Iraq and Gulf Analysis

An Iraq Blog by a Victim of the Human Rights Crimes of the Norwegian Government

A Plan for Baghdad? Iraq and the Arab-Russian Peace Initiative for Syria

Posted by Reidar Visser on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 19:23

With an Arab foreign minister meeting completed, a website launched and an official emblem designed, it now seems the Arab League meeting in Baghdad on 29 March may actually become reality.

The significance of that fact, in itself, is not to be underestimated. Only months ago, few analysts found the idea of having the Arab summit realistic. The notion of substantial high-level representation was certainly dismissed.

On the surface, one can easily get the impression that a Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement has enabled the summit preparations to go ahead in recent weeks. However, the appointment of a Saudi non-resident ambassador to Iraq and the articulation of the word “change” in Iraqi discourse on Syria are long overdue baby steps. And one could also argue that these moves are above all cynical tactics: Iraq wants the summit simply to celebrate its return to normalcy after the US withdrawal, whereas Saudi Arabia is eager to maintain momentum in multilateral cooperation on the Syria issue.

Nonetheless, one should not dismiss the slight improvement in the regional climate as necessarily a transient phenomenon. When Iraqi Sadrists deliberately tone down their criticism and say AL summit participants should be welcomed to Baghdad, that in itself is a significant move which takes away some of the punch in the “Shiite crescent” theory as a framework for understanding the regional behaviour of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Egypt has recently settled debt issues with Iraq; Wednesday this week Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is headed to Kuwait with a similar objective.

One of the most interesting recent developments in this respect is the joint Arab–Russian initiative for Syria. This is so because Russian influence has taken the AL in the direction of a plan for Syria that Iraq, too, might sign up to. The emphasis on non-interference and the focus on an impartial supervisory mechanism for Syria, in particular, are things the Iraqis can approve of. It does not matter in this respect that nobody knows exactly what the supervisory mechanism will look like: Cynically disregarding the plight of the Syrians, as far as regional diplomacy is concerned the process is to some extent an aim in itself.

Of course, the Russian-Arab plan is a far cry from what countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar wanted for Syria. Perhaps the more important aspect is the fact that it did come into existence despite objections from some GCC countries. Going forward, the key question for Iraq’s return to the Arab fold may well be how it interacts with other Arab states that are less hawkish on Syria than Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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45 Responses to “A Plan for Baghdad? Iraq and the Arab-Russian Peace Initiative for Syria”

  1. Santana said

    IF this Summit ever happens I will bet it’s gonna be a quick 3 hour affair with only a few willing to risk a “sleepover” in such a blissful city like Baghdad………in and out….and I heard it may actually take place at the Airport while the planes are still running- and the landing will be like the good old days when they “spiraled” down pre-2006 to avoid ground to air missiles from the fringes .

    I am sure that is still OK for Maliki….he wants this badly- to put the final needed touches and Arab recognition to his Sectarian dictatorship…after it is done…hehehehe…watch out Iraqiya and Kurds !……we will see a new Maliki that will make Qassem Sulaimani mighty proud…..Maliki will start a new ethnic cleansing campaign that will afford him Ayatollah status and a full blown honorary Persian citizenship with a ceremony in Qum………….LOL.

    Talabani is gonna be watching the Summit (and all the glory Maliki gets from it) on his satellite TV in his suite at the Mayo clinic in Rochester Mn.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    For now, at least, Maliki is scoring some small but significant diplomatic successes, with small progress on debt issues in Egypt and Kuwait. With more friends in the Arab world, maybe he will not be so keen on close ties with Iran?

  3. Mohammed said

    Hi Reidar:

    I find it strange that a country like Kuwait would care so much about a few hundred million dollars when they have investment funds that are 100 billion dollars and change. Egypt I can understand…

    It leads me to believe that Kuwait is really looking for something else that they deem way more important. My guess is borders and water rights are more important to Kuwait than anything else.

    With Saudi Arabia, the elephant in the room is sunni-shia relations in the gulf. As long as Saudi-Wahabi clerics view shiites as sub-humans (and shiites in Bahrain and Eastern Saudi Arabia are 10th class citizens), no matter what steps Maliki can make, there is only limited possibilities in relational improvements.

    regards,
    M

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Good point re Kuwait. But isn’t it remarkable how a little bit of Russian meddling was sufficient to make AL as a body backtrack from the forward position on Syria, arming the opposition etc? That tells me the regional influence of rich players like Saudi & Qatar isn’t unlimited.

