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Posted by on Jul 31, 2007 in At TMV | 30 comments

Iraqi Parliament Takes Vacation

And not a moment too soon!

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s parliament on Monday shrugged off U.S. criticism and adjourned for a month, as key lawmakers declared there was no point waiting any longer for the prime minister to deliver Washington-demanded benchmark legislation for their vote.

Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani closed the final three-hour session without a quorum present and declared lawmakers would not reconvene until Sept. 4. That date is just 11 days before the top U.S. military and political officials in Iraq must report to Congress on American progress in taming violence and organizing conditions for sectarian reconciliation.

The recess, coupled with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s failure to get the key draft laws before legislators, may nourish growing opposition to the war among U.S. lawmakers, who could refuse to fund it.

But again, why would they ever want to bend to our will? They don’t care about unity. They care about their own interests, and this move shows us exactly that.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • DLS

    At least they didn’t claim President Bush as a role model for vacation-taking.

  • hanginjohnny

    11 days. You really think, given their track record they are going to accomplish anything when they get back? And, given the lack of stability in their country,that taking a month off is the right thing to do?
    If they can take a month off, so can our troops. If they can take a month off, then when Petreus says we need to stay there longer we can throw this back in his face. So while they are scuttling off to parts unknown ( most likely IED free zones)- who’s minding the store?

    Did Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Rutledge et al. take a month off in August of 1776? Hells no!

    Guess they learned from old “down at the Crawford ranch” Bush.
    First year in office he was in absentia 100 days.

    yep.
    :facepalm:

  • casualobserver

    In hindsight, we should not have let them hang Saddam.

    At least he demonstrated a propensity to get things accomplished.

  • C Stanley

    I’m as chapped about this as anyone, but on the other hand it would be sweet irony if these members go home and find that the Iraqi peoples’ sentiment really is changing toward reconciliation. It’s a bit like the argument used here for our Congressional members to go back home and take the pulse of their constituents. If the more positive reports of the mood in Iraq are true, then something good could ultimately come of this.

  • kritter

    But won’t the Shiite majority just want to make sure the Sunni minority don’t regain power? I think the only way we have to pressure the Shiite majority is to threaten withdrawel dates combined with cutting off our support for this puppet government, that has failed in all real measures to reconcile or provide the services that Iraqis need. They are corrupt beyond belief.

  • C Stanley

    Kim,
    Can’t recall whose blog it was but I was just reading someone this morning who pointed out the conundrum of the idea of putting pressure on the Iraqi govt by posturing about US withdrawal. The conventional wisdom of that approach is that without such pressure, there’s no incentive for the Shi’a majority to move toward reconciliation; the conundrum part though is that the more that US domestic politics focus on withdrawal, the weaker that incentive gets- in fact it has just the opposite approach of incenting the Shi’a majority to wait out US domestic will and then get down to the business of finishing off the civil war and completely marginalizing the Sunni.

    I have no idea what the everyday Iraqi citizen thinks about all of this but my guess is that an average Shia might have been convinced that the Shia had to tightly hold on to control in order to prevent the re-emergence of Ba’athists and the average Sunni may have been convinced that there was no way in hell that the Shi’a who had been elected were going to share power, let alone oil revenues. As a result of those perceptions, the fault lines in mixed neighborhoods could easily be exploited (and yes, al Qaeda took the opportunity to do so). Recent reports seem to indicate that the combination of time, war weariness, and the new surge strategy of clearing and holding (and of having our troops living amongst the citizens) is starting to affect those perceptions.

    I don’t hold out high hopes that it will have progressed enough for the citizens to effect change in their elected reps. In other words, I’m not even seeing the glass as nearly half full, I’m just pointing out that there’s this small amount of liquid at the bottom of the glass.

  • As I said in another thread: Firstly, show the world that US parties (there’s only two, not a dozen!) can be united on a major bill full of special interests benefiting a foreign nation, and then throw the first stone.

    Where is that national reconciliation in the US? You had more than 200 years to work it out and have nothing to show right now. And still you think a country on the brink to civil war, which has no real experience with democracy, should be able to manage that? Ridiculous.

  • “it would be sweet irony if these members go home and find that the Iraqi peoples’ sentiment really is changing toward reconciliation.”
    Indeed it would be. But where did you get that far out idea at all, C? Where are the polls showing that the rift between Sunnis and Shiites is narrowing? You’re not referring to Steck’s lunatic vision of soccer fans uniting the nation, no?

