Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The United States Taking the Backseat in Iraq

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 7 June 2012 16:34

It hasn’t quite received the media attention it deserves: During the midst of the current political crisis in Iraq, the top US diplomat in Iraq, Ambassador James Jeffrey – a recurrent figure in many conspiracy theories about elaborate US schemes for dividing and ruling the region – must have sneaked out the back door.  Already, the Wall Street Journal is making interviews with him referring to his “past” tenure in Iraq, and this week, despite the climax of the moves to unseat Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Ibrahim al-Jaafari met with a chargé d’affaires from the biggest US embassy in the world.

Wait. Wasn’t Vice President Joe Biden, the Iraq czar of the Obama administration, supposed to show up in Baghdad instead this week? Well, that was what the rumours said but we’re at the end of the working week in Iraq and still no Joe in Baghdad. It seems the Iraqis – not without some sort of loud cheering from the Turks and the Iranians – will be sorting this one out themselves.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the next US ambassador in Iraq, was still in Washington in a Senate confirmation hearing answering rather lame question about oil production, Sunnis and Shiites and militant groups. It is however noteworthy that McGurk – who has been so strongly associated with US backing of Maliki that Iraqiyya promptly declared they would have nothing to do with him upon his nomination – was at pains to express an evenhanded approach to Iraqi politics. If a new PM were in place tomorrow, McGurk would deal with him as with Maliki. “Political agreements” [meaning Erbil] would be respected alongside the constitution. And McGurk went even further than that. Apparently reflecting the success of a strong Kurdish lobby in DC, he declared his desire to visit Kurdistan “every week” of his tenure if confirmed. That is a lot of travelling for a high-value US target in Iraq!

Of course, Ambassador Jeffrey must have left on or around 1 June, when his tenure was supposed to end anyway. Be that as it may, the net effect of all of this may be that the United States will have only a limited role in the question of whether Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will go or not. Right now, it actually seems an intra-Kurdish struggle with some considerable Iranian pressure on President Jalal Talabani is the main factor behind the delay of the introduction of a non-confidence vote against Maliki in the Iraqi parliament.

Some will no doubt see this kind of limited US involvement as a desirable process of disengagement. That would be a fair interpretation had it not been for the very glaring and physical image of the mega embassy of the Americans in Baghdad – the remnant of an altogether different vision of hands-on US involvement. (The Jeffrey remarks to the WSJ came in a story on the unexpected downsizing of the CIA presence in Iraq.)

It would be fair to talk about successful disengagement had it also not been for the fact that what remains of US fingers in Iraq seem to be working at counter-purpose. In the embassy as well as in the US Senate, discussion is still about Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds and the implementation of the Arbil agreement. There is complete failure to realize that all of this replicates the Iranian conceptual model of an ethno-sectarian Iraq and ultimately will serve to strengthen Iranian influence – or to partition the country into Iranian and Turkish zones of influence.

One result of recent developments in Iraq is that Sadrist criticism of Maliki has put pressure on Maliki to fix his relations with some other Shiite partners with whom relations had soured in recent years, such as ISCI, Badr and Fadila. It has also meant creating links to rather unsavoury circles in the former Sadrist militia Asaib Ahl al-Haqq. All of this plays into the hands of Iran.

Conversely, there is one recent development that might have the potential to solidify Iraqi independence versus the regional environment: The recent alliance between Maliki and Sunnis from the disputed territories in northern Iraq. Typically, this very significant trend for anyone who believes in an independent Iraq was never mentioned in the US Senate hearing on the next American ambassador to Iraq.

48 Responses to “The United States Taking the Backseat in Iraq”

  1. Mohammed said


    since you closed off the other forum, I will try to make this post relevant to this discussion…

    Observer and I were debating whether Maliki can have an appeal to the sunnis (northern Iraq)…Observer seems to doubt this. You say this is a very significant trend, but what’s the status as of now? If those lawmakers 20+ were serious about supporting Maliki, how is it possible that the anti-Maliki forces managed to get 170 signatures, etc? Something is not adding up. Is Iran preventing Maliki from making friends with them, is Iraqiya preventing them from being friends with Maliki? The 4 that reportedly withdrew their names still doesnt account for the other 16+ MPs.

    You are missing my points…actually, in fact you are making them for me. Please read my post carefully…I did not say that this is what Maliki IS DOING or has done (although RV has given some examples of that in the past). I gave a strategy for what he would likely have to do to gain more power in other parts of Iraq in the FUTURE

    Observer said: More secular – huh? Have you read the doctrine of Da3wa? More secular means that he is semi secular now. Really? what evidence do you have of his current “secular” policies let alone “more secular”.

    My response: Exactamundo! Da3wa IS NOT secular, as I have stated over and over again. So what I have tried to tell you is that as long as it remains a shiite, sectarian, islamist party, it cannot control non-shiite areas of Iraq like Mosul, Anbar, etc. The Baath could do that because you could be a shiite or a sunni or a christian Baathist….you cannot be a sunni muslawi and be a da3wa member at the same time.

    It is YOU who states Da3wa will control all of Iraq like the Baathist did. For your analogy to work, it requires Da3wa in every corner of Iraq like there were baathists from Mosul to Basra in the past. Tell me how that can happen?

    Observer said: Nationalistic – oh you mean beat up on the Kurds some more? or reduce his dependence on Iran. What does “nationalistic” mean?

    My response: A nationalist would cater to larger segments of the iraqi population instead of just shiite base.


    Placebo: I have not forgotten about our ongoing soon as we have a decision about the NCV, then we can get back to that. Right now, it is a moot point if we are debating about issues of how to work in a Maliki system if Maliki is out of power in a week.

  2. Reidar Visser said

    Sorry for closing the other thread, it is one of my few editorial prerogatives. I do it partly when discussions move far away from the original subject and partly when there is a new and more up to date post available.

    On the northern support for Maliki, they actually met today. I tweeted a pic and here is the story:
    There are some errors in it and not all of those listed are MPs and some are listed more than once, but the general trend is there. They once more claim to have around 20 additional MPs abroad who support them. The significance compared with earlier reports is they claim to have formally established some sort of pro-Maliki alliance.

  3. observer said

    you are a heads in the sky idealist. For Da3wa to become secular it means they have to drop the credo and their ideology. Do you understand how impractical and utterly academic that is?

    there were those who doubted that Baath can control Iraq. they were proven wrong. But it was too late. If da3wa controls the south, then Iraq is goign to be divided by virtue of their hold on power and not needing anybody else to rule. So your desire for a strong Iraq is negated by the very thesis that you advocate – strengthening Da3wa (even just a little bit).

    Here is where Allawi fucked up. He should have heeded calls by Hakim to join the INA and dropped the sunnis. He could have actually unified the she3a and brought in the sunnies and the Kurds as true partners.

    I will leave the rest unaddressed as it is off topic. But one last ditch effort to make you smell the coffee. If Maliki has the votes already, he would have called NCV 😉

    RV – the new ambassador will always be a persona non grata at the allawi house hold. It is truly sad for me personally to see how reduced US influence is, but it is partially due to the brilliant work of the likes of the next ambassador of the US. Talk about the Peter Principal. Everyone will rise to their own level of incompetence.

  4. Santana said


    I am curious as to how we are supposed to try and get closer to the U.S admin and build strong ties to help us against the scumbag and Iran,,,,,,,,and then we “boycott” the new Amb ….is this wise do you think??

  5. observer said

    This guy is a snake. Just like Maliki, he will promise all that he needs to promise to ge the job and then do what he wishes to do. He may have been the coach who taught Maliki to promise and then not deliver soon as he is gets the office ;).

    Besides, what good did it do to us having “listening ears” in DOS or DOD. We have the reputation of being supported by the US and the west, without the benefit of overt or covert support. They are not going to listen to us regardless. Do you think my moaning about why the US and Iran are supporting the same guy is baseless?

    Allawi will boycott him, I am sure. As to the rest, i can’t predict. But first things first. Let us see if Talabani has purchased enough time for Maliki to buy enough votes. Ah, the power of the purse.

  6. Mohammed said


    So you don’t view these 20 MPs that Maliki is talking to (as RV alluded above) to be a practical example of Maliki trying to build a cross-sectarian alliance away from just using his Da3wa core base to maintain power?


  7. Dear Observer,

    It isn’t inconceivable for a party to change its policies, platforms and central ideologies.

    The Labor Party under Tony Blair removed all reference to socialism from it’s Manifesto.
    Hizbollah have said they would give up arms if Israel withdraws from the Sheeba farms and the Occupied Territories.
    Hamas was created with their charter saying they want the complete destruction of Israel as a state; they too have declared they would accept an Israeli state if Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories.

    Political parties are not static. They change as time progresses to suit new conditions and circumstances. It’s not impossible that Da’awa would become relatively secular if that’s what would win them votes, and being Shia would lose them votes from not just Sunnis, but even Shia disgusted with politicians appropriating religion to serve their interests.