  5. Santana said

    Mohamed,

    I have been to Saudi many times- visited Shiite areas and have Saudi Shiite friends – they are not treated as “sub-human” at all…I agree that they are not allowed in the security forces but other than that they have full rights just like all any other Saudi citizen- the per capita income in the Shiite areas is the same as any other Saudi area !….Iran instigates all the problems in Eastern Saudi and stirs up the pot…..I wish Iraq’s shiite government would treat it’s citizens 1/4 as good as how Saudi treats their shiites.
    You can call em Wahabis but they don’t do “door to door” killing of young men in front of their families like the hardcore shiites in Iraq did – and these killings based on belonging to the wrong sect only…..this is what JAM and Badr did in 2006-2008.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, having tried to follow videos and images out of Qatif lately, I have the impression that there is a genuine local component to the uprising of Saudi Shiites, perhaps more youthful than earlier opposition movements. To me they seem more focused on solidarity with Bahrain than with Iran!

  7. Santana said

    Yes Reidar- good assessment…it is focused more on Solidarity with Bahrain….but that is my point- they never protest against “poor living conditions” or discrimination in their country………it’s always politically motivated and in solidarity with some shiite cause elsewhere….and I am being very sincere when I say they live very well in Saudi….they themselves admit that they have thriving businesses and most work for Aramco which pays very well.
    Mohamed lives in the U.S , I am willin to bet he has never been to Saudi…..but he still believes this “Wahabis are monsters” B.S…..

  8. bb said

    In Syria it’s both re-run of Iraq 1991 and Russian protection of Saddam and Baath regime in 2003. As soon as Kofi got into the act you knew the Syrians were being sold out. Can’t quite see why Syria on its own is so crucial to Russian/Chinese interests – must be to do with Tehran, in which case Syrians fate may be in Israeli hands.

    Back to the doings of the laborious Arab democracy in Iraq, Reidar!

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Don’t you accept that the course of politics in Iraq to some extent may depend upon what kind of Syria policy is adopted by the Arab League?

  10. Santana said

    Everyone will see what will happen in Iraq once that murderer Asad is gone….if Maliki is paranoid now- it wil be worse and he will be the most humbled and cooperative guy you can imagine post Asad…..no more thumbing his nose to Iraqiya……the Syrian Free Army guys already told the Anbaris we are coming to help you as soon as we are done with Asad and they mean it.

  11. Mohammed said

    Santana:

    What I admire about you is that you don’t hold back on your views, so at least I know where you stand on issues.

    My problem on your post regarding Saudi Arabia is that it seems to me that you are very selective in what you mention about Saudi Arabia, and you make claims that are unsubstantiated (no reliable references from recognized scholars or subject matter experts).

    Look, neither you nor I are expert scholars on Saudi Arabian politics. As an eternal optimist, I believe you when you tell me that you met Saudi Shiites friends who don’t feel that Saudi government treats them as sub-humans. I too have Saudi Shiites. All of them were physicians and engineers studying/training here in the USA. Believe me when I tell you that every single Saudi Shiite (except one guy) I have ever met readily admits that Shiites there are discriminated against in every way possible. The lone Saudi Shiite engineer I met who was actually grateful to the Saudi royal family was an exception. His father was actually allowed to serve in the military. Here is the kicker. The reason he was grateful is because he believes there are so many venomous wahabi crackpots in Saudi Arabia who would like nothing better than to convert all shia or impose the penalty of death upon them for apostacy. He believes that the royal family are more reasonable and secular, thus he is grateful for the protection they provide the shia from the even more extreme wahabis!

    In fact, most of my Saudi sunni friends that went to graduate school with me readily admit that Saudi Arabia systematically discriminated against Shia—not just in the security forces, but also in academic scholarships, faculty positions, government jobs, and religious practice.

    Santana, you can’t just form an opinion by selecting a few sources. Look at the big picture. It would be like me telling you everything is fine and dandy in Iraq because I happened to speak to a couple of Da3wa people. You are smarter than that, please!

    Like I have tried to tell you before, I am from a very mixed family. I completely agree with you about the barbarism of the JAM. My wife’s sunni uncle was the most gentle man in the world and never harmed anybody. During the height of the civil war in Baghdad, JAM killed him and threw him in a dumpster for no other crime than being a sunni at the wrong time in the wrong area, with drill marks on his head and torture signs on his body. However, my Shiite cousin living in Adhimiya had her Shiite husband kidnapped and killed by salafi extremists who wanted to eradicate all shia from Adhimiya. When a neighbor came to help, the salafi terrorists came back and shot the neighbor in the head, and left his body in the street. It went both ways. Let’s not forget all those suicide bombings where wahabi terrorists would walk up and blow themselves up in the middle of women and children. The shia, by virtue of their numerical superiority and with the aid of the govt, won the civil war of Baghdad, but both sides committed atrocities.

    However, with respect to Saudi Arabia, if wahabis are not so bad, then why are there dozens if not hundreds of Saudi wahabi would-be suicide bombers in Iraqi jails? Who brain-washed those poor teenage Saudis and promised them 72 virgins for killing a bunch of rafida shia? The tooth fairy?

