Sadrist lawmakers chanting and raising placards reading: “No, no to the agreement” react in Iraq’s parliament in Baghdad, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2008, as lawmakers vote to approve a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years – setting a clear timetable for a U.S. exit for the first time since the 2003 invasion. The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition’s Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year. Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces. (AP Photo/APTN)
Yesterday, the Iraqi parliament narrowly voted to request the Iraqi government to expel “foreign,” (i.e. US) forces, from Iraq in retaliation for a drone strike that left nothing but hair, teeth, and eyeballs of New York Times heart throb and murderous terrorist thug Qasem Soleimani (See Iraqi Parliament Votes To Expel US Troops From Iraq and the US Congress Should Make Sure That Happens).
As I noted in that post…have you ever noticed how people on Twitter can never ever be bothered to read a post but are willing to critique the article endlessly based on the headline…this may or may not mean something. Most likely it doesn’t mean anything. Why? Because while the Iraqi government may be virtually a political extension of the mullahs in Tehran it is wholly dependent upon US goodwill for any economy.
In 2011, the Iraqi parliament also voted to expel US forces from Iraq after the failure of the Obama administration…I’d contend it was a deliberate failure…to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Such an agreement is necessary to keep members of the US military and US contractors from being arrested and tried in Iraqi courts for actions they carried out in pursuance of US foreign policy or military operations. As many outlets were conjuring up images of US diplomats cowering on the roof of the US embassy waiting for the next helicopter out, NPR gave the best hot take:
JUST IN: The Iraqi parliament has voted to order the departure of U.S. forces. They're in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS, so this would rescind that request.
However, it’s not binding and needs to be approved by the Iraqi government.
— NPR (@NPR) January 5, 2020
Here I’m going to rely upon a Twitter thread from Kuwaiti journalist Hussain Abdul-Hussain
For non-Arabic speakers, reporting in the main news outlets NYT and Wash Post is so misinformed (either on purpose or because of incompetence) that you might think that the Iraqi State has officially voted for ejecting US forces from Iraq (because of Trump’s miscalculated move to kill Soleimani). What happened is different.
1- Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi sent a letter to Parliament in which he argued US troops exist in Iraq, not based on a treaty ratified by Parliament, but on 2 letters from past cabinets to the UN. Hence, Parliament has no role in ejection.
2- Iraqi PM’s trying to trade disarming Shia militias for limiting scope of US troops. He wrote: “Whoever wants to become a political power, has to surrender arms, join armed forces, and forgo any political allegiance (i.e. to Iran) other than to military and commander-in-chief.”
3- #Iraq parliament barely had a quorum for session on ejecting US troops. Sunni and Kurdish blocs boycotted the session (thus taking America’s side over Iran), and thus quorum was 170 of 328 (half + 4, just like Hezbollah designated a PM in Lebanese parliament with half + 4)
4- The text Iraqi Parliament voted on was not a legislation, but a non-binding resolution.
5- To deflect Iranian anger, Abdul-Mahdi said US troops will leave, according to timetable. Troops of Assad dynasty occupied Lebanon for 29 years, with Assad and Lebanese saying withdrawal on its way, but tied to timetable. In Mid Eastern countries, timetables mean indefinitely
6- In his letter to Parliament, Abdul-Mahdi clearly states that Iraqi interest is to maintain neutrality between America and Iran, and that if Iraq antagonizes America, it risks losing its international status (and implicitly oil revenue, just like Iran).
7- NYT is, by far, much more pro-Iran than Wash Post. The post reported that “tens of thousands” mourned Soleimani in Ahwaz. NYT made the number of mourners “hundreds of thousands.”
Bottom line is, Iraqi parliament vote was an Iranian face-saving measure. Iran is in a bind: If it retaliates without claiming its attack, it does not count as revenge for Soleimani. If Iran claims the attack, regime risks further wrath, in a country whose economy is in free fall
The most probable outcome of #Soleimani’s killing is more of the same: Low-intensity Iranian warfare against America, Iran never engaging in direct war, but maintaining her proxy war, fighting America to the last Arab. But with Soleimani out, Iranian proxy war will be much weaker
This via Axios, is pretty much the same:
"This is a temporary victory for the parties which are pro-Iranian," the senior Iraqi govt official told me. "But it's also a clear message from the Sunnis and from the Kurds [who didn't vote] and from some Iraqi Shia for the Americans to tell them we want you to stay in Iraq."
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) January 5, 2020
This dovetails with Trump’s statement to reporters last night:
On Iraq, Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t leave Iraq without being paid for its military investments there over the years — then said if the troops do have to withdraw, he would hit Baghdad with economic penalties.
“We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” he said. “If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”
He added: “We’re not leaving until they pay us back for it.”
Not only does Iraq not want us to leave, they know if we do leave that their commercial connections with Iran will subject the entire country to economic sanctions. But staying is a two-way-street. My view is that if we decide to stay, it should be Iraq telling us that they recognize our contribution in blood and treasure and sign a SOFA and begin eradicating Iranian influence.
What his statement does is deprive Iraq of the ability to play both ends against the middle. They can’t, on he one hand, give Iran a propaganda victory by the expulsion vote and, at the same time, continue to have US military and economic support. Trump’s statement exposes the gesture for just exactly what it was and makes the people voting for it look impotent and ridiculous. Unlike what the people who connived with Iran to give them a free hand in Iraq would have you believe:
The Iraqi parliament vote to expel US troops is a major win for Iran. Just one piece of fallout against our interests by @realDonaldTrump decisions.
— Wendy R. Sherman (@wendyrsherman) January 5, 2020
This is not a win for Iran. The vote demanding a US withdrawal has been publicly repudiated. Iran’s stooges in Iraq have been shown to be powerless. None of this changes my view that we should remove ground forces from Iraq but a withdrawal under our conditions is infinitely preferable to getting the bum’s rush that Iran tried to pretend it was giving us.