Who Will Leave First: al-Maliki or US Forces?

Recently, Washington’s man in Baghdad Nouri al-Maliki has been making noises about the need to set a “hard” timetable detailing the departure of US occupation forces from Iraq. One wonders if Mr. al-Maliki is sincere in his demand or if he is posturing for the anti-occupation vote in the upcoming provincial elections in Iraq, much like Barack Obama attracted the antiwar vote in the primaries only to back away from an immediate withdrawal once he received the necessary votes for his party’s nomination. If he is sincere and truly is demanding that Washington remove its forces within a given time, the question arises as to how long al-Maliki will remain at his post.

According to news reports, the recent utterances by the Green Zone Prime Minister are being dismissed by some senior officials in the US. These officials characterize the demands for a timetable as just another part of the negotiations around the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) the White House and Pentagon are hoping to put in place before the Bush-Cheney regime rides into the sunset. Of course, the SOFA these folks are hoping for would keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely. Furthermore, it would provide immunity for US forces and contractors, allow the US to take military action without the approval of the Green Zone government, and allow Washington to launch attacks on other countries from US bases in Iraq without Iraqi permission. If one is to believe most news reports, it is unlikely that the final SOFA will include all of the items on Washington’s wish list, but you never know.

Al-Maliki’s foreign minister, Hoshya Zebari, is insistent that the SOFA will be passed before the US elections in November. His original intent was to get the agreement signed by the end of July 2008, which was also the date hoped for by the White House. This comes as no surprise to those who know Zebari’s history. He is a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) who was part of the US/CIA-organized Iraqi opposition prior to the US invasion of Iraq and is now one of Washington’s fiercest proponents in the US created Green Zone government. He certainly understands that he holds his position because of the US military presence and that his future depends on Washington getting almost everything it wants in Iraq. In recent weeks, Mr. Zebari has told the Washington Post that Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw almost all US ground forces from Iraq within sixteen months of his inauguration was, in essence, wrong. Like his backers in DC, Mr. Zedari insisted to the editors around him that Iraq was making progress. The Post closed their piece with a sycophantic and questionable appraisal of Zebari’s role, writing “it makes sense to consult with those who, like Mr. Zebari, have put their lives on the line for an Iraq that would be a democratic U.S. ally.” (Post 6/18/2008 A14)

Despite the very obvious differences in the two wars, I cannot help but return to the US adventure in Vietnam. If one recalls the history of that war, they will remember President Diem, who died in a US-sponsored coup in 1963. Most histories agree that a primary reason for Diem’s demise was that he had begun to take an independent course in the war against the national liberation forces in southern Vietnam. This provoked Washington’s anger and precipitated Diem’s death. After he was gone, Washington never again allowed a truly free election in its Vietnamese colony while US forces were in country. Instead, the Saigon regime featured a series of corrupt military men who ruled through force and US dollars. Iraq’s elections have been arguably a bit more free than any ever held in southern Vietnam during that country’s brief existence, but no Green Zone government has existed without the backing of Washington and its occupying military. If al-Maliki sticks to his demand for a “hard” timetable for US troop withdrawal and holds to that demand even after the aforementioned elections, one wonders how long he will remain prime minister of the Green Zone and those other parts of Iraq he actually rules. Of course, the other side of this coin is that if he somehow manages to survive whatever skulduggery almost certain to arise if he holds to his demand is that his rule may began to expand beyond those regions.

Would Washington set a timetable if the Green Zone government demanded it? That is the million dollar question. The answer does not lie in the Green Zone, however, but in the streets of the United States. Despite the efforts of the Iraqis and no matter who wins the US election in November, there will be no US withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan unless the antiwar majority makes its presence known in those streets. That is where the status of US forces in those countries must ultimately be decided.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. NDHF Net said on July 12th, 2008 at 7:21am #

    The answer’s easy:

    Squarely, Iranians are not suicidal, self-destruction seeking idiots, so they definitely do not want the U.S. to sit down on sofa in Iraq, have a break of some 5 years and then attack Iran when once again in a possession of a ground army.

    Al-Maliki, puppet as he is, cannot sustain his position between the U.S. “yes” and Iranian “no” so that he’s dead meat, isn’t he?

    More answers to similar questions available in our premises

    NDHF Net (Media Squad)
    United Nations (Finland)

  2. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 12th, 2008 at 7:41am #

    I’m “in the streets” in my neighborhood, Ron, almost every day. And in the town where my neighborhood is located, almost every other day when I exercise by climbing hills.

    If you’re curious where that is, you have my email address. Or, just reply to this post asking me to post the name of my hometown, and home state (and neighborhood if you wish). Nobody hereabouts reads Dissident Voice, except possibly the electronic repression-masters.

    But I haven’t marched in a protest since the 1960’s. And the last rally I attended was for Cindy Sheehan in SF on Labor Day. I donate to people and causes I believe in.

    And I sure do hope you’re wrong about Iraq requiring street actions.

  3. bozhidar balkas said on July 12th, 2008 at 12:18pm #

    i think that a housewife, a hobo, a worker, migrant, et al- whether sitting/standing/marching/screaming- will not change an iota US longstanding foreign and domestic policies for rigid control of foreign and domestic pop/resources.
    if 1oomn amers marched in protest of funni uncle’s stances, perhaps uncle sam may soften to some degree. but i still wdn’t hold my breath.
    funni uncle has had america for over 2 cent’s. will he let the bride go?
    i hope so.
    only amers can force him to change. thank u

  4. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 12th, 2008 at 2:22pm #

    Yeah, bb. I posted a piece by Arthur Silber at DV a couple of days ago. The relevant paragraph said:

    “Try to understand this. This intricate and ornate series of interrelationships between and among various private and public powers has grown and metastasized over more than one hundred years. It will not be dislodged overnight. It will not be altered except by a deliberate and painful process of de-linking, which would require several decades at the very least. But history tells us that, once a corporatist system has reached an advanced stage such as that which now prevails in the United States, it will only be changed by a major disruption and, more probably, by a series of disruptions: financial weakening and possibly collapse, and/or a major war or series of wars, and/or natural catastrophe, and/or…use your imagination to fill in other possible factors. But, like children who still believe in Santa Claus, and like those who desperately hope for salvation in foreign affairs, many liberals and progressives now look for a miracle to save them on the domestic front. Call the miracle Obama if you wish; the name you give it doesn’t matter a damn. And try to understand this: miracles do not happen. It was not a miracle that brought us here. It is only an understanding of the full nature of the problem we face and a determination to alter our course that will save us, if anything can. History, it must be noted, is not encouraging on this point.”

    But, the next (closing) para said:

    “None of this is a reason for terminal despair, although I keep reading comments about my essays to the effect that they are “too depressing,” that they make people “suicidal” or “bitter,” and the like. People who react in these ways may have some understanding, but not nearly enough. And they may have everything — except vision and courage. I will discuss these particular issues in a future essay. For the moment, I will say this: I will not tell you, as people often tell me, that you need a “thicker skin,” since I consider the views underlying such prescriptions to be uniformly destructive. But what you do need is more understanding, and much, much more courage.”

  5. bozhidar balkas said on July 12th, 2008 at 2:55pm #

    i wish i had better news/views than the ones u replied to. it is always possible that members of the elite might raise their voices against sinking of amerca.
    surely, they see that this meritocratic/plutocratic structure is wrong . it may even lead to domestic terrorism.
    surely, they see that it oft takes two dummies to give birth to a genius. it is such people who bring us progress/knowledge.
    and, of course, two geniuses may produce and idiot. it’s the genetic pool; that’s where our wealth is. thank u