    The bottom line..I am not happy with the sectarianism in Iraq today, but your comparison and wish for Iraq to be more like Saudi Arabia is worrisome. In Saudi Arabia, no media is allowed to criticize the ruler and suggest he step down like Allawi asks of Maliki with every breath. In Iraq, you have a sunni president, sunni speaker of the parliament, sunni chief of staff of the armed forces, finance ministry, 40% sunnis in parliament, sunni officers in the armed forces. Sunni TV stations highly critical of the government. Sunni endowment for mosques….My wife’s sunni brother is pretty much salafi in his outlook now…he goes to a hard core salafi masjid. Nobody bothers him. Shia have none of these things in Saudi Arabia.
    The only thing Saudi Arabia has going for it is that it is loaded with oil. Some Saudi shia are probably better off than shia in Iraq. But if you normalize for the population size, oil output, and the fact that Iraq has been in one war after another from 1980 to 2007, you can look at things with the proper perspective. Saudi exports about 10 million barrels whereas Iraq is less than 2.5 million. I know people with job offers in the University of Kufa, and their jobs pay 2500-3000 or more converted to US dollars per month. It’s not as much as Saudi Arabia, but it is on par if not better than Saudi jobs if you normalize for oil output.

    We have religious fanatic Shiite nut-jobs in Iraq who have murdered these poor emos. The same thing would happen to emos in Saudi Arabia, but it would be state-sanctioned with beheadings after Friday prayers. At least in Iraq, Sistani has issued an edict forbidding emo killings (calling their murder a form of terrorism). In comparison, Sistani’s counterpart in Saudi Arabia (the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia) called for the destruction of all churches. See: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/destroy-all-churches-in-gulf-says-saudi-grand-mufti-450002.html?tab=Comments

    I have known many Saudis and they are very nice people. Basically, al-saud made a deal with the wahabi establishment a long time ago, and now they are screwed. I feel sorry for the people of Saudi Arabia, sunni (those who want genuine reform) and shia.

    Here are some sources and their excerpts:

    http://arabia2day.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Embattled-in-Arabia-Shiis-and-the-Politics-of-Confrontation-in-Saudi-Arabia.pdf

    By Toby Craig Jones (Given US Military / West Point)
    “The government has long been slow to crack down on Sunni scholars and clerics who regularly levy verbal assaults on Shi‘is not only in the kingdom, but in Iraq and other countries around the region as well. The Saudi state has not only failed to keep the sectarian vitriol in check, but in fact has fanned sectarian flames.”
    “Although Saudi leaders historically restrained those advocating genocide, the government consistently and vigorously oppressed and discriminated against Shi‘is over the course of the 20th century.17Shi‘i institutions, including mosques, community centers and local hawzas were shut down and the annual Ashura mourning commemorations were banned. Part of the explanation for the Saudi heavy-hand had to do with the strictures of Wahhabism itself, which declared Shi‘ism a form of heresy. Given Wahhabism’s exalted status in Saudi Arabia, anti-Shi‘ism was built into the structure of political and religious authority and became pervasive in cultural and social institutions. The Saudi education system, for example, has historically preached intolerance for religious views that diverge from core Wahhabi tenets. Not only has Shi‘ism been singled out as apostasy in the Saudi curriculum, but Shi‘i students have been forced to endure direct sectarian reprobation in the classroom. Shi‘is also have historically faced considerable discrimination in public and private employment, struggling to land jobs, and advance professionally.”

    “In spite of the massive revenues generated by the oil boom earlier in the decade, Shi‘is saw little of the largesse. Most lived in considerable squalor and lacked access to basic health care and other social services.”

    http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/Middle%20East%20North%20Africa/Iran%20Gulf/Saudi%20Arabia/The%20Shiite%20Question%20in%20Saudi%20Arabia.pdf

    “One of the more visible manifestations of discrimination involves the under-representation of Shiites in major official positions. There have never been any Shiite ministers or members of the royal cabinet, and the only Shiite ambassador was Jamil al-Jishi, envoy to Iran from 1999 to 2003. When in 2005 King Fahd expanded the Majlis al-Shura (the quasi-legislative consultative body that advises the royal family) from 120 to 150 members, only two additional Shiites were nominated, doubling their numbers to four. The simultaneous re-configuration of the fifteen-member regional council in the Shiite dominated Eastern Province — a body that directly reports to the provincial governor and wields considerably more
    power than the elected Municipal Council — saw a reduction in Shiite membership from two to one.

