Wednesday, June 13, 2007

William Fallon Hearts Nuri al-Maliki

On Monday, in case you haven't heard, Central Command chief Admiral William Fallon told Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to pull his head out of his keister. Also present at the closed door conversation were U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, a senior political adviser and reporter Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times.

Gordon describes the Sunday afternoon discussion as a mix of "gentle coaxing with a sober appraisal of politics in Baghdad and Washington" in which Fallon told Maliki his government should pass legislation on the division of oil revenues by next month. “Is it reasonable to expect it to be completed in July?” Fallon asked. “We have to show some progress in July for the upcoming report.”

Maliki said the Kurds had raised concerns about the revenue sharing agreement, but, according to Gordon, "He indicated that some progress on the oil law would be made."

At that point, as Gordon tells it, Ambassador Crocker chimed in and pointed out that it was important that progress include the resolution of that thorny issue (italics added).

Even at that, it doesn't sound like Maliki got the picture.
At one point, Mr. Maliki wondered aloud whether Congress would really give the Iraqis credit for tackling tough issues if they completed the oil law. Admiral Fallon reassured him that most Americans wanted the Iraqi government to succeed.

Fallon also touched on the subjects of Iraq's army and police force, and on Iran and Syria. Based on Gordon's article, Maliki seems to have fended off any substantial talk on that subject.

As Gordon described the meeting over all: "At times, the two sides appeared to be operating on two different clocks. While Admiral Fallon emphasized the urgency of demonstrating results, Mr. Maliki cast the political process as a long journey from dictatorship to democracy."

Of Note

I see four noteworthy aspects of this story.

1) Gordon writes, "It was only at the end of the meeting that American officials agreed that it could be on the record." Strictly speaking that might be true, but it's still bunk. Gordon was invited to the meeting for a specific purpose: to frame an image of the meeting to the administration's specifications and feed it into the media through the New York Times. There's no one to contradict Gordon's version of events. Fallon and Gates won't, Malachi really can't (he'd just sound like he was trying to save face), and the "senior political adviser" wasn't named, so there's no way to press him for additional details. Gordon, who worked with Judith Miller on several key stories during the run-up to the Iraq war, is a known administration "cooperator." Note how he used "two sides appeared to be operating on two different clocks" in the story, hearkening the administration's oft repeated lament of late that "there is Washington Time and there is Baghdad time."

2) Gordon's narrative indicates that Admiral Fallon did most of the talking, not Ambassador Crocker. That seems just a tad unusual, the four-star dominating an ambassador in his host country, but the meeting may have been staged that way purposely. I've spent just about zero time in Admiral Fallon's presence, but he has a profound reputation as a man who seldom fails to get his point across to anybody.

3) The way Gordon tells things, Maliki didn't get the point. At all. Not even close.

4) The Bush administration wants us to get the message that everything that's wrong in Baghdad is that clueless putz Malichi's fault.

The timing of the meeting (and the article) has to do with the nearing "progress report" General David Petraeus is scheduled to give Congress in September. With this story and other's like it, the administration has announced that it has rattled Maliki's cage and he's not responding.

The next question: what leverage are they holding against Maliki?

They're not threatening to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq--that's directly counter to the administration's goal. If they're getting through to Maliki at all, they're telling him that he will be blamed for future failures, and if push comes to shove, we'll remove him from power.

Stripping Maliki of his Prime Minister role would be a serious breach of Iraq's sovereignty. Then again, I'm not too sure anyone takes the notion of a "sovereign Iraq" too seriously."

But if we can Maliki, we pretty much need to can the whole government, and if we do that, we just about have to follow up by installing a Douglas MacArthur style military governor and take direct charge of everything--including and especially the oil.

That would make a heck of an excuse for staying the course, wouldn't it? Heck, maybe in 40 or 50 years, we could offer Iraq statehood.


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  2. "But if we can Maliki, we pretty much need to can the whole government, and if we do that, we just about have to follow up by installing a Douglas MacArthur style military governor and take direct charge of everything--including and especially the oil."
    Jeff, I made this very point quite some time ago, that after we defeated Saddams army and deposed Saddam, whether we believe it was the right move or not, THAT was the exact time to 'seize the moment' and install the USA as a benevolent administrator over the entire nation of Iraq, much in the way it happened in Japan following WWII, and if that were done, and the Iraqis could be educated in HOW to govern themselves and were allowed the time to develop those skills in a 'forced' environment, then perhaps they could become a viable partner in the grand scheme of things, but to hand the governmet of Iraq over to the Iraqis, BOOM, just like that, is like handing a kid a box of ammo and a hand gun with NO instruction, he'll eventually figure it out, and he's gonna hurt someone...

    The Iraqis went from dictatorship to faux democracy almost over night and when they did they actually began to believe they knew how to run a government, but they didn't, and the tenants of democracy don't mix with Sharia law, they are oil and water, it's not going to happen...

    There are so many obstacles to forming a democratic government in Iraq, not the least of which is Islam itself, and for some reason the Bush administration seems to think that their ideas on democracy, and their desire for what is right for Iraq will trump centuries of Sharia rule...

    Just one of many reasons that anyone that's ever studied the politics of the region are fully convinced, Bush never cracked a book on the subject...

  3. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Ah, the PSA. This was supposed to slide right through and bingo "All your oil belong us" (ancient video game reference). If Maliki passes it, he'll get lynched. He has no other play than to stall for time and force the administration to remove him in what will amount to a coup.

  4. Fred,

    Yep and Amen.


    Yeah, but the administration isn't explaining that.


  5. Jeff, as one retired "O" to another, it bothers hell out of me to see a US commissioned officer sent on an errand to ramrod a "law" that is, by all accounts, a robbery of Iraq's natural resources by commercial interests. Am I misreading this?


  6. Mike,

    I've taken a quick look at the draft law, and I'm not entirely sure what it really says.

  7. Jeff,

    Good post on the disinformation stream, which I followed up in a different direction:

    The dinsinformation pipeline and the Iraq Oil Law

    I would value any comments you might have.

    As far as the Iraqi Oil Law goes, there are numerous sources that can explain what is in it. But the most crucial feature, I believe, is the construction of the Federal Oil and Gas Council (FOGC) upon which the law specifies will sit "executives from the oil industry." I'll leave it to your imagination as to whom that label targets. It will be this Council, unelected and unaccountable to Iraqi voters, that will secretly decide who gets the contracts, profit share and other terms such as time length. It is expected by many that PSAs will be the form of these contracts, which are actually outlawed throughout most Middle Eastern countries.

  8. BHC,

    Yeah, that's what I'm curious about--who are these "executives from the oil industry?" Iraqi executives, or executives from Mobil-Exxon, Shell, etc. ?

  9. Well, I'm looking at the draft oil law (leaked in Feb.) right now and what it says exactly is, on page 8, about the composition of the FOGC:

    Executive managers from important related petroleum companies including the national Iraq oil company and oil marketing company

    Seems fairly obvious who these people might be.

  10. Yeah. That's the part I keep looking at. You think that gives Exxon-Mobil etal a green light to eat at the trough?

  11. Jeff, that's exactly what it means. Why else would the current administration be working so hard to force its passage?