  8. Santana said


    How are we to influence who they pick? would the Iraqis allow the U.S to pick which Iraqi amb comes to DC ?….I mean this guy is gonna get the position anyway-even if McCain puts a hold on him….Obama can STILL appoint him as a recess Amb just to piss off McCain…so what do we then ? Boycott him still ? I am sure Maliki would LOVE that !!

    Regarding your comment on Talabani- this is exactly what he is doing ….stalling- so the scumbag comes up for air.

  9. faisalkadri said

    “This guy is a snake..” It takes one to deal with Maliki and Iranian policy in Iraq, I am more hopeful of McGurk. Iraqiya is wrong in wishing for or expecting U.S. support for the interest of Iraq, every country works for its own interest. Iraqiya should have asked for “The United States Taking the Backseat” in the political process from the very beginning.

  10. Santana said


    I am sure Iraqiya is not crazy about asking for U.S help but it was a natural reaction to the heavy Iranian meddling from day one after the invasion….what else can we do? The Saudis and the rest of the GCC are afraid of “bo3-bo3” (Iran)…so what do we do…? where do we turn?

    Either everyone is hands-off or all hands-on…right now it’s just Iran-tesrah wa temrah in Iraq.

  11. faisalkadri said

    Understood but Iraqiya needs a strategy of guaranteeing the integrity of the elections, which the US can do without seeming to support one party against another, rather than wasting effort and support over secondary skirmishes whose outcomes favor the stronger party like organizing vote of no confidence.
    Iran tisrah wa temrah (plays in Iraq with impunity) is good if the elections are clean, and if Iraqiya has a good mass media policy which takes advantage of exposing Iran’s role.

  12. bb said

    Everything has suddenly gone very quiet over the last couple of days.

    Observer “If Maliki has the votes already, he would have called NCV”

    That doesn’t seem to be Maliki’s style in the past. Previously, he has just let the hot air balloon fizz.

    Also I was interested in your comment that Allawi should have joined INA when asked? When did that happen?

  13. placebo12 said

    Seerwan, you’re alluding to the median voter theorem – i.e. that any party to the left or to the right of the policy spectrum (unfortunately in Iraq this just means “sect”) will eventually converge on the middle, where they are able to capture the largest proportion of votes.

    This tends to occur because the relevant party begins to lose votes to its more centrist counterpart (which appeals to a wider section of society) – as occurred with the Labour party in the UK in the 80s and early 90s. It thus realises that it can no longer compete whilst at one extreme of the policy spectrum and changes tact.

    In Iraq, we do not have a political system based on policies. Moreover, assuming sectarian voting continues, Da’wa will have no need to “appeal” to non-shia voters – the dominance of shia only votes is more than sufficient to maintain its current political outlook and control of the Iraqi state. Any talk about attracting other sects to their platform is thus utter nonsense.

    I’d also point out that your hezbollah and hamas examples only indicate rhetorical changes. If that’s what we base ideological changes on, we’d put Maliki in the nationalist, she3a sectarian, arab champion and Iranian lackey camps all at the same time (or within the space of a few weeks of each other…).

    Actions speak louder than words.

  14. observer said

    bro mo,
    No it is called using the power of the purse to buy idiots who will be disposed of in due time, after making millions of course. it will all come out sooner or later. By the way, the last time I checked, what Maliki is doing is ilegal. I would have expected you to declare that it is unethical, but how else can Maliki counter the endless supply of qatari and saudi money….etc. etc.

    Love your theory. You want us to bet the farm on the hope that “it is not inconceivable” that a party would change its core strategy. Where do you guys come up with the stuff? Are you kidding me, giving me examples from Britian. Oh hell, I do not want to berate you with my words.

    I know allawi very well and I know he is not going to waste his time on the guy. as to what the others will do, that is up to them. In the past we have been screwed by this same guy who worked very hard at trying to split Iraqia. He is interested in his personal connections after leaving office (note what khalilzades and other former ambassadors are now capitalizing on their connections with people in power). Call me cynical – I accept it. By the way, it matters not what we do. The US is not interested in supporting seculars at this stage. Note Egypt and Tunisia. The brain trust in foggy bottom better have a long term plan. Maybe it is to exchange the russian and chinese threat with the Islamic extremism threat. Who knows? Not I. I ain’t smart enough. Never went to harvard, yale or georgetown.

    Faisel – hope is not a strategy.