    Hmm, do you know what the Captain of the Iraq team said after the game? He wants the US out. Why not write a story focussing on this angle? Except, of course, that this is facing in a direction right wingers don’t want to go.

  • C Stanley

    There are plenty of stories from that angle, Gray (and I don’t write ’em, I just read and comment on ’em).

    Is the alternate narrative that we’re now starting to hear from the likes of Michael Totten, Michael Yon, and O’Hanlon true? I don’t know, and neither do you. None of these guys have written pollyannish proclamations, just mixed statements about how things genuinely seem better now than they were a few months ago. I’m inclined to believe that they aren’t simply making that up.

  • C Stanley

    And BTW, I saw nothing in Jason Steck’s piece about the soccer match that indicated that he thought this event was going to change the course of the war. Instead, I think he made a rational comparison to the temporary positive feeling that lifted American mood after the victory of our Olympic hockey team over the USSR.

  • Well, C, the difference between us is I don’t trust O’Hanlon and Yon, and I think Totten is having a very one eyed view. I wouldn’t take their observations at vace value. The more so, because the three groups in Iraq remind me of the former Yugoslavian countries. Many members of help organisations there offered very optimistic outlooks, but in reality every TV report shows very clear that the ethnicities are totally divided with almost noone extending a hand. Why should the situation be much better in Iraq, which is worse off right now? Sry, I’m not at all conviced that single incidents really show a new trend. Imho this is wishful thinking.

  • casualobserver

    Don’t forget Michael Gordon, either, CS. (By the way, what is it with these guys named Michael having the audacity to report something that occasionally went well? How is that responsible journalism?)

    Nonetheless, I have come to the personal conclusion that Iraqi’s are culturally challenged to elevating nationalism above sectarianism. 4 years is enough for me to sense they would need 40 years to really figure it out.

    The best I hope for is that during this campaign under Petraeus that the US Armed Forces generally skill themselves enough in CIS that they know how to operate effectively from the get-go the next time they need to.

  • “Nonetheless, I have come to the personal conclusion that Iraqi’s are culturally challenged to elevating nationalism above sectarianism.”

    This may be the case. And we shouldn’t forget, it’s an artifical nation, a victim of colonialism. And Shiites and Kurds wouldn’t lose much from separation, in fact, especially the Kurds would love that. It’s the Sunnis who have the major interest in retaining an Iraq nation, because on their own, they would be in a difficult strategic position and without natural resources to speak of. So, imho, to hold that nation together and to get a small share of the oil revenue, the Sunnis will have to eat crow. Both other blocks will simply opt out if national unity places too high a burden on them. I would like to see the odds for a nation ‘Iraq’ surviving the next 20 years, I guess they aren’t very good.

  • Is the alternate narrative that we’re now starting to hear from the likes of Michael Totten, Michael Yon, and O’Hanlon true?

    Wow… two unabashed war cheerleaders say the war is going well!

  • Rudi

    CS says:

    I’m as chapped about this as anyone, but on the other hand it would be sweet irony if these members go home and find that the Iraqi peoples’ sentiment really is changing toward reconciliation.

    What makes you think their going home to meet with the public. Many will go to other ME states or their homes in London(Chalibi) for a vacation. They hide in the Green Zone, I doubt if they spend much time in the Red Zone.

  • kritter

    Well I have a lot of faith in our military but zero in the Iraqi Parliament, so I find CS’s optimism a bit undeserved. The money in the Iraqi treasury that is supposed to be used to provide electricity ,develop jobs, and provide medical care is being looted by corrupt ministers- and there’s not a thing we can do about it. The recruits in their army show up 50% of the time, and don’t worry about the rest.

    America is being taken for fools by these folks, who know that we’re afraid to leave them to their own devices.

  • Elrod

    Rudi nailed it. Regardless of whether or not there is a trend toward grassroots reconciliationism between the various peoples of Iraq, the legislators are not going out to hear it. This isn’t like a US Congressional recess where legislators hold town hall meetings with the locals. These legislators will either stay in the Green Zone, travel to militia strongholds, or head off to other countries.

    The other problem is that the momentum at the end of the session was decidedly negative, with the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front threatening to quit the Parliament…permanently. Meanwhile, Shi’ite leaders openly mocked the Sunnis for creating the very conditions they protest against.

    The political situation in Iraq is as dire as ever – potentially worse so now that activity between the Kurds and Turkey may heat up.

  • kritter

    The Iraqis have been victimized three times- by Saddam, by Bush’s lack of a post-invasion plan, and now by their own inept, corrupt and callous government!

