A Victory for (Real) Democracy in Iraq

( – promoted by undercovercalico)

The Iraqi Parliament has won a significant if tenuous victory in their struggle for democracy.  AFP is reporting that Prime Minister Maliki is at least temporarily conceding that he cannot ram Bush’s Status of Forces Agreement through the Iraqi parliament.

Maliki says talks on Iraq-US pact deadlocked

1 hour ago

AMMAN (AFP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday that negotiations with the United States on a long-term security pact were deadlocked because of concern the deal infringes Iraqi sovereignty.

“We have reached an impasse, because when we opened these negotiations we did not realise that the US demands would so deeply affect Iraqi sovereignty . . .

Maliki’s claim that he did not “realise” anything about the US demands is fatuous.  Maliki signed the original November 2007 Declaration of Principles upon which the current contested Status of Forces Agreement is based.  This is a victory for the Iraqi people, not their Prime Minister.

A few more words about this below.

A few days ago in Germany, President Bush referred to Iraqi opposition to the Iraqi Status of Forces agreement as “noise.”  Bush allowed that there was disagreement with the Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq — in effect, allowing that the Iraqi parliament was against it — but asserted, “I deal with Prime Minister Maliki. He appreciates our presence there . . .”  

Thus, Bush displayed his usual contempt for democracy, even while he speaks of “The blessings of freedom.”

As a matter of fact, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi parliament are currently engaged in a remarkable struggle with the White House.  They have already forced Bush to cede ground on several fronts — at least nominally.  This is no small feat.

Consider this letter, sent to the US Congress on May 29, 2008.  It was signed by the leaders of political groups in the Iraqi parliament, and in sum constitute a majority of that legislative body.  This letter is a lesson in democracy for the US Congress.  While the US Congress (535 people who are not living in an occupied country and do not risk their lives to go to work in the morning) do nothing to help the Iraqi people free themselves of their occupier, i.e. Bush, the Iraqi parliamentairians assert, here, that any binding agreement between Bush and Maliki would be unconsititutional by the lights of the Iraqi Consititution without legislative approval.  

That such an agreement would also be unconstitutional by the lights of the US Consititution is not stated in the letter, but the implication ought to render heartsick any US Congressmember who reads it.  An excerpt:

To: Madam Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Sirs and Madams

Members of the United States of America Congress and Senate

From: Remarks on the agreements between the Iraqi Republic and the United States of America

Peace and Blessings be upon you.

Based on the numerous hearings held by your parliament with regards to the agreement that the executive powers of Iraq and the United States are determined to sign;

We, the undersigned members of the council, wish to confirm your concerns that any international agreement that is not ratified by the Iraqi legislative power is considered unconstitutional and illegal, in accordance with the current rulings and laws of the Iraqi Republic. Furthermore, any treaty, agreement or “executive agreement” that is signed between Iraq and the United States will not be legal and will not enter the stage of implementation without first being ratified by the Council of Representatives, in accordance with Article 61 of Section Four of the Iraqi constitution, which gives the Iraqi government’s legislative power, represented by the Council of Representatives, the exclusive right to ratify international treaties and agreements.

Likewise, we wish to inform you that the majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq, in accordance with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters.

A pdf of the full letter can be found here (scroll down a bit).

In case it is not 100% clear what this letter is saying, it is a plea from one legislative body to another to assist in stopping the actions of the executives of those same two countries.  

To further clarify, this is what Bush is talking about when he refers to “noise” and asserts, “I deal with Prime Minister Maliki.”

“I,” says Bush; as in “me.”  As in, “Not the US Congress.”

Here is the Bush quote in full, from the “>June 11 press conference in Germany:

Q Speaking of Iraq, there are increasing controversy in Iraq over the security agreement that’s being negotiated. Some top Iraqi officials are calling for a dramatic reduction in the U.S. presence. Does this concern you that the direction of those negotiations are going in?

And Madam Chancellor, does this have any impact on your approach towards Iraq?

PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I think we’ll end up with a strategic agreement with Iraq. You know, it’s all kinds of noise in their system and our system. What eventually will win out is the truth. For example, you read stories perhaps in your newspaper that the U.S. is planning all kinds of permanent bases in Iraq. That’s an erroneous story. The Iraqis know — will learn it’s erroneous, too. We’re there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq.