    Shiites confront multiple layers of discrimination. Education is particularly difficult. Shiite students complain of prejudice and open hostility from Sunni instructors, who regularly refer to them as kuffar (infidels), mushrikuun (polytheists) or rafida (rejectionists) — the code word for Shiites. A copy of an exam recently administered to a middle school history class and provided to Crisis Group
    asked students to discuss why “the ahl al-Sunna [Sunnis] prefer to characterise Shiites as al-rafida”.

    “Although more difficult to document, discrimination also appears prevalent in the private sector. The result is disproportionate poverty and harsh social conditions for Shiites which, in the absence of official records, a visit to the East readily establishes.”

    http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/03/07/saudi_arabia_s_shiite_problem

    The events of the Arab Spring have heightened long-standing tensions in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Just three days after large-scale protests started in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, protests began in the Eastern Province, which is a 30-minute drive across the causeway from Bahrain. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Saudi interior ministry vowed to crush the protests with an “Iron Fist” and has unleashed a media-smear campaign against protests and the Shiites in general. While protests subsided over the summer, they started again in October and have become larger ever since, leading to an ever more heavy-handed response from the security forces.

    This repressive response, with distinct rhetorical echoes of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime, poses an awkward challenge to recent Saudi foreign policy. The protests of the people in the Eastern Province are as legitimate as the protests in Syria. If Saudi Arabia does not respond to these calls for reform at home how can it seriously claim to rise to the defense of democracy in Syria? The crackdown in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has given the Iranian and Syrian regime, as well as Shiite political movements in Lebanon and Iraq, a useful rhetorical gambit to push back against their regional rivals.

    For decades, opposition groups formed by Saudi Shiites, both leftist and Islamists, as well as hundreds of petitions by Shiite notables, have had the same demands: an end to sectarian discrimination in government employment and representation in main state sectors including at the ministerial level; more development in Shiite areas; the strengthening of the Shiite judiciary; and an end to arbitrary arrests of Shiite for religious or political reasons. None of these demands would significantly undermine the position of the royal family, or otherwise threaten the integrity of Saudi Arabia. They would rather cement the current political system and buy the allegiance of two million people living on top of the kingdom’s oil.

    Look at the wikileaks about what the USG has reported as well:

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/06/22/116306/wikileaks-saudi-crackdown-on-shiites.html#storylink=misearch

  12. Mohammed said

    p.s.

    yes I have been to saudi arabia and visited jeddah, makkah, and medina.

    the Shiites of Medina live in pathetic conditions for a country with 10 million barrels of oil per day exported.

    By the way, I could never figure out exactly why should saudi princes be entitled to tens of billions of dollars in oil money every year by virtue of their name alone?

    M

  13. Santana said

    Geez Mohamed- I feel bad now that I put you through all that writing- you must have tons of time on your hand…..FWIW I don’t care for ANY religous group whatsoever….so I was not defending Wahabis….just relaying my observations and personal experiences.

    Still- given a choice I would rather live in Saudi than Iraq.

    Peace

  14. Salah said

    There are differences with Russian/Chinese to Syria to day and the Iraq in 1991.

    Russian in 1991 was bankrupt, I remember well then Russian got one billion dollar as a loan (Gods knows if that paid Back) for not veto in a Security Council, Saudis gave them the loan so that was as bribe for them their stand.

    As in 2003 about Iraq there was many voices which oppose the war as UN inspection teams “Hans Blix” many times rejected US/UK calls that Iraq having WMD or near to have it and posse threats to west. Then all truth folded aftermath.

    Definitely Russian/Chinese looking after their interests as other do or doing.

  15. bb said

    Reidar 9. For a very long time the AL and Turkey were leading the pack re Syria (as they did in Libya) but that all seemed to change when the Russians dug in and vetoed the UN resolution. Since then it seems they are adjusting to a new reality. Of course, the other aspect which is a bit opaque is why Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy did not take more of a lead? Maybe they pulled the rug from under AL and Turkey, in which case the latter would definitely have to adjust.
    But at the end of the day Syria is a minor player, only distinguished by being the last of the ancien regimes to be under threat.

    I do feel that the looming Israel/Tehran nuclear move is playing a part in these manouvres and Obama’s calculations, just as I suspect it played a big part his eagerness to ensure there are no US troops left in Iraq.

    Oh, and re effect on course of Iraqi politics being affected by two bit Syria and AL – to paraphrase James Carville: “It’s nuclear Iran, stupid”.

  16. bb said

    I see on US network news that the Iranian banks are getting cut off from the Swift system this weekend. The opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th come to mind.

  17. Mohammed said

    Santana:

    You are changing the question. I wasn’t speaking as to where you wanted to live. My point was that Saudi Arabia is hostage to a very mutakhalaf and warped variety of Wahabism where their own shia citizens are treated horribly. You disputed that. I offer third party evidence from other sources to back up my thesis. If you do not believe the evidence I offer, that is up to you. If you interpret the evidence differently, that is another matter altogether. My point: Iraq is a majority Shia country, and good relations with Saudi Arabia will require that Saudi Arabia changes its policies towards Shia. Iraq can have excellent relations with other gulf countries who are more progressive like UAE (by far my favorite GCC country).