  • kritter

    I guess when the president says he retains full confidence in Prime Minister Maliki’s government, it means the exact same thing as when he expresses the same sentiment towards AG Gonzales. This government has no intention of reconciling, offering amnesty to the Baathists, or sharing oil revenue with the Sunnis.

  • “This government has no intention of reconciling, offering amnesty to the Baathists, or sharing oil revenue with the Sunnis.”

    Right. But this hardly makes this government special. Isn’t this just the normal run of democracy, demonstrated everywhere around the world? For instance, I don’t seem to remember that Bush or Perry stomped for sharing Texas’ oil revenue with, say, New Mexico. I guess the reasons for this are a) it’s not what their voters want and b) why should they support a neighbor state who voted for the other party. That’s what Maliki and the Shiite officials and lawmakers are considering, too, when faced with this US demand. What’s in it for them? The thanks of the US? Most of their voters want the US out of their country anyway. Again, it’s hardly surprising that this oil sharing bill generates as much enthusiasm as, say, a proposal to implement a 50% tax on gas…

  • kritter

    Gray-OK- I admit all political actors choose to behave in their own self-interest. But, wouldn’t it be in their self-interest to reach the benchmarks? Especially,if that’s the only way to stem sectarian violence, rebuild their country and reach the goal of getting the US out of Iraq? If that’s the only way we’ll leave, they should at least go through the motions of reaching reconciliation.

    I think what Maliki and his ministers are doing goes beyond the normal self-serving politician to utter cynicism and corruption. Many of the ministers have looted funds that were meant to provide necessities for their people, and to do so while so many are suffering is criminal.

    It may be that they are terrified that the Sunnis will somehow dominate once more or that they realize that the government is a joke- so why not help themselves to the goodies. But either way, the leadership to bring the country together does not exist in the present government, whose members are stalling and taking vacations while our troops die in Baghdad. This is a country that will have to go through a brutal cycle of violence and death in order to finally decide that their children’s futures mean more to them than the enmity of the past. As we’ve seen with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this could easily go on for many generations.

  • C Stanley

    OK- I admit all political actors choose to behave in their own self-interest. But, wouldn’t it be in their self-interest to reach the benchmarks? Especially,if that’s the only way to stem sectarian violence, rebuild their country and reach the goal of getting the US out of Iraq? If that’s the only way we’ll leave, they should at least go through the motions of reaching reconciliation.

    Kim,
    Doesn’t a lightbulb go on when you write this? If not, then let me try to flip the switch.

    I highlighted the important point you seem to have inadvertantly made. Is it true that “the only way we will leave” is if the national government reconciles? Or is it true that the domestic US political situation is going to force us to leave if that DOESN’T happen? Don’t you see that the incentive for the government to meet the benchmarks is meaningless since we are also telling the Iraqis that we will leave if they DON’T meet the benchmarks?

  • C Stanley

    OK- I admit all political actors choose to behave in their own self-interest. But, wouldn’t it be in their self-interest to reach the benchmarks? Especially,if that’s the only way to stem sectarian violence, rebuild their country and reach the goal of getting the US out of Iraq? If that’s the only way we’ll leave, they should at least go through the motions of reaching reconciliation.

    Kim,
    Doesn’t a lightbulb go on when you write this? If not, then let me try to flip the switch.

    I highlighted the important point you seem to have inadvertantly made. Is it true that “the only way we will leave” is if the national government reconciles? Or is it true that the domestic US political situation is going to force us to leave if that DOESN’T happen? Don’t you see that the incentive for the government to meet the benchmarks is meaningless since we are also telling the Iraqis that we will leave if they DON’T meet the benchmarks?

    There are many political actors in the Iraqi govt who want the US to leave before reconciliation happens. To them, US withdrawal is a carrot, not a stick. We are handing the carrot to the very people who are standing in the way of reconciliation. I happen to be of the opinion that Maliki is one of the ‘good’ guys who would create a coalition government, if he weren’t so weak. I believe it is other Shiites who are standing in his way, and he’s simply too ineffective to push past that opposition. That opposition is banking on waiting out the US troops so that they can then carry out their wishes to ethnically cleanse Iraq of the Sunni. Thus, by setting deadlines for benchmarks, we’ve made them fully aware that there is no need to compromise, they just have to be patient to get the whole pie. If there were still uncertainty or the perception that the US resolve to see things through was holding firm, then these actors would have to take what they could get and a compromise could be forged.

  • C Stanley

    Uh, sorry for the double post- the second, longer version was the one I was trying to submit.