    Hakim as well as the Sadris practically begged him to join the coalition, sans sunnis. That was just after Abd Al Azziz passed away, during the formation fo the elections coalitions in May 2010. I was there. This is not a second hand account.


  15. bb said

    Observer: were they going to make him prime minister? If he’d accepted where would Iraqiyya have fitted in after that? Also, would Dawa have abandoned Maliki?

  16. Santana,
    In comment 10 you say “so what do we do”; how about what Bb, I and I think Mohammad suggested; win votes by running the Ministries under Iraqiya’s authority honestly and efficiently? Why is this so often dismissed by Observer and yourself as a ridiculous suggestion?

    In comment thirteen you state, “In Iraq, we do not have a political system based on policies”. Sadly, this is largely true. However, the one policy that the recent week or so has demonstrated that there is a policy that could swing enough Sunni votes and politicians to a quasi-secular mainly Shia group like SOL; Iraqi nationalism and specifically, Kirkuk.

    You also say, “shia only votes is more than sufficient to maintain… control of the Iraqi state”. That is inaccurate.
    During the January 2005 Parliamentary elections, Shia Islamists won 49% of the votes.
    During the December 2005 Parliamentary elections, Shia Islamist vote share decreased to 41%.
    During the January 2010 Parliamentary elections, Shia Islamist vote share fell dramatically to 18% (thought granted, INA and SOL vote share combined is 42.37%; nonetheless, SOL ran on a nationalist platform, not Shia Islamist. This for the most part worked, but only just not good enough as Iraqiya won the largest single bloc share with 24.72% while SOL got 24.22%).
    Except for a brief year in 2005, Shia votes have not been enough to win just over 50% of the seats in the Iraqi Parliament. They at least needed the Kurds. Furthermore you ignore the political infighting between Shia parties. Lastly, if you would observe my recent blog posts and, Shia South Iraq has been on average safer than the USA in terms of violent deaths, while Sunni Central Iraq continues to be extremely violent. This can be interpreted as continuing problems in the Iraqi Govt not yet addressing the grievances of Sunnis to convince them to lay down arms and join the political process. Clearly from the figures provided in my blog which are sourced from the Iraq Body Count Project, violence is in such a degree in those provinces that the Central Govt doesn’t have “control of the Iraqi state”; half of Iraq continues to be beyond the control of the Govt.
    Now, with Iraqiya’s failure to take a central position in government after the March 2010 elections, defections from Iraqiya & Maliki recently improving his nationalist credentials due to Kirkuk, its possible that IF he lasts his second term SOL might take more votes than any other single bloc if SOL runs on a nationalist platform again, this time with more Sunnis on the SOL list.
    However, long-term incumbent groups in most countries are tossed out of office. Maliki has been PM since 2006, with what became later became SOL in charge before 2006. With the Govt still failing to provide basic services, it could work against SOL that they’ve been in power so long and have still failed to address fundamental services.
    The 2005-2010 elections have demonstrated Iraqi Shia have, so far, less and less of an appetite for Islamist politicians and prefer those with more secular orientations. While they would vote for Shia secularists so far, it is not inconceivable that Sunnis would join SOL for a cross-sect coalition.
    However, all we can do is speculate. Future elections, if fair, will show us what the people think. Regardless, I don’t think three elections over five years provides sufficient date and precedent for us to draw absolute conclusions of long-term voting trends of Iraqis.

    Remember that Hizbollah and and Hamas living up to their rhetoric and ignoring their charter is reliant upon Israel being a genuine partner in peace, which hasn’t happened yet.
    As you ignore the Labor party example, I gather you concede that it is not impossible for political parties, over time, in reaction to conditions, to shift their central ideologies to better respond to the electorate.

    3mu Observer,
    We “come up with the stuff” by looking at examples other than Saddam in the 1970s. xD

    P.S. I think I’ve left a Mohammed-length post. =P Sorry to those who will read it all.