    People may want to live in Saudi Arabia in comparison to Iraq currently because the standard of living is better there compared to Iraq. That is why I argue that Iraqi politicians should be focused on improving services and security and the economy. And it would help if Saudi Arabia keeps its suicide bombers to itself. Improve security, get electricity up and running, and modernize Iraq’s infrastructure,and I would pick Iraq over Saudi Arabia any day. Instead, Iraqiya is consumed with an unrealistic facade of Arbil.

    It reminds me of republicans in the USA. Do you think Mitt Romney has a big smile on his face if he wakes up to a jobs report saying that the US economy added half a million jobs last month? Politicians are the same no matter where you go.

    regards,
    M

  18. Bb,
    You obviously think that the “Israel/Tehran nuclear move” is inevitable. I used to think so, now I am not so sure. Obviously Natanyahu wants it bad and there is risk of unilateral move from Israel, but the chances are that Iran already have or could develop a nuclear device within a very short time, therefor a Kissinger-style balance of terror is already working (to an extent.) And I think there are many in Israel who believe that Iran could tolerate a “nuclear move” better than Israel, which makes it unlikely to attack Iran, and which makes “two bit” Syria a major ground for confrontation and the spill-off to Iraq inevitable.

  19. Santana said

    Mohamed-

    Read this..

    http://www.kitabat.com/index.php?mod=page&num=3609&lng=ar

    Maliki refuses to cooperate nor stop Iranian planes taking arms to Syria thru Iraq….I love seeing stuff like this- so I can keep telling U.S Officials ” We told you so !!!!” everytime I visit with them. This is gonna look great ahead of the AL Summit !….it is stuff like this that proves how Sectarian and Pro-Iran Maliki really is.

  20. Reidar Visser said

    Santana, I agree that story has smoking-gun qualities (I think it was Washington Times originally).

    So, if other Arab leaders are smart, why don’t they call Maliki out on the summit and ask why the flights are allowed to go ahead if Maliki truly wants change in Syria?

  21. Mohammed said

    Santana:

    Let me start off by saying that as a physician, I am horrified and disgusted by the barbaric crimes of the Assad Baathist regime. The scenes of young children being massacred should be seared into the mind of anybody with an ounce of humanity. I will cheer the day that his regime falls and he and his goons are held accountable for their crimes against humanity.

    I very much condemn Iran’s overt support of Assad. The issue of where Iraq and Maliki fit into all of this is much murkier. I have consistently stated that I believe Maliki is a very WEAK leader in comparison to any other ruler in the Middle East. He is in no position to dictate to Iran, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia.

    Given that reality, see the following testimony from General Dempsey:

    “On the issue of Iranian shipments crossing through their airspace, they have in fact demarched Iran to cease doing that,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7.

    “They have requested — remember now, they don’t have the ability to control their airspace. They can’t interdict anyone crossing it, but they have on more than one occasion insisted that Iranian air flights across Iraq would land to be inspected,” Gen. Dempsey said.

    Source: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/16/us-talking-iraq-about-iranian-arms-flights-syria/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS

    Now flights of weapons may have gone to Syria from Iran in the past, but if in fact the US Govt has notified Iraq of this, and Maliki made the above changes, I must say: “Bravo Maliki!”

    The reality is that Iraq has no air force to even guard its own airspace. I presume that Iran has been sending weapons to Syria for quite some time now (including 2011) when American warplanes patrolled Iraqi skies, and not even the Americans did anything about it back then.

    If Maliki has made the above measures, that is a good start. It is not practical for Iraq to stop every Iranian plane flying over its airspace, nor are they in a position to enforce that.

    There is ample evidence that Maliki has been at odds with Syria for years. Remember in 2009-2010 after multiple bombings Baghdad, Maliki wanted to bring Syria up at the UN for aggression against Iraq and supporting terrorism back then, and recalled his ambassador.

    However, Iraq cannot afford at this stage to be at war with all of its neighbors. I think Maliki’s position is reasonable. He has called for a peaceful resolution and for Assad to step down and allow elections to take place (he went against Iran, Russia, and China at the UN). But in the cut-throat world of politics, I am sure somewhere in Maliki’s mind there is that old proverb “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” If Syria crashes and burns into a full blown civil war and failed state, it will be a source of instability for Iraq, and I can understand Maliki’s pragmatism given how weak Iraq is currently. Don’t think for a second that Saudi Arabia is hoping for a progressive democracy to emerge in Syria.