  • kritter

    CS- Be honest. There was no pressure on Maliki for months and months and there was no progress either. Even Petraeus said it was good that political debate put pressure on the government to act. That it has not, tells me that it is so dysfunctional that our leaving or staying has little or no effect on what happens in the Parliament.

    And whether Maliki is an ill-intentioned sectarian who is waiting us out or a well-intentioned weak leader who can’t control the various factions makes little difference in the end.

    I do think that its a step in the right direction that Rice is finally trying to get help from the rest of the Arab world in pressuring Iraq to reconcile- but it may be too little too late at this point.

  • C Stanley

    Yes, Petraeus said that the political debate could help put pressure on the Iraqi govt- but the point is that for many on the left now, the debate is over. Can you honestly say that most Dems are debating on whether or not to continue the surge, based on the facts on the ground which indicate progress or lack of progress? With few exceptions (go over to MSNBC and check out the pundits on Chris Matthew’s show last Sunday, who were clearly looking at how to change the narrative on the Dem side from “we need to get out of Iraq now” to “maybe we need to back up and think about the consequences of withdrawal”), for the most part every time anything positive news is reported it’s being discredited and the stage is being set for the Dems to ignore any positive report from Petraeus as political propaganda.

    The debate about how fast we’re going to withdraw the troops, regardless of what is actually happening on the ground, isn’t exactly what Petraeus had in mind, I don’t think.

  • domajot

    “US resolve to see things through was holding firm, then these actors would have to take what they could get and a compromise”

    That’s an amazing observation, flying in the face of clear indications that Maliki does not WNT roconcilitation. He wants to protect the Shia militias who back him and to ensure Shia supremacy in all things. In fact, he has shown anger when US troops challenge the activities of those militias, which are the source of his power, BTW.
    In fact, nattions in the region see Maliki as Iran’t stooge. As long as the surge is protecting Maliki’s survival, it is working against its stated goals of enabling reconcilitation.
    The only thing that could possibly encourage reconciliation is the replacement of Maliki with someone who even wants it. In the meantime, we are just spinning our wheels while Iran gets stronger by the day.

    Before another ‘seeing this through’ claim is make, it would be enormously helpful if we took a hard look at what it is we are enabling and protecting in the process.

  • C Stanley

    Doma,
    When I see statements like that from Maliki they seem much milder than I’d expect if he really was opposed to reconciliation; instead, they appear to me to be the statements made for domestic consumption from a guy whose survival is hanging by a thread.

  • kritter

    But he called for Petraeus removal, CS. Its obvious he can’t or wont get it done. Other ME nations liek Saudi Arabia and Jordan that have supported us up until we invaded Iraq are upset that we have put in a Shiite regime that’s alligned with the militias and with Iran. And a recent proposal to arm Saudi Arabia just seems to me to be bringing us one step closer to regional war. All the reports that we get mention interference from the Iranians, but almost none mention that Saudi jihadists are flooding over the borders as well.

    As far as the surge goes, yes the left and many in the middle are skeptical about progress reports. Progress in the July report on benchmarks was somewhat inflated, and in the past we have received falsely rosy prognoses from the administration. I don’t think you can blame anyone for not putting much credence in one NYT’s editorial. As I said before, there may be military progress but that doesn’t mean the Iraqi govt will suddenly be able to function competently and without sectarian conflicts. Just today, the Sunni faction of the Parliament walked out. The surge can’t work if the Iraqis don’t work things out among themselves.

  • C Stanley

    The quote about Maliki asking for Petraeus removal apparently came from on of the al Sadr coalition guys and has been disputed by everyone else. Obviously Maliki isn’t very happy with the surge strategy of working with Sunni insurgents against al Qaeda, and others in his government are even more unhappy about it. It seems pretty obvious that this would be the case but that doesn’t mean that Maliki himself doesn’t have the will to work with us. The question is how far he can withstand the pressure (in some ways it is like Musharaff in Pakistan- he can only go so far to reign in the extremists in his country too, but we still back him because if not him it would be someone far worse).

    The Saudis are definitely a problem but what is happening right now has to do with looking at the balance of power in the region. It’s realpolitik again as we try to give arms to one side that we consider the lesser of two evils. I’m not thrilled with that approach by any means but I do see how we’re increasing regional pressure on Maliki in this way because he clearly knows that the Shi’a in his country can’t assume that once the US leaves they can just wipe out the Sunnis, even with Iran’s help. They will not just be fighting the minority population of their country, they’ll have all the Sunni countries in the region to answer to.

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