Law was circulated by Maliki’s office. It put a three-month limit on the ability of people to bring lawsuits against former members of the regime after which they would be immune from prosecution, eligible for work in the public sector and would receive pension benefits. The law also weakened the power of the de-Baathification commission which had been used as a platform by the Shia government to exact revenge on Sunnis for past wrongs.

Ahmed Chalabi, the former American ally supported by the Neoconservatives, was the main force in derailing the law. “Mr. Chalabi, the former Pentagon protégé, relies on the commission for an official role in Iraq’s government. Having just renovated a spacious office in the Green Zone, he has strongly opposed any effort to weaken his position or the country’s policy on former Baathists. According to a senior official with the commission, Mr. Chalabi and members of his organization sabotaged the American-backed plan by rallying opposition among Shia government officials in southern Iraq, then taking their complaints to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most powerful Shia cleric. On April 1, Mr. Chalabi visited the ayatollah’s office in Najaf. He later appeared at a news conference, declaring that Ayatollah Sistani told him the law was incomplete and that ‘there would be other drafts.’”

So I guess the question is.  Is Chalabi supporting this?  Will it actually have a chance in Parliament?  I don’t know.

As for Provincial elections... 

As the White House benchmark report in July explained.  There are four elements to establishing a provincial government.

  1. Establishing the IHEC Commission: The Government of Iraq has made satisfactory progress toward establishing an IHEC Commission. The Commission has been established.
  2. Elections Law: The Government of Iraq has not made satisfactory progress toward establishing a provincial elections law. Drafting of the law has just begun.
  3. Provincial Council Authorities: The Government of Iraq has not made satisfactory progress toward establishing provincial council authorities. The COR is working on legislation, which has had its second reading; however, the COR committee continues to work on revisions to the draft law, and it remains unclear when the legislation will come to a third and final vote by the full COR.
  4. Provincial Elections Date: The Government of Iraq has not made satisfactory progress toward establishing a date for provincial elections. Legislation required for setting the date has not been enacted.

So, the question here is.  Have all four elements been agreed upon? Will the COR (i.e. Parliament) actually approve them?  I don’t know. But given the Bush Administration’s as well as Maliki’s penchant for consistently declaring progress where there is none, I’m skeptical.

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Comments

The US is expecting the Iraqi "government" to accomplish a lot under wartime conditions, much more than ours is probably capable of in terms of structuring an economy, fair elections, etc. Progress in Iraq (or lack of progress) is supposed to affect the US war budget, but will it?

Both chambers of the 110th US Congress will reconvene on September 4th. One key piece of business will be the 2008 Defense Appropriations Act.

S. 1547, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, would authorize $648 billion in budget authority for defense programs in Fiscal Year 2008. This amount is consistent with the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Resolution, and consistent with the President’s overall request for the national defense budget, which included a base budget request of $507 billion and a war-related funding request for $141.8 billion. The bill would, however, shift approximately $12 billion from the war-related request to the base budget to pay for programs that are ongoing, or related to increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, and not directly related to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amount represents an increase of $40 billion, or 8.5 percent in real terms, above the amount authorized for Fiscal Year 2007.

It will be interesting, in the light of the disintegration of the Iraqi "government", and their apparent failure to achieve the necessary benchmarks, to see how the Congress will, first, react to the Petraeus/Crocker hearings, and then how they will vote on the budget. Well, maybe not so interesting. If they run true to form they will huff and puff, bluster and fluster, and then pass the full bill--almost two billion dollars per day of warm corporate gravy, and the Iraq and Afghanistan military occupations will be funded for another year. Let's hope not.

From the article you linked to:

In violence on Sunday, US forces said they bombed a house in the Iraqi city of Samarra on Sunday after fighters attacked them, and police said five children and two women were among the dead.

Saadoun Mohammad, a police officer at Samarra General Hospital, said the hospital's morgue had received the bodies of five children and two women killed in the strike. He said eight people were wounded, including three children and a woman.

But please, tell me more about the new draft de-Baathification law. I'm fascinated.

Steve B.,

Fair enough. Couldn't agree more

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