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June 04, 2008

Catch 22
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Spencer Ackerman has a great set of posts on a Congressional hearing this afternoon with two Iraqi Parliamentarians.  All are worth reading but I want to focus on the lack of support that seems to be emerging in Iraqi politics for a Security Framework agreement and complementary Status of Forces Agreement for Iraq.

Here's the problem.  The Bush Administration wants two things that are utterly incompatible.  First it wants an agreement that defines America's long-term commitment and provides legal protections for our troops.  But then it is also set on provincial elections for the fall.  Here's the problem with that.  Nothing is more unpopular with the Iraqi people, then supporting an agreement that is seen as putting in place a long-term American occupation.  Sadr is already using this to great political benefit.  Organizing rallies and publicly opposing the agreement.  And Sistani has also come out against the agreement.  If ISCI were to support an agreement along these lines, they would get absolutely creamed in the provincial elections, and the faction that is supportive of the keeping American troops in Iraq would be dramatically weakened.  But without some kind of agreement you really can't keep American forces in Iraq.

So the options are:

  1. Exclude the Sadrists from the provincial election.  A non-starter that would likely cause a complete meltdown and serious intra-Shi'a fighting.
  2. Postpone provincial elections and push through the SOFA and Security Framework.   That will go over real well with the Awakening Councils and Sons of Iraq, that are looking for greater political representation.
  3. Have the provincial elections but give up on the idea of the security agreement in the short-term and instead get the UN to extend its mandate for a six month period. This would provide a continued legal umbrella for the U.S. presence (I don't know enough to understand if this actually doable at this point.)

But basically the idea of holding provincial elections this fall and getting a security framework agreement done, seem utterly incompatible.


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Good analysis.

The key question is: Why does the US want to keep troops in Iraq? Probably to keep its foot on Iraq's neck, which the Iraqis don't want BUT the US will insist on it. Everything else is secondary. The problem is that Sadr, unlike the others, apparently can't be bought. Where's that assassination team when we need it?

It appears that the Bush administration failed to use the "success," of the surge properly. Instead of using the window of opportunity to come up with a political settlement in Iraq that all sides, including the Iranians, could agree upon, they instead wanted to impose a security agreement that would give the Americans a permanent presence in Iraq. This has only managed to unite both the Sunnis and the Shiites against the United States. The Security Framework agreement will probably rank along with the decision to disband the Iraqi army in 2003 as one of the greatest blunders of the Bush administration.

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