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Military Matters in Iraq

September 18, 2008

Here are some interesting things that I found today that I am going to have to look into– so warning– I haven’t looked into this yet. I have placed it here so that I can hopefully (which I say because apparently I gather too much news in one day and keep adding to my list- but hey- Im gonna try at least) get to looking more carefully at later. I was highly bothered by everything in this post.

The common thread in all of these today is (as evidenced by the title) military related.

I’d also like to thank those of you who leave great comments! Please continue to do so- it benefits me and those who just read.


Many heard how the Government of Iraq (GOI) had a surplus. I remember when the news came out there were many angry Americans (understandably so by the way) that didn’t understand why the money wasn’t used to pay us back for investing so much of our own dollars into the reconstruction of their country.  It is understandable (I don’t believe though that most countries we have helped reconstruct with American dollars have actually been paid back, but I digress).

So I heard a blip about this on the radio (yeah, I had more doctors appointments today-remember-no news radio in the house here) and even though I didn’t get home until after seven I actually remembered to look into it- but after a long day just not enough time to look more deeply without losing sleep (which I value- especially after getting poked in the back about a dozen time with needles-OW).

We’ve also heard on the campaign trail about the amount of money that goes per month into GOI and it has been said that money from Oil contracts by rights should go to the U.S.

Well Friends, it most certainly won’t be if what is written here is true:

No Oil for Blood
Thanks to three American senators, China will be pumping Iraqi oil.
by Frederick W. Kagan
09/16/2008 3:15:00 PM

This morning, I had the honor of testifying before the House Budget Committee on the situation in Iraq. The discussion was polite and civilized, and was a reminder that even now it is possible for people who disagree about what to do in Iraq to argue without raised voices and disagreeable language (apart from the Code Pink women, yelling for those who think that shouting opponents down is preferable to arguing with them). Congressman Brian Baird once again demonstrated that it is possible even for those who bitterly opposed the war to recognize the importance of doing the right thing now–as well as the possibility of crossing the Republican-Democrat sectarian divide on this issue. One question came up repeatedly in the hearing that deserves more of an answer than it got, however: Why, after all the assistance we’ve given to Iraq over the past five years, was the first major Iraqi oil deal signed with China and not with an American or even a western company? The answer is, in part, because three Democratic senators intervened in Iraqi domestic politics earlier this year to prevent Iraq from signing short-term agreements with Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Chevron, and BP.

The Iraqi government was poised to sign no-bid contracts with those firms this summer to help make immediate and needed improvements in Iraq’s oil infrastructure. The result would have been significant foreign investment in Iraq, an expansion of Iraqi government revenues, and an increase in the global supply of oil. One would have thought that leading Democratic senators who claim to be interested in finding other sources of funding to replace American dollars in Iraq, in helping Iraq spend its own money on its own people, and in lowering the price of gasoline for American citizens, would have been all for it. Instead, Senators Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, and Claire McCaskill wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rice asking her “to persuade the GOI [Government of Iraq] to refrain from signing contracts with multinational oil companies until a hydrocarbon law is in effect in Iraq.” The Bush administration wisely refused to do so, but the resulting media hooraw in Iraq led to the cancellation of the contracts, and helps to explain why Iraq is doing oil deals instead with China.

Senators Schumer, McCaskill, and Kerry claimed to be acting from the purest of motives: “It is our fear that this action by the Iraqi government could further deepen political tensions in Iraq and put our service members in even great danger.” For that reason, presumably, Schumer went so far as to ask the senior vice president of Exxon “if his company would agree to wait until the GOI produced a fair, equitable, and transparent hydrocarbon revenue sharing law before it signed any long-term agreement with the GOI.” Exxon naturally refused, but Schumer managed to get the deal killed anyway. But the ostensible premise of the senators’ objections was false–Iraq may not have a hydrocarbons law, but the central government has been sharing oil revenues equitably and there is no reason at all to imagine that signing the deals would have generated increased violence (and this was certainly not the view of American civilian and military officials on the ground in Iraq at the time). It is certain that killing the deals has delayed the maturation of Iraq’s oil industry without producing the desired hydrocarbons legislation.