And I strongly support the agreement because I think it helps send a clear message to the people of Iraq that, you know, that security you’re now seeing will continue. And one of the lessons of Iraq is, is that in order for a democracy to develop or in order for an economy to develop, there has to be a measure of security, which is now happening. So I think we’ll get the agreement done.

And as I said clearly in past speeches, this will not involve permanent bases, nor will it bind any future President to troop levels. You know, as to — look, Eggen, you can find any voice you want in the Iraqi political scene and quote them, which is interesting, isn’t it, because in the past you could only find one voice, and now you can find a myriad of voices. It’s a vibrant democracy; people are debating. There’s all kinds of press in the Iraqi scene, of course to the benefit of the Iraqi society.

Meaning: the parliament wouldn’t be talking at all if it weren’t for me.  Saddam Hussein would still be ruling their sorry asses.  As a not-inconsequential aside, then, here is Iraqi parliamentarian Khalaf al-Ulayyan addressing the US Congress on June 4 on the issue of Hussein’s ouster:

[Rep.] DANA ROHRABACHER: Maybe if you could just…if it’s possible to answer with a yes or no, would you have preferred that the United States not have conducted the military operations it did in order to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Would you have preferred that we not do that now, in retrospect…

KHALAF al-ULAYYAN, Member of the Iraqi Parliament: We would prefer if it didn’t happen because this led to the destruction of the country.

ROHRABACHER: So you would have preferred the United States not to have gone in and got rid of Saddam Hussein?

al-ULAYYAN: The United States got rid of one person, but they brought hundreds of persons who are worse than Saddam Hussein.

ROHRABACHER: That’s a fair answer.

al-ULAYYAN: And, unfortunately, now Iran is going into Iraq, and this is under the umbrella of the American occupation of Iraq.

(Video here.)

But back to Bush in Germany on June 11:

And I deal with Prime Minister Maliki. He appreciates our presence there, and he understands that we’re returning on success; as the situation merits, and the situation improves, we’re bringing our troops home. And I’m pleased with the progress. I don’t know whether or not it’s — the progress has made it here to Germany or not yet, but the progress in Iraq is substantial, and it’s going to help change the Middle East for the better. And I love the idea of having — giving people a chance to live in a free society. The blessings of freedom are — shouldn’t be just a regional blessing; I believe freedom is universal and I believe freedom yields peace.

Now, here is  Bush, further along in his tour of Europe, in a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi on June 12.  Bush praises “the surge”:

Q Good evening to all of you. I also have a couple of questions, one for President Bush — good evening, sir — and it is about Iraq. You’ve spoken about a change in the country. Do you think it might be at all possible to have a withdrawal, maybe a partial withdrawal, of U.S. troops? And if so, when do you think that might be?

— snip —

PRESIDENT BUSH: The progress is such on the security front that we are bringing troops home. We anticipate having the troops that went in for what’s called the “surge” back home by July. General Petraeus will come back, he’ll assess the situation — come back to the United States — and make further recommendations. I don’t know what those recommendations will be. I have told the American people, though, that conditions on the ground, the situation in Iraq, should determine our troop levels.

And so we are in the process of what’s called “return on success.” I had the honor of going to see the 82nd Airborne that had been in Iraq, and they came home. And it was — I am constantly amazed at the courage and the commitment of our troops. I’m also pleased with the courage and commitment of the Iraqi government and the people of Iraq. The situation is dramatically different than what it was a year ago. And the United States and our allies must send a clear message to the Iraqis: We’ll stand with them as their democracy continues to evolve and their economy continues to grow.

Hmm.  The surge.  Let’s go back to the June 4 testimony to Congress.  Here is Spencer Ackerman reporting on what the Iraqi parliament thinks about the surge:

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Az) recognized what was really important in this first-ever opportunity to have a dialog with his Iraqi counterparts: getting some talking point out that will support John McCain’s campaign for president. “Why the drop in violence?,” he asked. “What is the major cause for the reduction in violence, at least against our troops.” Translation: Willya just say the surge worked? Please?

Unfortunately for him, Ulayyan is not actually a Republican. His answer — the answer of an Iraqi nationalist — deserves quotation at length.