    If Iran is desperate to send weapons to Syria, they might as well put them on cargo ships bound to Russia across the Caspian Sea, and then the Russians can send them over to Assad with all the rest of the weapons that Russia is openly bragging about supplying Assad with.

    If I was Maliki’s US ambassador, I would tell the Americans: “We as Iraqis have been victims of one Baathist tyrant when our cries for help went ignored by the west, so we sympathize with all those people in Syria dying at the hands of another Baathist regime. We never liked Assad to begin with, but we are completely vulnerable to Iran right now should they want to make trouble for us, so we cannot afford to be in a huge confrontation over air space issues. We have asked them to stop using our airspace to send weapons after you notified us. We cannot stop every plane; that just is not practical, but will make an effort to inspect air traffic as our situation allows us. Iran and Turkey routinely bomb and shell our north, and we are powerless to do anything about it. So why don’t you hurry up and train and supply us with an air force so we can defend ourselves! “

    Of course America is dragging its feet with respect to equipping Iraq’s armed forces, so perhaps the US is beginning to realize that strategy may no longer be wise.

    Finally, regarding people sticking to principles vs practicality, I am also disgusted by Bahrain’s crackdown on peaceful protestors in their own country. Yet, Maliki has invited their King to the Al summit, and has remained silent about the fact that there are/were Saudi troops in Bahrain (not just arms) helping to crush a people’s call for dignity and democracy (as well as recent rumors of union with Bahrain (aka annexation against the will of the people)). A sectarian Shiite leader would blast Bahrain and KSA for their abuses, but alas Iraq is in no position to even dare mention that at the upcoming AL summit.

    Regards,
    M

  22. Observer said

    RV & Santana
    Is it not obvious after 7 years that Maliki and company give false promises to get what they want and then do what they want to do anyway?

    I am sure that Maliki apologists here will hasten to find execuses or even blame iraqia for Maliki’s closeness to Iran… Sigh….
    Peace

  23. ihsanaldaraji said

    Santana, either your account has been hacked or Iran has driven you crazy!
    The world does not revolve around Iran.
    Wake up and start seeing things for what they are.
    Stop comparing Maliki to Assad, there is no comparison between the two. Maliki is not perfect, but he is a democratically elected leader and not a mass murderer who inherited his throne.
    PS: where do you meet all these U.S. officials to say “I told you so”? What Starbucks do you go to?

  24. Santana said

    Thanks Ihsan-

    You are right -I don’t meet any officials at all….. nor do I meet with any Iraqi leaders, nor Arab heads of State nor any think tanks , nor Senators, Congressmen or administration officials, nor Ambassadors……I only say or make things up -like you said-cuz Iran has driven me crazy….you caught me fair and square….what a sharp guy !! I wanna meet you one day – maybe at Starbucks ??

  25. bb said

    Faisal Kadri: Seems to me optimum time to strike is when sanctions have turned the screws on Iran’s moneyed class ie – the regime and its props – which should happen quite quickly once Swift is cut off. Panetta’s April timeline makes sense.

  26. Mohammed said

    Ihsan:

    Allow me to suggest that dialogue works best when we stick to discussing the issues and avoid personal accusations.

    Santana has posted on here for quite some time. While he and I may disagree about certain policy matters, I very much admire that he is pretty direct and expresses his views in a straight forward manner. I see no reason to doubt his claims that he has discussion with State Department folks and other political leaders and policy specialists. Regarding Santana’s views on Iran, I assure you that there are many Iraqis who would agree with him (more than they would agree with me) including some of my own family members in Baghdad. Santana has called Iranian interference a “cancer” in Iraq, and I completely agree with him. I only disagree on how best to treat this cancer.

    Moreover, I think it is fantastic that we can have discussions with people (like Santana or Observer) who are actually involved with Iraqiya at some level by their own admission. It takes guts and open-mindedness on their part to engage in dialogue in online forums. It is rather pathetic that there are no State of Law, Kurdish, or other Iraqis involved with political blocks who engage in dialogue in such a manner, and reflects poorly on the openness of other political blocks.

    Thus, it may take a few more minutes to actually debate an issue by sticking to the topic instead of just insulting somebody by calling him/her “crazy,” but it is far more value-added in advancing the dialogue forward.

    Regards,
    M

  27. Santana said

    Thanks Mohamed-

    I really appreciate your maturity and logic…..yes- we may disagree on a few things but I fully respect your opinion and point of view……in the end we both want what is best for Iraq and ALL Iraqis ………..and this is what counts.

  28. Reidar Visser said

    I’m glad you guys sorted this on your own, Iraq-style! Lest there be any doubt about it, I can verify that Santana is in touch with the people he says he is in touch with and I think the blog readership benefits greatly from the insider information he adds on a regular basis, and that it can be taken at face value. As Mohammed said, let’s try to stay focused on the issues at hand.