Nor is it entirely clear what the senators’ motivations were. Their release (available along with their letter to Secretary Rice at the New York Observer quoted Senator McCaskill as follows: “‘It’s bad enough that we have no-bid contracts being awarded for work in Iraq. It’s bad enough that the big oil companies continue to receive government handouts while they post record breaking profits. But now the most profitable companies in the universe–America’s biggest oil companies–stand to reap the rewards of this no-bid contract on top of it all,’ McCaskill said. ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect these dots–big oil is running Washington and now they’re running Baghdad. There is no reason under the sun not to halt these agreements until we get revenue sharing in place,’ McCaskill said.” So was this about what’s best for Iraq and American interests there or about nailing “big oil” in an election year?

Either way, like Barack Obama’s asking the Iraqi foreign minister to hold off on a strategic framework agreement until after the American election, it was nothing but harmful to American interests and our prospects in Iraq.

Umm, pardon me what?! Did you read that last paragraph? Like I said: Military matters. Read on if you will please. The New York Post is the one that has carried this story:

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

“He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington,” Zebari said in an interview.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops – and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its “state of weakness and political confusion.”

“However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open.” Zebari says.

Though Obama claims the US presence is “illegal,” he suddenly remembered that Americans troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate. His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the “weakened Bush administration,” Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.

While in Iraq, Obama also tried to persuade the US commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a “realistic withdrawal date.” They declined.

Obama has made many contradictory statements with regard to Iraq. His latest position is that US combat troops should be out by 2010. Yet his effort to delay an agreement would make that withdrawal deadline impossible to meet.

Supposing he wins, Obama’s administration wouldn’t be fully operational before February – and naming a new ambassador to Baghdad and forming a new negotiation team might take longer still.

By then, Iraq will be in the throes of its own campaign season. Judging by the past two elections, forming a new coalition government may then take three months. So the Iraqi negotiating team might not be in place until next June.

Then, judging by how long the current talks have taken, restarting the process from scratch would leave the two sides needing at least six months to come up with a draft accord. That puts us at May 2010 for when the draft might be submitted to the Iraqi parliament – which might well need another six months to pass it into law.

Thus, the 2010 deadline fixed by Obama is a meaningless concept, thrown in as a sop to his anti-war base.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration have a more flexible timetable in mind.

According to Zebari, the envisaged time span is two or three years – departure in 2011 or 2012. That would let Iraq hold its next general election, the third since liberation, and resolve a number of domestic political issues.

Even then, the dates mentioned are only “notional,” making the timing and the cadence of withdrawal conditional on realities on the ground as appreciated by both sides.

Iraqi leaders are divided over the US election. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (whose party is a member of the Socialist International) sees Obama as “a man of the Left” – who, once elected, might change his opposition to Iraq’s liberation. Indeed, say Talabani’s advisers, a President Obama might be tempted to appropriate the victory that America has already won in Iraq by claiming that his intervention transformed failure into success.

Maliki’s advisers have persuaded him that Obama will win – but the prime minister worries about the senator’s “political debt to the anti-war lobby” – which is determined to transform Iraq into a disaster to prove that toppling Saddam Hussein was “the biggest strategic blunder in US history.”

Other prominent Iraqi leaders, such as Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, believe that Sen. John McCain would show “a more realistic approach to Iraqi issues.”

Obama has given Iraqis the impression that he doesn’t want Iraq to appear anything like a success, let alone a victory, for America. The reason? He fears that the perception of US victory there might revive the Bush Doctrine of “pre-emptive” war – that is, removing a threat before it strikes at America.

Despite some usual equivocations on the subject, Obama rejects pre-emption as a legitimate form of self -defense. To be credible, his foreign-policy philosophy requires Iraq to be seen as a failure, a disaster, a quagmire, a pig with lipstick or any of the other apocalyptic adjectives used by the American defeat industry in the past five years.

