July 22, 2008

What Maliki is doing is betting that Obama will win.

Says Eli Lake:
In throwing his support behind Senator Obama's plan for a 16-month timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq, Prime Minister al-Maliki is calculating that Mr. Obama may well be the next president of America, and betting that a successful visit by Mr. Obama to Baghdad will advance Iraqi interests in a new administration.

27 comments:

Roger J. said...

Mr. Lake appears not to have much experience in negotiating in the mid east. Maliki, I am sure, is not willing at this point to bet the farm on a future US election. What Mr.Lake is seeing, I would submit, is a negotiating technique designed to get Iraq the best deal they can. Fortunately Mr. Lake is a staff reporter and not a diplomat.

Balfegor said...

Prime Minister al-Maliki is calculating that Mr. Obama may well be the next president of America, and betting that a successful visit by Mr. Obama to Baghdad will advance Iraqi interests in a new administration.

You can probably go further than that -- McCain has already publicly committed himself to working for joint American-Iraqi interests. It's one of the main themes of his campaign. If McCain wins, Maliki doesn't need to worry that McCain will then turn around and screw over Iraq; McCain has already boxed himself in on that score.

On the other hand, nothing stops Obama from screwing over Iraq -- the history of his comments on Iraq (e.g. pulling out just before the surge strategy, opposition to the surge, explicit disregard of the specific risk of genocide in Iraq on the grounds that American power cannot stop all genocides) would lead one to believe that there is just such a risk that Obama will abandon Iraq. If throwing Obama a little rhetorical cover is all it takes to ensure that Iraqi interests at least get a fair hearing under an Obama administration, there are tangible benefits, and no real costs.

That aside, though, Maliki probably really would like to see us gone. The Basra operation -- where Maliki pushed the Iraqi army to operate without extensive prior consultation with the Americans -- suggest that he is willing to pursue a more aggressive timetable for fully independent operations by the Iraqi army. More aggressive, at least, than the US military may think is justified by the performance to date of Iraqi units. Nevertheless, while Basra met with some setbacks -- e.g. the early defections, heavily reported in the news here -- it ultimately proved a success. Our political and military culture are hugely risk averse, and it may be the case that Maliki has a better sense of when Iraq will be able to stand up on its own without active American involvement than we have, even if there are still some i's to be dotted, and t's to be crossed. Besides -- if, as some of Obama's advisors suggest, we leave a gargantuan 50,000 man occupation force behind (calling it a "strike force" or some such rot), it's hard to see how his plan, implemented now would lead to disaster, in the way that it would have done if it had been implemented in 2006, when he first started proposing it.

Bissage said...

What Maliki is doing is betting that Obama will win.

Me too.

I have already sent Mr. Obama a congratulatory fruit basket.

Revenant said...

Why do people always assume that foreign leaders are speaking for the benefit of an American audience, especially when they aren't even speaking in English?

Maliki is the elected leader of a democracy in which much of the citizenry is increasingly tired of the American presence in the country. Even if he favored keeping Americans in the country (and given his Iranian ties he probably doesn't), talking about a future withdrawl date is still good domestic Iraqi politics.

The Drill SGT said...

Rather than a strategic decision, I read the Maliki endorsement as both tactical (better position in current SOFA talks) and operational (Maliki needs to win his own election soon. Being tough with the Americans and wanting them out has NO downside with his voter base (e.g. Shiites))

I think the article reads too much too far in the future.

The First duty of a Politican is to get elected!

Governing, with or without Obama's support is a distant second.

SteveR said...

Who says Maliki has to bet anyway? I assume he's smarter than that.

Balfegor said...

Why do people always assume that foreign leaders are speaking for the benefit of an American audience, especially when they aren't even speaking in English?

Well, he was interviewing with a foreign magazine, wasn't he? Der Spiegel, wasn't it? So it might not have been an American audience -- it might have been a German audience. Or foreigners generically. I'm not sure how much German-language press penetrates Iraq proper, but I don't think it is widely read. I suspect his remarks weren't purely domestic posturing.

AllenS said...

Someone needs to inform Prime Minister al-Maliki, that we won't be leaving until we pump all of their oil out of the ground. That's why we went there, right?

vbspurs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vbspurs said...