  17. observer said

    The reason Da3wa did not join the INA and ran under SOL is because they wanted to have the PMship and asked for 51% of the seats/nominees. The INA gave them 48% of the seats not more because the other she3a did not want to give Da3wa the PMship for a second term. Of course they were negotiating under the assumption that it will be a closed list system. After the coalitions were formed, the Marje3ia asked that the election be open list like the provincial elections the proceeded the general elections. The idiots in Da3wa should have accepted the 48% offer because then they would have had the largest number of seats within the largest coalition and they wouldn’t have needed to get a “ruling” from the court to give them the right to form coalitions after the elections,

    At any rate, allawi and the sadris would have presented allawi as the PM candidate. But Allawi, on principal, refused to run in a she3a only coalition and asked that sunnies be included. The negotiations were on to creata a real Iraqia list that includes Kurds, She3a and Sunnis. The impending death fo azziz forced the INA to declare prematurely and also the US was afraid of the sadris. Anyway, the irony is that there was a stale mate because of Da3wa refusing to yield and since the kept the fitst session open forever (unconstitutional) they bought enough time to use the power of the purse and the pressure from Iran and the US to stay in power. A replay of today. This is why I say, history keeps on repeating itself in Iraq.

  18. Mohammed said


    You stated: “bro mo,
    No it is called using the power of the purse to buy idiots who will be disposed of in due time, after making millions of course. it will all come out sooner or later. By the way, the last time I checked, what Maliki is doing is ilegal. I would have expected you to declare that it is unethical, but how else can Maliki counter the endless supply of qatari and saudi money….etc. etc”

    My response:
    Why do you feel that these secular sunnis would be disposed of in due time anyways? Doesn’t Maliki need sunni allies he can get along with? It’s not like everybody in state of law are real Da3wa true believers anyways. There are plenty of people who are quite secular. The iraqi ambassador to DC would be a sensitive job (in many countries it would be on par with being a minister), and from what I have heard, he doesn’t fit the bill of a da3wa man, yet Maliki trusts him to be his man in DC. When a bunch of iraqi academics have toured the US (university presidents, dept chairs, etc) and I have met them as they toured my ivory tower, I would hardly call many of them religious in my book (some didn’t even pray)….so how are they reaching such positions of power in the new Da3wa controlled iraq?..if you include them as Da3wa, then the term ‘islamist’ ceases to have any meaning..are all those division commanders maliki appointed Da3wa true believers? are they islamists, or are some of them just secular repentant ex-baathists that Maliki somehow trusts?

    I don’t see why these secular sunnis could not also be accommodated accordingly and enjoy SOME power-sharing and influence (influence after all is a relative term)…


    p.s. I still can’t believe Obama is going forward with Brett McGurk…did you see those emails he was sending out? What a za3toot…

  19. Hala said

    According to newspaper reports, among the “defectors” from Iraqiyya is Ajil Al-Yawer. AS far as I know, there are two Ajil Al-Yawers. Is this one the son of the famous Shammari shaykh of Mosul, Ahmad Ajil Al-Yawer? Wasn’t the son an MP in one of the hastily installed parliaments in the 1990’s?

  20. Christian121 said

    Guys as an American what could the US actually do at this point in the Iraq situation to stop the pernicious Iranian influence that’s continuing in the country while also regaining its own influence?Say in a Romney administration in particular?The way I see it,the United States isn’t born intrinsically stupid and incompetent at keeping out malignant influence in its allies,it just had a cacophony of horrendous ideas for the past nine years in Iraq.In Afghanistan and Kosovo for example the US has for some reason been MUCH better at brokering stability and pro American sentiment than in Iraq.The major political parties in all these examples actually want American troops to stay permanently more than most American civilians want to nowadays!

  21. Reidar Visser said

    Hala, this Ajil is Ajil Humaydi Ajil Abd al-Aziz al-Yawer, so a different father.

  22. Christian121 said

    Also who would be a good PM candidate for Iraq that the US could support and realistically set up in a positive trend?I assume for obvious reasons that Allawi or Chalabi would be “good” choices because of their secular policy stances,but I also hear Mahdi or Jaafri put up as options.Don’t these guys have too many Iranian connections or am I mistaken?Also going to a past question I had in an earlier thread,what is IS’s preferred PM candidate?The NA offers Jaafri and Chalabi as alternatives(now that that I think about it,I don’t even think I’ve seen ANY press reports about ANY public IS nominees at all)but wouldn’t these options be just as odious if not more to Allawi and IS since the Iranians still stink on these guys?Or does the Iraqi opposition in general just hate/distrust Maliki so much at this point that literally most people could be alternatives and viewed as less threatening?

    A curious American.

  23. @Mohammad: How is Brett McGurk’s personal life relevant? re your emails comment.

    On such matters, I hate the American culture of obsessing over it and publishing & reading lurid details. I like the French culture of absolutely ignoring it.

