March 19, 2008
Bad Break for Barack, Wonderful Win for World
In a stunning disappointment to the Barack Obama candidacy, the Iraq presidential council did a U-turn today and approved parliament's plan for provincial elections in the fall. Alas, the news is even worse than that: All sides agree that the determinant factor in the reversal was the undiplomatic behavior of Vice President Dick Cheney, who reportedly sternly argued the council into withdrawing its objection.
A confusticated Obama may now have to revamp his line that "[John McCain] completely fails to understand that the war in Iraq has done more to embolden America's enemies than any strategic choice that we have made in decades," unless the audacious change-agent intends to argue that a successful, stable democracy itself emboldens our enemies.
From the AP story:
Under strong U.S. pressure, Iraq's presidential council signed off Wednesday on a measure paving the way for provincial elections by the fall, a major step toward easing sectarian rifts as the nation marks the fifth anniversary of the war.
The decision by the council, made up of the country's president and two vice presidents, lays the groundwork for voters to choose new leaders of Iraq's 18 provinces. The elections open the door to greater Sunni representation in regional administrations.
And on the Cheney connection:
The decision by the council came two days after Vice President Dick Cheney visited Baghdad to press Iraqi leaders to overcome their differences and take advantage of a lull in violence to make progress in power-sharing deals to heal sectarian and ethnic divisions.
A spokesman for the biggest Sunni bloc, Saleem Abdullah, said Cheney pushed hard for progress on the provincial elections as well as a long-stalled measure to share the country's oil wealth.
This is one of the four major political "litmus tests" of the success of the counterinsurgency that began last July. The Iraq government must enact:
Elections are now completely signed off at the federal level; it's up to the provinces to design the specifics of each provincial election, much as our own states set up the specifics of gubernatorial and state legislative elections.
A "long-term security arrangement" with the United States to allow us to keep troops there for regional stability.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Cheney obtained endorsements from the two most powerful Shiite leaders in Iraq (not counting Muqtada Sadr, who is probably still in Iran) for a continued security agreement that would allow us to remain at bases in Iraq. Both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sayyed Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), the largest party in parliament, urged us to stay and gave personal assurances that we would have long-term bases in Iraq for American troops.
An oil-revenue sharing bill.
According to the same WSJ article --
There is some reason for hope there too, despite the seemingly endless negotiations that have already taken place over the oil law. After the breakdown in negotiations last year, Kurdistan moved ahead with production agreements with some international oil companies. But Baghdad has responded by essentially freezing those companies out of negotiations for its central government contracts, diminishing their interest.
And U.S. officials in Iraq say the central government is consolidating its power over oil in other ways. They note privately that the Iraqi central government soon will begin awarding contracts to major multinational oil companies to improve production on the country's giant existing fields, as a likely prelude to contracts for new exploration and production. Kurdistan, meanwhile, has to worry about an eventual cutoff of the revenue sharing that it's now receiving from the central government.
Iraq's proven oil reserves are so big that only Saudi Arabia's and Iran's are thought to be larger... and Iraq's reserves have barely been tapped so far.
Anti-debaathification laws to allow former members of the Baath Party -- who do not have blood on their hands -- to return to civic life in Iraq.
When the parliament approved the provincial elections law last month, it was bundled with a general amnesty law that would release all Baathists from prison except for two classes:
Those held in U.S. custody;
Those who are charged with or were convicted of specific charges: "terrorism, kidnapping, rape, antiquities smuggling, adultery and homosexuality."
This was the most important anti-de-Baathification law to pass; the same law also allowed former Baathists (except the above) to once again take jobs in the public sector. Anti-de-Baathification has by most measures been resolved, leading to greater reconciliation.
Given such sweeping, positive political changes since the counterinsurgency produced such a huge drop in killings and al-Qaeda presence in Iraq, the elite media find it ever harder to maintain both party solidarity with the Democrats and also their own credibility. Still, the Democrats been banging the drum and pronouncing that there's no need to worry... all is still lost! (Evidently, the tape loop from 2006 is still running through the heads of the heads of the elite media.)
For real people living in the real world, however, Iraq has turned around and is now a victory at a level it would have been difficult to imagine just eighteen months ago. It appears that even when al-Qaeda and allied terrorists celebrate a historic, holy conquest, it's as ephemeral as Democratic-Party unity.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 19, 2008, at the time of 7:05 PM
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