Note to foreign leaders:

Nothing is more calculated to make Americans vote for the other guy, than endorsing one of them.

We Americans know you don't have our country's interests at heart, and we also know you're just picking the guy who is weaker, the better to rid yourselves of a strong USA.

I refer you to Mr. Kerry for further insight. Thank you.

Cheers,
Victoria

Roost on the Moon said...

Yes Victoria, I think you're on to something. We should keep a close eye on this "Maliki" guy, this anti-America foreigner.

Trooper York said...

Nobody cares about Der Spiegel anymore. America gets all it's news from QVC.

Eli Blake said...

Recently Maliki broke off talks with the Bush administration for a 'status of forces' agreement. Among other things, we had proposed a permanent American presence in up to sixty permanent bases in Iraq, putting American troops and contractors there outside of the reach of Iraqi law, and reserving the right to use Iraqi bases for the purpose of conducting American military operations in other countries (an obvious reference a possible future invasion of Iran.)

Maliki refused to accept these terms and told the American negotiators he'd discuss the future with the next administration. Combine that with his support of a timetable (a huge embarrassment for the Bush administration, no matter how you spin it, since they steadfastly refused to accept any kind of a timetable for withdrawl) and it is clear that the Iraqis don't want us to stay in a neo-colonial type set up.

And, Amen to that! After five years of war, with four thousand American troops and a trillion dollars down the drain, it's clearly time to go.

Balfegor said...

Among other things, we had proposed a permanent American presence in up to sixty permanent bases in Iraq, putting American troops and contractors there outside of the reach of Iraqi law,

This one is obviously unacceptable. Our troops get into trouble with the locals all the time in Korea and Japan, and it's a source of continual tension, usually when some deviant has raped a local girl, but sometimes when schoolchildren have been crushed by a tank or something. I suppose it must be the same with the Germans, though I don't know.

I can understand why we'd push for it. No sovereign government should agree to that kind of thing, though.

Beth said...

Hey Trooper!

Are you happy to see Shockey on his way South?

Maguro said...

Balfegor,

SOFA agreements are there to protect the rights of the accused - in this case American GIs - who can be turned into political pawns if accused of a crime in the host country. It is similar in intent to "diplomatic immunity" though in practice it offers a lot less protection to the accused.

Host countries are certainly not forced to sign SOFA agreements in any case.

Revenant said...

Well, he was interviewing with a foreign magazine, wasn't he? Der Spiegel, wasn't it? So it might not have been an American audience -- it might have been a German audience.

Sure, quite probably -- but given the uniformity of European public opinion on the subject, that too could simply be smart politics. The less he sounds like an American puppet, the more aid he can get from Europeans.

blake said...

Anyone know whether Maliki shares the opinion that American lives and dollars were "wasted" in Iraq?

Also, anyone know what did they do with the six--no, four hundred thousand dead bodies?

Revenant said...

This one is obviously unacceptable. Our troops get into trouble with the locals all the time in Korea and Japan, and it's a source of continual tension, usually when some deviant has raped a local girl, but sometimes when schoolchildren have been crushed by a tank or something.

It might be obviously unacceptable to the country in question, but it isn't obviously unacceptable in a general sense.

Take Japan, for example. Their system lacks many of the protections of even US military courts, such that any person brought up on charges is almost guaranteed to be convicted. Add in the fact that Japan is an extremely racist and xenophobic country (blacks are routinely portrayed as animalistic in popular culture, for example, and even Koreans are openly discriminated against) and it is easy to see why the military wouldn't want to hand over an accused American rapist for trial there. A black serviceman would have had a better shot at a fair trial in the 1950s South.

As for prosecuting Americans for military accidents, I would hope that we NEVER agree to base our troops in a country where we can be prosecuted for that. Those kinds of accidents can and will happen; it is part of the cost of having the troops there in the first place.

As for Iraq, do we really want our troops at the mercy of the local justice system? Not until both it and Iraqi culture have been fully westernized, I think. I don't want to see some American soldier going to prison for (for example) having sex with a willing Iraqi woman -- something that many Muslims would consider grounds for a rape charge.

Roger J. said...

Rev is clearly on target with his assessment of Maliki and the EU--Americans, I suspect, tend to think of foreign leaders as one dimensional--in fact as others have noted, Maliki has numerous constituencis to satisfy--Iraqi shiites, European bankers for debt forgiveness, Nasty powers in the region, the US, and others.

