S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What is the deal? A Middle East round-up

U.S. forces in Iraq handed over control of another province Thursday. Babil, south of Baghdad, is the twelfth transfer of 18 provinces), Aljazeera reports. Further:
Babil had been the forefront of sectarian violence, including a suicide attack in Hilla, the provincial capital, in March 2007 that left more than 100 Shia pilgrims dead.

. . . Baghdad, Diyala, Salaheddin, Ninawa, Kirkuk and Wasit remain under US control.
Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, according to a (10/21/08) Yahoo! News story, said the United States is reluctant# to alter the Iraq troop draft. To quote:
Washington does not want to alter a draft security pact with Iraq, despite demands for change from Baghdad where the document failed to win support from Iraqi political leaders, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

. . . Objections by Iraqi political leaders appeared to be about details rather than the broad thrust of the pact, which is intended to replace the U.N. mandate that expires December 31.

. . . Some Iraqi politicians have expressed reservations over details such as the mechanism for trying of U.S. troops. Only Kurdish groups have so far given the text full support. . . among those voicing doubts in recent days was Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has yet to speak about the pact in public. . . followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- strongly oppose the pact, as does the leadership of mainly Shi'ite Iran, which has influence among Iraqi Shi'ites.

. . . Gates said renewing the U.N. mandate was a less attractive option than the SOFA. It would require a vote by the U.N. Security Council that could draw a veto from Russia.

. . . Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a member of a Kurdish group that backs the draft, said the pact was unlikely to pass before the U.S. presidential election on November 4.
Wednesday, The Iraqi cabinet "shot down the draft security agreement," according to Juan Cole at Informed Comment. Without cabinet approval, it will, of course not be submitted to Parliament. Pressure from Iran is having a marked effect, says Professor Cole. To quote:
By the time a draft agreement was circulated last week (text courtesy Raed Jarrar), the US military had found itself confined to bases by next June and constrained to leave by 2011; civilian contractors were open to prosecution in Iraqi courts; and off-duty US troops who commit crimes might also find themselves before a qadi or Muslim court judge. There was no mention of long-term bases.

. . . McCain opposes a withdrawal timeline of the sort that Bush has just agreed to.

. . . In all likelihood, Iraq will go to the UN Security Council for a one-year renewal of the Multinational Forces Mandate. But the Iraqi politicians and people are voting, by their reluctance to acquiesce in the Bush/ al-Maliki plan for a SOFA, for something (with regard to the timetable for withdrawal) much closer to Obama's plan.

. . . Obama, in contrast, welcomed the al-Maliki government's called for a withdrawal timetable:
Thursday, Professor Cole continues with another post. To quote:
Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh reacted sharply on Wednesday to comments of US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen last Tuesday that Iraqis did not have much time to pass the agreement and might not understand the full consequences of failure to do so. Dabbagh said, "It is not correct to force Iraqis into making a choice and it is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way."

. . . One way or another, As of Jan. 1, US troops will not be able to act at will in Iraq but rather will have to get assent from Iraqi authorities for campaigns.
In conclusion, a suicide car bomber in Baghdad narrowly missed killing the Minister of Labor. At least 11 other lives were lost in that violence.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.
View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.
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