Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sadr's redeployment plan not covered enough / Is war for U.S. almost over?

"The parliamentary bloc of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced an end to a boycott that has kept Iraq's young National Assembly semi-paralyzed for two months. *
The Sadr bloc returned to the assembly after a parliamentary committee and the speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, agreed to a series of demands, said Falah Hasan Shenshel, a member of the Sadr bloc.
The demands included establishing a timetable for the buildup of Iraqi troops and the withdrawal of U.S. troops, and a condition that the presence of foreign troops would not be extended without a vote by the assembly, Shenshel said. U.S. troops should retreat from Iraqi cities and return to their bases by the end of August, he said.
'By doing so, America would confirm that it came to Iraq as a liberator and not as an occupier,' Shenshel said.
Sadr's movement has 30 seats in the 275-member parliament, and his political loyalists have called for a prompt withdrawal of U.S. troops. He is widely regarded as a focal instigator of the sectarian violence that has ravaged the country in recent months." [1]

Why isn't this a bigger story? If the U.S. troops will be exiting the cities and staying at their bases, they'll probably be out of most of the danger.

(This sounds more like a proposal for a law that still needs to be voted on by the Parliament, but with Sadr, a committee and the Speaker agreeing to it, it sounds like it has a legitimate chance at passing. A recent New York Times article said that "deals on important legislation, most recently the oil law, now take place largely out of public view, with Parliament - when it meets - rubber-stamping the final decisions." [2] So its eventual passage seems even more likely, though they're still working on the oil law.)

The NYT article also said that "security is almost exclusively the policy realm of the American military and the office of the prime minister." [2] But the Iraqi Constitution says that one of the powers of Parliament (aka The Council of Representatives) is "monitoring the performance of the executive authority" (Article 60, second). The Prime Minister, who is described as being "responsible for the general policy of the State and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces," is included in the executive authority (Article 77). The Constitution also says that "a law shall regulate the work of the security institutions . . . and be subject to the oversight of the Council of Representatives" (Article 83, first). So it seems that the Parliament has definite oversight powers over the Prime Minister and his policies and over the security institutions, but the Constitution, unfortunately, does not say what these powers are. [3]

Also, I'm not certain whether the United States military operating within Iraq is the exclusive domain of the Prime Minister (though it could be.) While the Prime Minister is the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces, the U.S. military is not part of the Iraqi armed forces, so the Parliament, whose powers also includes "enacting federal laws" (Article 60, first), might also have the legal authority to create the policy of what role the U.S. military can maintain in Iraq. [3]

At the very least, Sadr's proposed redeployment law seems no less than the U.S. Congress's proposed non-binding resolutions opposing an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq which are receiving much attention in the press and by other influential parties.

And also, does the part of Sadr's proposed law about the presence of foreign troops not being extended mean just their presence in Iraqi cities or in Iraq entirely? More details are needed.

The Iraqis also seem to be taking matters into their own hands. Aren't redeployment and the Iraqis taking control what many of the anti-war people want? Is much or most of America's military involvement in the war about to end and nobody wants to say anything? (Iraq could conceivably ask America to stay beyond the deadline, but that possibility seems to be part of many of the anti-war people's plan also.)

Gen. Casey also said recently that the surge troops could begin withdrawing by "late summer" if the people of Baghdad were feeling safer. [4]

Casey's "late summer" and Shenshel's "end of August" sound like about the same time. Shenshel's plan sounds broader and more specific than Casey's, but with 80% of the violence apparently occurring within 30 miles of Baghdad [5], they seem similar. The insurgent-terrorist violence might still be an issue, however, at least from the American point-of-view.

* It's been implied or I've been interpreting that Sadr's bloc of 30 representatives boycotting Parliament had been preventing a quorum from being gathered and thus laws from being passed. (see boycott posting, 1/21/06.) But a quorum requires only "50 percent plus one" of Iraq's 275 member Parliament. [2] So Sadr's 30 boycotting representatives, by themselves, fell far short of the 138 representatives it would have taken to mathematically prevent a quorum. Other representatives may have joined the boycott, but this was not made clear or I may have missed that part.

* Since this was originally posted, Gen. Casey's successor, Gen. David Petraeus, has said that the troop increase will 'need to be sustained, certainly for some time well beyond the summer.' [6]

[1] The Washington Post. Disguises Used in Attack on Troops. January 22, 2007.
[2] Cave, Damien. (nytimes.com). January 24, 2007. Iraq Parliament Finds a Quorum Hard to Come By.
[3] Iraqi Constitution. (iraqigovernment.org). Accessed January 26, 2007.
[4] The New York Times. General Sees Summer Deadline for Troops. January 20, 2007.
[5] The White House. President's Address to the Nation. January 10, 2007.
[6] Baker, Peter. (The Washington Post). Additional Troop Increase Approved. March 11, 2007.

related posting
Is Iraq getting ready to ask America to leave? December 23, 2006.

posted: tuesday, january 23, 2007, 5:38 PM ET
update: tuesday, march 13, 2007, 8:45 PM ET


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