The American media (and some commenters on this thread) viewing all thru the monochromatic lens of Obama, can't see these other constituencies and reasons why Maliki would be making the statements he is.. Nuance, People--Nuance.

The Drill SGT said...

blake said...
Anyone know whether Maliki shares the opinion that American lives and dollars were "wasted" in Iraq?

Also, anyone know what did they do with the six--no, four hundred thousand dead bodies?


Glad you asked. From the same interview: SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, the war and its consequences have cost more than 100,000 lives and caused great suffering in your country. Saddam Hussein and his regime are now part of the past. Was all of this worth the price?

Maliki: The casualties have been and continue to be enormous. But anyone who was familiar with the dictator’s nature and his intentions knows what could have been in store for us instead of this war. Saddam waged wars against Iran and Kuwait, and against Iraqis in the north and south of his own country, wars in which hundreds of thousands died. And he was capable of instigating even more wars. Yes, the casualties are great, but I see our struggle as an enormous effort to avoid other such wars in the future.

Balfegor said...

Re: Revenant

Take Japan, for example. Their system lacks many of the protections of even US military courts, such that any person brought up on charges is almost guaranteed to be convicted.

Yes, 99.99% conviction rate, no juries. It's how they maintain public order. And it works extremely well. Suspects are also permitted to be held incommunicado for about a month without trial, and the police are not above inflicting mild torture, e.g. making you sit in seiza during your interrogation (for an American not used to sitting on his legs, this would probably cut off all circulation to the legs). If you're there as an American serviceman, just as if you're there as an American with a bank or a law firm, or an American there with the Ministry of Education's English teaching programme, you are obligated to avoid doing anything that will get you in trouble with the local law, any time you set foot outside of your base.

Similarly, if you're a Korean-American soldier, and you're in Korea, and you've skipped out on your mandatory military service, you shouldn't be surprised if the Republic presses you into service. I recall reading that this happened once a few years ago with an American soldier. With non-soldiers it happens from time to time when people discover, to their surprise, that they hold dual citizenship.

I'm fine with the idea that after the fact, the US government steps in and asks for leniency, e.g. to avoid the death penalty in Japan, or to get an American out of his mandatory military service with the ROK. But I'm not fine with the idea that American soldiers can go and commit crimes in Seoul or Okinawa, and avoid punishment under the local system. When American soldiers commit crimes in the US, while off-duty, they're prosecuted by the local authorities, after all.

As for prosecuting Americans for military accidents, I would hope that we NEVER agree to base our troops in a country where we can be prosecuted for that.

This much, I agree with -- that's a discussion that needs to be held between the governments, and it's better if we hold it before anything happens than after, when the national government may be under intense pressure to be seen as doing something to stand up to the Americans.

As for Iraq, do we really want our troops at the mercy of the local justice system? Not until both it and Iraqi culture have been fully westernized, I think.

I.e. never?

I don't want to see some American soldier going to prison for (for example) having sex with a willing Iraqi woman -- something that many Muslims would consider grounds for a rape charge.

I'm not seeing the issue here. If the local law prohibits your doing that, then don't do it. We should train our soldiers to ensure they don't violate these laws.

There are some laws which, for military effectiveness, we'd have to break. E.g. if women aren't allowed to drive without male chaperones from their families, we're going to have to break that rule, since female soldiers can't be required to haul their families out to the Middle East just so they can drive a jeep when they're outside a base. Prohibitions on having sex with the locals do not seem, to me, to fall under the same heading.

Maguro said...

But I'm not fine with the idea that American soldiers can go and commit crimes in Seoul or Okinawa, and avoid punishment under the local system.

A SOFA is *not* a get-out-of-jail-free card for the troops. When a SOFA person (military or civilian) is accused of crime off-base, the military will generally waive jurisdiction to the host gov't after a legal review of the case. The legal review is there to protect the rights of the accused and it doesn't always happen fast enough to please all, but it is there for a reason.

The tank accident in Korea is perfect illustration of why we need SOFA agreements. The tank crew would have been subject to some very unfair mob-inspired justice if not for the protections offered by the SOFA.