  29. Mohammed said

    Reidar:

    Did you see this post in Zaman?

    http://www.todayszaman.com/columnistDetail_getNewsById.action?newsId=274017

    This excerpt stands out:
    “That is why both the ruling elite in Basra province as well as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government are keen to foster ties with Ankara, hoping that Turkey can act as a counterbalance to Iranian encroachment. They see that close cooperation with Turkey will help improve Iraqis’ capacity to balance growing Iranian influence. Tehran’s overtures with Shiite clerics in Iraq have already stoked fears of Iranian expansionism, recalling bitter memories of the Iraq-Iran War of the ’80s. Long-running economic, political and cultural grievances against Tehran have now resurfaced.”

    My 3 take aways:
    1) If one agrees with the contents of the article, it debunks the idea of Maliki as a pro-iranian puppet to be too simplistic and off the mark.

    2) Iran is certainly making problems for the people in southern Iraq

    3) I wish Saudi Arabia, UAE and others learnt a thing or two from Turkey regarding building economic influence in Iraq to offset Iranian influence.

    If Maliki was clever, he would align Turkey’s interests with Iraq’s interests regarding the Fao port. The real value of the Fao port is being able to send goods to Europe via Iraq and Turkey. Thus, Turkey should do what it can to help Iraq make the Fao port a reality.

    M

  30. faisalkadri said

    Bb,
    News analysis suggests that cutting off Swift will affect mainly the private sector, the government and its agents use other means. I am doubtful about your expectation.

  31. Reidar Visser said

    Mohammed, the article is interesting, but as far as the assumed attitudes of Basra and or Maliki are concerned it does not really prove anything since there is not a single quote and it may well be wishful thinking of the journalist.

    I liked the article for what it said about specfic Turkish investment projects in Basra. Compare with the lacklustre Saudi position.

  32. Mohammed said

    Reidar:

    Agreed that there are no quotes, but actions can speak louder than words.

    If one believes the stories and anectdotal evidence that Iran is actively trying to prevent Turkey from making in-roads in Iraq, then I assume that if Maliki was doing Iran’s bidding, he too would obstruct the Turks in the south, but he hasn’t. Why threaten to kill people when all you have to do is deny a business or building permit?

    regards,
    M

    Action

  33. Reidar Visser said

    Oh, it’s not black and white, for sure. There are Emiratis working in Maysan as well unless I am mistaken.

  34. bb said

    Don’t know about sorting it out Iraqi-syle RV. If it were true Iraqi-style they’d still be having meetings to decide when they were going to have a meeting surely?

    As an armchair outsider, I would much more impressed with the moustache -twirling sectarian, Iranian lackey Maliki line if the proponents had not been so keen on doing deals with ISCI and the sadrists over all these years. Doesn’t figure.

  35. Salah said

    The problem with investment projects inside Iraq by neighbouring countries its wildly subjected not fully with sec. agenda, its more influenced by wide corruptions in Iraq today.

    In other words, those Iraqi officials are favouring one part from others reflected as they are more to that side, the reality it’s not driven by that its more the corrupted folks and his ilk are presumably looks more attached to Iranians than others.

    That’s why we hear more and more investment projects but nothing fruiting or produce, its exactly opposites what going on in North Iraq “Kurdistan” region were things going well and most investment projects well ahead and promising that the rest of Iraq.

  36. Santana said

    Reidar,

    Looks like Maliki renegged on Ali Alhashimi as the new head of Police in Maysan….he wants him out now….see – you praised Maliki on this when Ali got appointed….

    http://www.burathanews.com/news_article_151119.html

    That directive to Maliki came from you know where Reidar….but I am reluctant to say where…… so no one jumps up and down my throat….

  37. faisalkadri said

    I just received from a trusted source copy of a letter from the Iraqi prime minister’s office to the central bank, it says:

    استنادا إلى ما جاء في المادة 110 ثالثامن الباب الرابع من دستور جمهورية العراق التي أشارت إلى أن من إختصاصات السلطات الأتحادية الحصرية رسم السياسة النقدية وإنشاء البنك المركزي وإدارته، نرجو تقديم السياسة النقدية للبنك المركزي إلى مجلس الوزراء لأطلاع المجلس عليها وإقرارها وعدم إعتماد سياسات بدون إقرارها من مجلس الوزراء مستقبلا.

    Which basically instructs the central bank to get approval from the prime minister before adopting any monetary policy. This contradicts item 103/2 which states that the central bank is accountable to parliament, and is understood to mean that the prime minister now controls all external accounts and deposits overseas.
    Considering the timing, this probably has to do with Iraq’s beleaguered allies, Syria and Iran, or with fixing the prime minister’s swimming pool before the hot summer :)

  38. Reidar Visser said

    Are you sure the letter is authentic? It seemed a little blunt, even for Maliki! There is of course the wild supreme ruling that basically cancels 103/2:

    http://gulfanalysis.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/the-first-policies-of-the-new-maliki-government-attaching-the-independent-electoral-commission-to-the-executive/

  39. faisalkadri said

    I think it is authentic. I uploaded it to my Facebook page.