Yet Iraq is doing much better than its friends hoped and its enemies feared. The UN mandate will be extended in December, and we may yet get an agreement on the status of forces before President Bush leaves the White House in January.

This should alarm anyone who supports our troops- not only the families of those troops. Someone who is more familiar with law could tell me for sure but I have read that this kind of action would be a violation of The Logan Act which states:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without
authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any
correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or
agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States,
or to defeat the measures of the United States…

Of course, this all depends on what was said behind closed doors. Just the thought though–a video that was posted will be put at the end of this post that pretty accurately states how this makes me feel.

There was a follow-up article in the New York Post today in response to the Obama Campaign Objection.  Important I would definitely say so:

N Monday’s Post, I discussed how Barack Obama, during his July trip, had asked Iraqi leaders not to finalize an agreement vital to the future of US forces in Iraq – and how the effect of such a delay would be to postpone the departure of the US from Iraq beyond the time Obama himself calls for.

The Obama campaign has objected. While its statement says my article was “filled with distortions,” the rebuttal actually centers on a technical point: the differences between two Iraqi-US accords under negotiation – the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, to set rules governing US military personnel in Iraq) and the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA, to settle the legal basis for the US military presence in Iraq in the months and years ahead).

The Obama camp says I confused the two. It continues: “On the Status of Forces Agreement, Sen. Obama has always said he hoped that the US and Iraq would complete it – but if they did not, the option of extending the UN mandate should be considered.

“As to the Strategic Framework Agreement, Sen. Obama has consistently said that any security arrangements that outlast this administration should have the backing of the US Congress – especially given the fact that the Iraqi parliament will have the opportunity to vote on it.”

If there is any confusion, it’s in Obama’s position – for the two agreements are interlinked: You can’t have any US military presence under one agreement without having settled the other accord. (Thus, in US-Iraqi talks, the aim is a comprehensive agreement that covers both SOFA and SFA.)

And the claim that Obama only wanted the Strategic Framework Agreement delayed until a new administration takes office, and had no objection to a speedy conclusion of a Status of Forces Agreement, is simply untrue.

Here is how NBC reported Obama’s position on June 16, after his conversation in the US with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: “Obama also told Zebari, he said, that Congress should be involved in any negotiations regarding a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. He suggested it may be better to wait until the next administration to negotiate such an agreement.”

In other words, Obama wanted a delay on the Status of Forces Agreement, not on the Strategic Framework Agreement – as his rebuttal now claims.

The NBC report continues: “Asked by NBC’s Lee Cowan if a timetable for the Status of Forces Agreement was discussed, Obama said, ‘Well he, the foreign minister, had presented a letter requesting an extension of the UN resolution until the end of this year. So that’ s a six-month extension.'”

That Obama was aware that the two accords couldn’ t be separated is clear in his words to NBC:

“Obviously, we can’t have US forces operating on the ground in Iraq without some sort of agreement, either a further extension of the UN resolution or some sort of Status of Forces agreement, some strategic framework agreement. As I said before, my concern is that the Bush administration — in a weakened state politically — ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it was my administration or Sen. McCain’ s administration.” (Emphasis added.)

Obama also told NBC: “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made, but I think the only way to assure that is to make sure that there is strong bipartisan support, that Congress is involved, that the American people know the outlines of this agreement.

“And my concern is that if the Bush administration negotiates, as it currently has, and given that we’re entering into the heat of political season, that we’re probably better off not trying to complete a hard-and-fast agreement before the next administration takes office, but I think obviously these conversations have to continue.

“As I said, my No. 1 priority is making sure that we don’t have a situation in which US troops on the ground are somehow vulnerable to, are made more vulnerable, because there is a lack of a clear mandate.”

This confirms precisely what I suggested in my article: Obama preferred to have no agreement on US troop withdrawals until a new administration took office in Washington.

Obama has changed position on another key issue. In the NBC report, he pretends that US troops in Iraq do not have a “clear mandate.” Now, however, he admits that there is a clear mandate from the UN Security Council and that he’d have no objection to extending it pending a bilateral Iraq-US agreement.