  24. faisalkadri said

    Of course hope is not strategy but hope is behind every strategy until its target is realized. The point is Iraqiya needs strategy and that’s not only my opinion. Take for example this recent article by Elie Shalhoub which offers a glimpse of what the Iranian policy makers are thinking of. The famous pro-Maliki Galop survey is referenced and central to the credibility of a future election, you and US “think tankers” brushed it aside. If your strategy depends on the integrity of the elections then you should take the survey very seriously. This is not “hope”.

  25. Mohammed said


    In my opinion, Brett showed poor judgment by using his state dept email and flirting with a wall street journal reporter.

    If I am Obama, and I have to select somebody to be my rep to Iraq, I want somebody with good judgment who can navigate through the sewer system that is Iraqi politics.

    I agree with Observer on this one, he probably is only interested in making a nice network and becoming filthy rich off of helping OIC in Iraq in the future…he fits right in with Iraqi politicians actually…but he wouldnt be my rep…


  26. Reidar Visser said

    I’m with Seerwan on the McGurk question. He is not nominated for the papacy. S/he who has never ever used a work e-mail account for some kind of personal matter can throw the first stone. Let Iraq issues decide; there is plenty to ask about!

  27. Santana said

    Hey Mo-

    What makes you think the new Iraqi Ambassador in DC is a good choice? what do you know about him? I posted about him once already- he is VERY sectarian and has removed all “Non-Shiite” Iraqis from the Embassy’s invitee list for Iraqi events…I don’t care if he isn’t “Daawa” as you said….he lacks the basics needed to be an effective rep for Iraq in DC….his English sucks for one…does not associate with the arab Ambassadors here like Samir AlSumadaiee did- probably cuz his boss Maliki hates all Arabs so he feels he has to as well, he can’t stand the Kurds, does not meet with any of the think-tanks …oh and only works 4 hours/day maximum….so what else is there about him that is so great that I may be missing? Please enlighten me….

  28. @ Mohammad: His personal life is irrelevant and its not a measure of competency in a person’s job.
    He used his work email to communicate with a reporter on work-related matters, then it also became a personal relationship and they at first continued to communicate through his work email on personal matters. Ill-advised, but hardly a criminal felony.
    For what it’s worth, he then married that reporter, though I maintain his personal life is irrelevant.
    If he spent his entire time in Iraq fornicating, getting drunk, etc. and not doing his job, absolutely, I’d agree. However, he did his job in Iraq to the great satisfaction of the US Govt. and seems to have largely achieved the tasks he was asked to perform; an exception being he failed to convince Iraq’s political class to allow a US Army presence to remain, but that was beyond his ability. Iraq’s politicians did not co-operate on this matter as they felt the overwhelming view of the Iraqi people was that the US Army has overstayed it’s welcome. On this point, Senator McCain is wrong to fault McGurk over SOFA not being extended in Iraq.
    He seems to enjoy good relations with the Kurdish parties, excellent relations with the Shia ones. Sadly, Iraqiya seems to despise him, but you can’t make everyone happy.

    He can be criticized, as Observer does, for being biased towards certain political groups and being an unfair mediator.
    His personal life however, is irrelevant.

    Re “making a nice network and becoming filthy rich off of helping OIC in Iraq in the future” this is part of a wider problem, acute in the USA, of the “revolving door” between Govt employees and the private sector. I agree that this is a problem, but as this criticism can be applied on practically any US Govt employee in such a field, it sadly renders this point meaningless.


  29. @Santana: I’m generally apprehensive of listening to only a one-sided account. As no one else is here, allow me to play devil’s advocate.

    As BB earlier pointed out; if USA non-Shia Iraqis are parading around saying what you are about him, its not particularly surprising he’s stopped inviting them for events.

    “he lacks the basics needed to be an effective rep for Iraq in DC” certainly possible.
    “his English sucks for one” I would again point out he got a PhD from Dundee University in Scotland, though in my observing relatives and others writing a PhD in English doesn’t necessarily mean a person is fluent in the language.

    As for the rest, considering his Bachelor and PhD degrees were in Political Science, its a bit hard to swallow that he behaves in such an undiplomatic manner.

  30. observer said

    let us give it a break. Tomorrow there will be a decisive meeting to figure out where the Kurds want to go. I have promised myself that if Da3wa survive this, i am packing up and going back to the US. You can enjoy watch Iraq disintegrate and lament what could have been. I will not post here anymore after I leave as I will be an outsider just like you and will leave the work to the insiders who would then know more than me about what is happening and I will not bore the readers of this blog with the empty theoretical stuff of regular expats.
    and of course
    Fe aman ellah.