Increasing the number of forces didn’t affect the level of violence in Iraq. Because the war there is a war against gangs and they are like ghosts. They hit and run. What led to the reduction of terrorist acts and violence are the forces of the Awakening. They are from the tribes of the area where terrorists are more [in number]. And those forces managed to eliminate the other party, the terrorists, because they know them and know the tactics. We suggested that a long time ago for our government and the American government but nobody listened.

I believe the reduction in the level of violence is due mainly to the efforts of the volunteers. The thing that will reduce the violence more is not military force but having realistic solutions to convince others to join the political process. I believe the best method to achieve that is a real national reconciliation. We need real reconciliation, not only slogans as is being done now. And reconcilition should involve all the Iraqis, whether they are involved right now in the political process or not.

That requires changing the constitution. [We should] do away with federalism based on sectarianism and groups, but if we have to have federalism it has to be geographic federalism and we need new, transparent and fair elections. And we have to do away with quotas and have to be based on nationalis[m] and get back those refugees in Jordan and other countries that total 4,600,000 and we have to get them back and compensate them for their suffering. The prisoners, whether in Iraq jails or American jails, have to be released. If we really achieved those points we would have law and order in the country even without the presence of any military forces and American troops can withdraw.

As soon as the troops have withdrawn, it doesn’t make sense for these groups to exist,” Jabari added. “It is my belief that when troops withdraw these groups will not bear arms any longer. For as long as we have foreign troops on our land, these gangs will increase in number, they will hold onto their goals even longer… So I say the presence of foreign troops are actually serving these groups.”

Not a lot of ambguity there.

To reiterate: what we have here is one legislative body asking another to assist in stopping their respective executives from a mad course of action, a course of action neither legislative body claims to want.  One of those two legislative bodies is taking a stand, and it appears to be working.

AFP, today:

Maliki says talks on Iraq-US pact deadlocked

1 hour ago

AMMAN (AFP) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday that negotiations with the United States on a long-term security pact were deadlocked because of concern the deal infringes Iraqi sovereignty.

“We have reached an impasse, because when we opened these negotiations we did not realise that the US demands would so deeply affect Iraqi sovereignty and this is something we can never accept,” he told Jordanian newspaper editors, according to a journalist present at the meeting.

“We cannot allow US forces to have the right to jail Iraqis or assume, alone, the responsibility of fighting against terrorism,” Maliki said on the final day of a two-day visit to Amman.

There has been strong criticism in Iraq and in neighbouring Iran over the negotiations for a deal to cover the foreign military presence in Iraq when a UN mandate expires at the end of the year.

This concession from Prime Minister Maliki constitutes a signifigant if tenuous victory for democracy in the Middle East.  It was won in the face of pressure that we in the US, and the average US Congressperson, would find unimaginable.  I hope our legislators are taking notes.


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  1. Also at DailyKos.

  2. on this issue LC. I find the process both interesting and hopeful.

    In your next-to-last block quote from Ackerman, Ulayyan refers to “the forces of the Awakening.” I wonder if you or anyone else knows more about this. Thanks.

  3. “When the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down.”

    George has in mind.

  4. Let’s hope the Iraq Parliament stands strong on this very important issue.

    Your work in keeping us informed on this topic is much appreciated.

    • geomoo on June 14, 2008 at 06:23

    I would bet that clarity of analysis is not available anywhere else, including elsewhere on the web.  I love the feeling of knowing what is really going on.  Thanks.

    And, just chalk it up as another humiliation for our country, like being lectured on human rights by China.

  5. al-ULAYYAN: The United States got rid of one person, but they brought hundreds of persons who are worse than Saddam Hussein.

    context. context. context.

    the Congress is responsible if Bush gets away with this and rams it down the Iraqi’s throats.

    the Congress is responsible to affirm this position of the Iraqis: any international agreement that is not ratified by the Iraqi legislative power is considered unconstitutional and illegal

    Bush is just one person too. there are 100 senators and 500 plus congresspeople, not to mention 9 justices… all responsible.

    and 300 hundred million of us. we are responsible too. we are responsible for the good and the bad things that happen to us, our country, and what we allow our politicians to get away with.

  6. You were one of the first essayists I read when I came to DD last September.  I was very impressed with your writing and analysis then, and my praise continues now.  

    This kind of writing makes the netroots so valuable.

    Thank you.

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