The campaign’s rebuttal adds other confusions to the mix. It notes that Obama (along with two other senators who accompanied him) also stated in July: “We raised a number of other issues with the Iraqi leadership, including our deep concern about Iranian financial and material assistance to militia engaged in violent acts against American and Iraqi forces; the need to secure public support through our respective legislatures for any long term security agreements our countries negotiate; the importance of doing more to help the more than 4 million Iraqis who are refugees or internally displaced persons; and the need to give our troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution so long as they are in Iraq.”

Note that in this part of the statement, the term “security agreements” is used instead of SOFA and SFA – another sign that the two can’ t be separated.

In any case, I never said Obama didn’t raise other issues with the Iraqis. Yet all those issues have been the subject of US-Iraqi talks between the US and Iraq (and of conferences attended by Iraq’s neighbors) for the last five years. Simply repeating them isn’ t enough to hide the fact that Obama’ s policy on Iraq consists of little more than a few contradictory slogans.

My account of Obama’s message to the Iraqis was based on a series of conversations with Iraqi officials, as well as reports and analyses in the Iraqi media (including the official newspaper, Al Sabah) on the senator’s trip to Baghdad. It is also confirmed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

In a long interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, Zebari says: “Obama asked me why, in view of the closeness of a change of administration, we were hurrying the signing of this special agreement, and why we did not wait until the coming of the new administation next year and agree on some issues and matters.”

Again, note that Zebari mentions a single set of agreements, encompassing both SFA and SOFA.

Zebari continues: “I told Obama that, as an Iraqi, I believe that even if there is a Democratic administration in the White House it had better continue the present policy instead of wasting a lot of time thinking what to do.”

In other words, Obama was trying to derail current US policy, while Zebari was urging him not to “waste time.”

Zebari then says: “I pointed out to him [Obama] that the agreement being negotiated [with the US] was not to be necessarily binding on the future administration unless it wanted to cooperate with the people of Iraq instead of [causing] crises and problems from its very start.”

According to Zebari, Obama said “some media reports that I want all [American] forces withdrawn are wrong. I want to keep American forces [in Iraq] to train [the Iraqi army] and fight terrorism.” This is precisely what US troops have been doing in Iraq for the last five years.

Zebari then says that he had the impression that US policy in Iraq wouldn’t change: “The US has permanent strategic interests in our region. A change in the administration would not change realities and priorities and would not mean a change of policy as a whole.” (Full text of the Zebari interview is available on Asharqalawsat.com)

Contrary to what Obama and his campaign have said, Iraqi officials insist that at no point in his talks in Washington and Baghdad did Obama make a distinction between SOFA and SFA when he advised them to wait for the next American administration.

The real news I see in the Obama statement is that there may be an encouraging evolution in his position on Iraq: The “rebuttal” shows that the senator no longer shares his party leadership’s belief that the United States has lost the war in Iraq.

He now talks of “the prospect of lasting success,” perhaps hoping that his own administration would inherit the kudos. And he makes no mention of his running mate Joe Biden’s pet project for carving Iraq into three separate states. He has even abandoned his earlier claim that toppling Saddam Hussein was “illegal” and admits that the US-led coalition’s presence in Iraq has a legal framework in the shape of the UN mandate.

In his statement on my Post article, Obama no longer talks of “withdrawal” but of “redeployment” and “drawdown” – which is exactly what is happening in Iraq now.

While I am encouraged by the senator’s evolution, I must also appeal to him to issue a “cease and desist” plea to the battalions of his sympathizers – who have been threatening me with death and worse in the days since my article appeared.


I will definitely be looking out and listening for more information on these issues. I’ll post here as I find links and as people post them on the boards or leave here in the comment section. The following video wasn’t put out by either of the campaigns, and even though we don’t know where this road leads yet the following video pretty much says exactly how the possibility of these matters made me feel.  Again, all comments are welcome and will be approved (provided they are respectful- I leave it to my discretion)

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