  31. Reidar Visser said

    Since this at least marginally relates to the US-iraqi subject at hand here, a quick comment on the Iraqi ambo in DC, Jabir Habib Jabir. I met him briefly once, together with Qusay al-Suhayl (the Sadrist deputy speaker of parliament). He came across more as an academic than as a diplomat, and I think we spoke a little in English and a little in Arabic. Since my spoken Arabic is poor we wouldn’t have done that if his English was perfect. Seems strange to me Maliki didn’t send someone like Sadiq al-Rikabi to DC instead, who used to have very good relations with people there. Maybe he was needed in Iraq instead.

  32. observer said

    Neither allawi nor chalabi are viable options for PM. The former because he is redlined in Iran whose blessings are needed for any PM, and the latter because nobody in Iraqi politics can trust him nor can the americans. The next PM, if there is any other than bless his 5 O’clock Shadow, the Nuri of Beni Malik, will have to be either from the “local Iraqi market” or somebody like Mahdi or Baqr Zubaidi.

    The whole idea is not who is the PM, but to put in place a PM that is trusted by the other partners in Iraq (i.e. the non islamic she3a’s) and who will take steps to put justice on an independent course and make sure that all the outstanding laws and regulations are passed in the spirit of the federal constitution. Speaking for myself, I would have rather seen SOFA extended and give the job of protecting the outside border of Iraq to the americans while we rebuild a professional army SLOWLY, like south Korea or Japan. But that is too late now.

    The US has always been playing catch up in Iraq and at first I used to give them excuses, but it has been 9 years now and ignorance is no longer an excuse. The US maybe believing its own rhetoric that Iran is about to fall appart and then Iraq will resolve itself. Treasonous if you ask me.

  33. I’ve not heard of Sadiq Al-Rikabi before. Googling his name brought up this very interesting Wikileak cable featuring Brett McGurk and Al-Rikabi from April 2008:-

  34. Mohammed said


    See my prior post…nowhere is there an endorsement of Habib Jabir as being a “good choice.” My simple point is that Habib Jabir is not Da3wa, yet Maliki has appointed him in a very sensitive and influential position. Again, I just don’t understand when people say that only islamists can have power in Maliki’s iraq. Maliki simply wants an ambassador that is loyal to him, and in this case doesnt care if he has memorized nahj ul balagha or not…


    Let’s see what happens. Like I said many times, I have nothing but admiration for you. I am sorry if I have frustrated you at times. If you leave Iraq, it will be iraq’s loss. As you know, I have many issues with Allawi purely based on some of his decisions, and people he has chosen to ally with. The only think that causes me to have pause in my negative opinions of him is that you so adamantly support him.


  35. This February 2009 US Embassy cable is very incisive and quite prophetic:- “”SUBJECT: PM “MALIKI: STRENGTHENED CENTER OR EMERGING STRONGMAN?

  36. Santana said


    The Talabani-Maliki plan seems to be working…..the deal between the two is for Talabani to stall the NCV process as much as he can- while Daawa members are on the phone calling Iraqiya members and others with Bribes, Positions and threats in order to drop out of the NCV………………….Iran is winning again my friend…I hate to see you leave Iraq but it may be time to call the movers…and as far as the scumbag goes….well- as they say……”What won’t kill me will make me stronger”…he will emerge stronger from this and Iraqiya and the Kurds are back to square one….I hate to sound this negative but Iran works day and night bud…..if the head of the snake is not dealt with then Iraq is screwed.

    Maybe it’s better this way ?? Let Iran execute it’s plans to take over Iraq before the next elections – put their missles facing the GCC to make oil jump to $200/barrel…threaten Jordan and Israel, rape Iraq’s oil wealth, take over Kurdistan, launch a massive genocide to wipe out all Sunnis and maybe then Turkey or the U.S or Israel may do something ?? but ofcourse for the U.S to do anything, there must not be any U.S elections in the way -God forbid !

  37. faisalkadri said

    Yeah, the presidency is a ceremonial post eh..Reidar?
    Observer, I say don’t leave yet, the fat lady is still in the back stage. Its only over when the inevitable Iranian style elections are not challenged by the international community.

  38. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, to that latest point abt the presidency, the various players are making Talabani more important than he is. Iraqiyya is doing so by insisting on that route rather than calling for an istijwab – partly because they want to assure PUK votes, partly probably out of fear from possible supreme court challenges to the second route. Not entirely implausible since it seems State of Law, for their part, played a role in pushing the court to making that weird latest ruling limiting the right to question ministers.