Bottom line is if the host country doesn't want a SOFA they don't have to sign up. They can always pay for their own defense.

P. Rich said...

Lake's fundamental assertion is crap. The marginally astute reader is left to evaluate his subsequent excremental pontifications.

Revenant said...

Yes, 99.99% conviction rate, no juries. It's how they maintain public order. And it works extremely well.

Yes, but that's why we call it a "justice system", not a "public order system". We concern ourselves with the possibility of innocent people going to prison; the Japanese system doesn't worry about it all that much. They rely on the police not arresting the wrong guy in the first place. Once you've been arrested, whether you're guilty or innocent you're probably going to prison. Handing an American rape suspect over to the Japanese for trial is therefore not so very different from simply locking him up without any trial at all. By American standards he won't get a fair trial.

When American soldiers commit crimes in the US, while off-duty, they're prosecuted by the local authorities, after all.

Yes, because we have an adequate civilian justice system with the appropriate protections of humans rights. Japan and Korea do not; neither, at this point, does Iraq. It is unreasonable for the United States government to send American troops among foreign civilian populations and then allow those troops to be lynched under whatever backwards-ass excuse for "criminal justice" exists in the nation in question.

"Not until both it and Iraqi culture have been fully westernized, I think."

I.e. never?

If their culture never fully leaves the dark ages then yes -- never. But I like to think that it will.

If the local law prohibits your doing that, then don't do it.

That isn't good enough.

First of all, you're assuming a law was broken. If a Japanese woman has consensual sex with a black American soldier and then later, under pressure from her family, claims to have been raped, that black soldier is going to prison despite having broken no laws at all. That's one of the many problems with system wherein arrest more or less equates to guilt; you can be *arrested* without ever having done anything wrong at all.

Secondly, having consensual sex is not a legitimate crime. If some Arab redneck thinks otherwise he can go fuck himself. The United States should not honor dishonorable laws; we shouldn't hand female soldiers caught driving off-base over to the local Gestapo for punishment. We should be in the business of shooting the people who ask us to, really.

Prohibitions on having sex with the locals do not seem, to me, to fall under the same heading.

It is exactly the same heading: "basic human rights".

Revenant said...

Bottom line is if the host country doesn't want a SOFA they don't have to sign up. They can always pay for their own defense.

Amen to that. You want our protection, you play by our rules.

Cedarford said...

Take Japan, for example. Their system lacks many of the protections of even US military courts, such that any person brought up on charges is almost guaranteed to be convicted. Add in the fact that Japan is an extremely racist and xenophobic country (blacks are routinely portrayed as animalistic in popular culture, for example, and even Koreans are openly discriminated against) and it is easy to see why the military wouldn't want to hand over an accused American rapist for trial there. A black serviceman would have had a better shot at a fair trial in the 1950s South.

Incorrect. Japan is a modern nation with a pretty good legal system. Good enough that we long ago modified our SOFA to give the Nipponese the right to try American servicemen, subject to negotiations.

One infamous example was the globally covered case 3 black servicemen that gang-raped and nearly beat to death a 12-year old girl on Okinawa. Tried by 3 judges of the Okinawa Prefecture. Sentenced to jail. And all three have US Marine Corps court martials awaiting when they get out of Japanese court.

African-Americans are saddled with a pretty poor reputation in Japan from doing most of the rapes by Occupation troops after WWII to incidents like the Texas Southern "Ocean of Soul Marching Band " looting spree in 1992 in the Ginza where 28 African-American band members grabbed and tried to make off with 26,000 in goods.

But American blacks are seen as worse in countries like Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. The place where they are most hated as animalistic criminals in...you guessed it ...black African countries with heavy black American tourism or military presence. As a officer I had minor financial dealings with Nigerian and Kenyan officials about black servicemen in US custody for assaults, rape, theft, and trying to force the Muslim daughter of some Nigerian VIP to do acts of prostitution. The Nigerian officials called them "sons of slaves" - the lowlife riff-raff that more worthy Nigerians sold to slave traders out of prisons or village nere' do-wells.

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Generally, SOFA is a very good idea to insist on in primitive countries, those with justice systems more corrupted by money than the US one, or Muslim lands under Sharia.

I do believe conduct would improve though, the more we subject our troops to modern, objective justice systems