  40. Reidar Visser said

    Feel free to post the link!

  41. faisalkadri said

    Here is a temporary link.

  42. Mohammed said

    Dear All:

    interesting link:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2117210/A-million-supporters-anti-U-S-Iraqi-cleric-Moqtada-al-Sadr-pack-streets-Basra-mark-anniversary-2003-invasion.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    1) Sadrists seems to be the only party who can pull off a rally that big.

    2) Message was pretty anti-Maliki (govt failing to deliver on jobs, electricity, education, healthcare). Maliki surely would not like more rallies like this.

    3) Why can’t Iraqiya hold massive protests to put pressure on Maliki? Allawi’s strategy to date has been to appeal to foreign leaders instead of the Iraqi population.

    4) Maliki will be vulnerable in elections if shiite voters turned off by poor services/infrastructure. If Maliki is distracted by other issues (e.g. Arbil), he will pay for it at the polls.

    regards,
    M

  43. Lars said

    Faisalkadri and Reidar,
    Barzani apparently referred to the letter in his speech today

    http://ipairaq.com/index.php?name=inner&t=politics&id=52941

    revealing Send a message to the Central Bank to be linked to the Prime Minister as well.

  44. Seerwan said

    @ Mohammad

    One million Basrawis marching in support of Muqtada (quoted in the Daily Mail article) is unlikely.

    Basra’s experience with criminal Shia gangs post-2003 is documented and the population are likely hostile towards organizations like Muqtada Al Sadr’s. Furthermore it was Maliki that liberated Basra from those criminal gangs, mainly the Mahdi Army. (1)
    This has resulted in Basra electorally being a pro-Maliki city, as demonstrated in the 2010 Parliamentary election; in Basra State of Law won about 58% of the votes (431,217 votes) resulting in getting 14 MPs compared to about 32% (237,010 votes) for the National Iraqi Alliance as a whole, resulting in them getting 7 MPs. (2)
    Lastly, the entire Basra Province has a population of about 3.5 million. (3) That would require about a quarter of the population to have been out in support of Muqtada; while not impossible, it’s an improbable level of such active support for Muqtada, in Basra.

    1- http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/hayder-al-khoei/leaving-basra-to-bandits
    2- http://www.ihec-iq.com/ftpar/basrah.pdf
    3- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basra_Province

  45. Salah said

    Excuse me been out of the scope of this post, but important to bring it as looks the relations between Malik and Kurd slipping fast.

    هاجم رئيس اقليم كردستان مسعود بارزاني بشدة رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي متهما اياه باحتكار السلطة وبناء جيش يأتمر بأوامره ملمحا الى ان بشرى اعلان الدولة الكردية قادم ولكن في الوقت المناسب. وقال بارزاني ان الشراكة التي كانت سمحت بتشكيل حكومة وحدة وطنية ضمت حزبه وحزب المالكي اثر الانتخابات التشريعية في 2010 اضحت “غير قائمة تماما وفقدت كل معنى لها” بحسب ترجمة لكلامه. وتعكس هذه الانتقادات تصاعد التوتر بين الحكومة المركزية في بغداد وسلطات اقليم كردستان العراق.

    واضاف بارزاني في خطابه باربيل عاصمة اقليم كردستان “نحن ازاء محاولة لاقامة جيش مكون من مليون رجل يأتمرون بامر شخص واحد”. وشدد “اين يمكن في هذا العالم لشخص واحد ان يتولى رئاسة الوزراء، وقيادة القوات المسلحة، ووزارة الدفاع، ووزارة الداخلية، ورئاسة الاجهزة السرية، ورئاسة مجلس الامن الوطني؟”.

    فبعد عامين من الانتخابات التشريعية لم يعين المالكي وزيري الدفاع والداخلية رغم الوضع الامني الذي لا يزال هشا في العراق حيث قتل نحو 50 شخصا الثلاثاء في اعتداءات.

    واضاف بارزاني “نحن حريصون على تحالفنا مع الشيعة لكن ليس مع هذه المجموعة من الناس الذين احتكروا السلطة وادت سياساتهم الى تهميش شيعة آخرين”. ويشكل النواب الاكراد نحو خمس البرلمان العراقي ويشغل الائتلاف الكردي المكون من حزبين خمس حقائب وزارية في الحكومة.

    http://www.kitabat.com/index.php?mod=page&num=3741&lng=ar

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