  39. Mohammed said


    About McGurk, you call it ill-advised that he is using his state dept email for personal matters, I call it poor judgment. If I was using my academic/hospital email to flirt with nurses, I could be fired (and I know that all my email is kept and could be used against me, so I never write anything that I cannot later defend).

    McGurk is a senior national security advisor, he should assume that his emails from his govt account can be monitored, so I find his behavior reckless. What he does in his private life is his business, and that I agree on. I hold people with such positions of importance at higher standards, because the decisions they make can influece the lives of untold thousands and millions. I want good judgment. The rest of the stories if true(if there really is a video tape as van buren alleges) again shows horrific poor judgment.


    p.s. I am not flirting with nurses…I would rather debate with Observer, Santana, and RV in my spare time…yes, I know..what a loser I am! 😉

  40. faisalkadri said

    The Istijwab route is not likely because Maliki can stall the process like he did on occasions, so once again the constitution is gridlocked because of the Maliki-Talbani duo, and you are blaming the victim.

  41. bb said

    Observer: Thanks for that account. Fascinating sidelight.

    You have talked here about Maliki and the issue of trust, which make sense to me when trying to figure the reasons why Maliki is having difficulty with coalition partners.

    However, I keep going back in my mind to 2006. As you know after the elections, there was long period of negotiation because Kurds and sunni Arab parties did not want Jafaari to remain as PM, and that was how the relatively unknown Maliki from the relatively unknown minority wing of Dawa got the job against the wishes of the sadrists.
    Barely six months later, when Bush was under huge pressure in the Surge-versus-pullout debate and Maliki had presented Bush with a plan to use the Iraqi army to put down the sadrist sectarian bloodletting going on in Baghdad, the sadrists pulled out of his govt. Very soon after that Allawi and Hashimi pulled their parties out of the govt and joined the sadrists in opposition.
    I well remember the glee with which these actions were greeted by the anti-war US foreign policy commentariat and the Left as they expected – with good reason – that Maliki’s govt would fall apart, Bush’s surge would be the defeated and the US would be on a pullout timetable.

    Can you explain firstly why Allawi allied with the sadrists then?, and secondly what reasons Maliki would have had, subsequently, to trust Allawi, Hashimi and sadrists ?

  42. Reidar Visser said

    To be fair to myself, I did put in some blame on Maliki on the court, and have done some in the past too. Anyway, as a political analyst, I have to say that there appears to be a creeping feeling among Iraqi commentators that the NCV initiative is fizzling out. No parliament until 21 June, then there is less than a month to the start of what will be a very hot Ramadan in Iraq this year. Maybe not so many Baathists left on death row any more, but I am sure there will be other distractions come September.

  43. observer said

    The game is far from done, so stay in your seats. There is a couple more innings to be played and we may go into extra innings (gosh I miss going to the stadium to watch baseball). Today brings some encouraging news that I am not yet at liberty to share, but as Amagi said, it aint over until the fat lady sings.

  44. observer said
    see how silly the opposition is?

  45. Lars said

    Yes Observer, either they are silly or he recovered extremely fast after his “severe heart attack”. I go for the first one.
    Looks very fresh to me on this picture in Mosul airport one hour ago ;
    Ayad Allawi‏@AyadAllawi At Mosul Airport with Governor Nujaifi
    Also from RW Twitter about Allawis presence in Mosul : Iraqiya leaders gather in Mosul in another attempt to unseat PM Maliki

  46. Lars said

    Dear Observer, I have since saturday been looking for your “encouraging news” but I was unable to find it. However I did find a lot of the opposite. Where to look ? By the way, the only song I heard was from SLC praising Talibani.

  47. observer said

    The news is that they will continue to fight on. All I will say is that if they think they have 163 on their side, they would have called for NCV. But they are afraid of bringing it to a vote because those who are intimidated will jump ship once they see that they can survive…. It is hard to fight Iran and the US at the same time. Oh well. I am packing. Its been a nice stretch, now it is time for some time at the beach. Take a few Basball Games in. Wait for the football season. See you around one of the workshops in DC diagnosing what went wrong in Iraq and how did the US pull defeat out of hte jaws of victory.

  48. placebo12 said

    Observer, it’s individuals like yourself leaving Iraq over the long-term (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) that is the ultimate example of all that is wrong with it right now. If only a sufficient number could wake up and smell the coffee…*sigh*. Good luck – and don’t lose hope!

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