Ilan Goldenberg notes that while the US elections may get a bit nasty, provincial elections in Iraq could actually touch off a new round of bloodshed. His analysis seems smart, but I also agree with Eric Martin that it seems that not holding the elections could also touch of a new round of bloodshed — long story short, it’s just the case that the underlying tensions in Iraq continue to make it the case that we need to be looking for the exits, not devising new rationales for an indefinite presence.
But now, no one is mentioning the CLCs. With the amazing speed of an acronym-happy military, I’ve found out that the new, hot-off-the-presses Iraqi-approved term is “Sons of Iraq.” SOI for short. Seems that “Concerned Local Citizen” didn’t translate into Arabic so well, and the Iraqis didn’t like it. So now, when you mention armed groups of civilians manning checkpoints and doing the work that the Iraqi Police and Army either will not or can not do, be sure to call them the “Sons of Iraq.”
And there you have it. Personally, I’m glad for the change since Concerned Local Citizens always made me think of the Upright Citizens Brigade.
On January 27, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad participated in a panel discussion on Iranian foreign policy alongside two Iranian officials – Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and aide to President Ahmadinejad, Samare Hashemi — without authorization from the Bush administration. While previous reports noted that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was “angered” by Khalilzad’s move, Reuters reports today that Rice has now personally “chastized” Khalilzad for the appearance:
Rice summoned Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the State Department on Monday for him to explain his attendance at the meeting, which irked the White House and was not cleared beforehand. The United States does not have diplomatic ties with Tehran.
“I think everyone agrees that these things should be coordinated and it should have been coordinated,” Rice told reporters traveling with her to London where she will have talks on Afghanistan.
Khalilzad did not speak directly to Mottaki or Hashemi and “stuck to the administration playbook” on Iran policy during the Davos panel.
Rice’s criticism of Khalilzad stands as a glaring double standard. At a conference on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt last May, Rice exchanged “pleasantries” and talked about ice cream with Mottaki during a private lunch:
On Friday, The Iranian foreign minister entered the lunch, greeting the gathered diplomats with the Arabic phrase, `”As-salama aleikum,” a Muslim greeting often used by Iran’s Farsi speakers meaning “Peace be upon you,” according to an Iraqi official who was present.
Rice replied to him in English, “Hello,” then added, “Your English is better than my Arabic,” according to the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the lunch was private.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit then piped in, telling Mottaki, “We want to warm the atmosphere some.”
Mottaki smiled and replied in English with a saying, “In Russia, they eat ice cream in winter because it’s warmer than the weather” – more or less meaning, “You take whatever atmosphere-warming you can get.”
“That’s true,” Rice replied, according to the Iraqi official.
Did President Bush “authorize” Rice to discuss ice cream with the Iranian foreign minister back in May? Rice’s message to Khalilzad seems to be: “Do as I say and not as I do.”
It seems that amidst the vast amount of money he’s prepared to budget for defense, the Bush administration couldn’t be bothered to fully fund peacekeeping operations, choosing instead to pick a figure that’s $500 million short of what we’re supposed to pony up. This sort of thing is just incredibly short-sighted.
Traditional peacekeeping missions aren’t very exciting. They involve a situation where two (or more) parties to a conflict reach some kind of conflict-ending agreement and, as part of the agreement, both parties agree to accept the presence of some peacekeepers. After all, two groups of people who were trying to kill each other on Monday probably aren’t going to trust each other on Wednesday, even if they reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict on Tuesday. Missions of this sort have a decent track record of success, and they’re quite cheap. Oftentimes, there’s no real need for peacekeepers to do much of anything. The point is simply that their presence helps resolve a prisoner’s dilemma.
Unfortunately, in the US there’s a strong tendency for discussions of humanitarianism abroad to emphasize very costly and destructive combat operations and totally neglect cheaper, easier, and more effective methods like participating in and funding consensual peacemaking. My guess is that, for example, approximately zero percent of the “liberal hawks” who’ve accused Iraq War opponents of neglecting the humanitarian plight of the Iraqi people will speak up to complain about this aspect of the Bush budget.
In November, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki signed a non-binding “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship” that committed the U.S. in concept to helping “deter foreign aggression against Iraq” as well as “defending its democratic system against internal and external threats.” The White House said at the time that the arrangement would not need “input” from Congress because it was not intended to “lead to the status of a formal treaty.”
Critics of a permanent presence in Iraq blasted Bush’s effort to cut Congress out of the process, saying the President had “absolutely zero credibility” to “unilaterally negotiate an agreement with Iraq on security.” Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would bar the White House from making any such deals without Congressional approval.
The administration is now claiming it has gotten the message, with one “senior administration offical” telling CQ (sub. req’d) that the arrangement is “not going to have a security guarantee“:
But the administration has backed off its previous assertions that a long-term bilateral agreement with Iraq would include a security arrangement to defend the country from external threats.
“It’s not going to have a security guarantee,” a senior administration official said Tuesday. [...]
The administration has maintained that the agreement would not rise to the level of a treaty. The “security guarantee” statement appeared in the announcement because Iraqis wanted it on the table, the administration official said. But, he said, the United States does not believe it to be necessary. “We say, look, if you want a security guarantee, that will be a treaty, and a treaty will have to go to our Senate,” endangering the whole agreement, he said.
According to a “senior administration official” who spoke to CQ, the abandonment of the “security guarantee” means that “the final agreement would not include permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.” Congressional critics are “wary” of the White House’s commitment, however, “noting that the proof would come with the text of the agreement itself.”
The distrust is understandable, considering that last week President Bush attached a signing statement to a defense authorization bill, saying that he would disregard a provision that “bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq.”
UPDATE: During a Senate hearing today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that “any strategic framework agreement” with Iraq “will not contain a committment to defend Iraq.” Watch it: