Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Bush, U.S. Military Pressure Iraqis on Withdrawal

(Inter Press Service) Instead of moving toward accommodating the demand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a timetable for U.S. military withdrawal, the George W. Bush...

Print Friendly

(Inter Press Service)

Instead of moving toward accommodating the demand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a timetable for U.S. military withdrawal, the George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military leadership are continuing to pressure their erstwhile client regime to bow to the U.S. demand for a long-term military presence in the country.

The emergence of this defiant U.S. posture toward the Iraqi demand for withdrawal underlines just how important long-term access to military bases in Iraq has become to the U.S. military and national security bureaucracy in general.

From the beginning, the Bush administration’s response to the al-Maliki withdrawal demand has been to treat it as a mere aspiration that the United States need not accept.

The counter-message that has been conveyed to Iraq from a multiplicity of U.S. sources, including former Central Command (CENTCOM) commander William Fallon, is that the security objectives of Iraq must include continued dependence on U.S. troops for an indefinite period. The larger, implicit message, however, is that the United States is still in control, and that it—not the Iraqi government—will make the final decision.

That point was made initially by State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos, who stated flatly on July 9 that any U.S. decision on withdrawal "will be conditions-based."

In a sign that the U.S. military is also mounting pressure on the Iraqi government to abandon its withdrawal demand, Fallon wrote an op-ed piece published in the New York Times on July 20 that called on Iraqi leaders to accept the U.S. demand for long-term access to military bases.

Fallon, who became something of a folk hero among foes of the Bush administration’s policy in the Middle East for having been forced out of his CENTCOM position for his anti-aggression stance, takes an extremely aggressive line against the Iraqi withdrawal demand in the op-ed. In fact the piece is remarkable not only for its condescending attitude toward the Iraqi government, but also for its peremptory tone toward it.

Fallon is dismissive of the idea that Iraq can take care of itself without U.S. troops to maintain ultimate control. "The government of Iraq is eager to exert its sovereignty," Fallon writes, "but its leaders also recognize that it will be some time before Iraq can take full control of security."

Fallon goes on to insist that, "the government of Iraq must recognize its continued, if diminishing reliance on the American military." And in the penultimate paragraph, he demands "political posturing in pursuit of short-term gains must cease."

Fallon, now retired from the military, is obviously serving as a stand-in for U.S. military chiefs for whom the public expression of such a hardline stance against the Iraqi withdrawal demand would have been considered inappropriate.

But the former U.S. military proconsul in the Middle East, like his active-duty colleagues, appears to actually believe that the United States can intimidate the al-Maliki regime. The assumption implicit in his op-ed is that the United States has both the right and power to preempt Iraq’s national interests in order to continue to build its military empire in the Middle East.

As CENTCOM chief, Fallon had been planning on the assumption that the U.S. military would continue to have access to military bases in both Iraq and Afghanistan for many years to come. A July 14 story by Washington Post national security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus said that the Army had requested $184 million to build power plants at its five main bases in Iraq.

The five bases, Pincus reported, are among the "final bases and support locations where troops, aircraft, and equipment will be consolidated as the U.S. military presence is reduced."

Funding for power plants that would be necessary to support a large U.S. force in Iraq within the five remaining bases, for a longer-term stay, was eliminated from the military construction bill for fiscal 2008. Pincus quoted a congressional source as noting that the power plants would have taken up to two years to complete.

The plan to keep several major bases in Iraq is just part of a larger plan, on which Fallon himself was working, for permanent U.S. land bases in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Fallon revealed in congressional testimony last year that Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan is regarded as "the centerpiece for the CENTCOM Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia."

As Fallon was writing his op-ed, the Bush administration was planning for a videoconference between Bush and al-Maliki on July 17, evidently hoping to move the obstreperous al-Maliki away from his position on withdrawal.

Afterward, however, the White House found it necessary to cover up the fact that al-Maliki had refused to back down in the face of Bush’s pressure.

It issued a statement claiming that the two leaders had agreed to "a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals" but that the goals would include turning over more control to Iraqi security forces and the "further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq"—but not a complete withdrawal.

But that was quickly revealed to be a blatant misrepresentation of al-Maliki’s position. As al-Maliki’s spokesman Ali Dabbagh confirmed, the "time horizon" on which Bush and al-Maliki had agreed not only covered the "full handover of security responsibility to the Iraqi forces in order to decrease American forces" but was to "allow for its [sic] withdrawal from Iraq."

An adviser to al-Maliki, Sadiq Rikabi, also told the Washington Post that al-Maliki was insisting on specific timelines for each stage of the U.S. withdrawal, including the complete withdrawal of troops.

The Iraqi prime minister’s July 19 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, in which he said that Sen. Barack Obama’s 16-month timetable "would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes," was the Iraqi government’s bombshell in response to the Bush administration’s efforts to pressure it on the bases issue.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack emphasized at his briefing last Tuesday that the issue would be determined by "a conclusion that’s mutually acceptable to sovereign nations."

That strongly implied that the Bush administration regards itself as having a veto power over any demand for withdrawal and signals an intention to try to intimidate al-Maliki.

Both the Bush administration and the U.S. military appear to harbor the illusion that the U.S. troop presence in Iraq still confers effective political control over its clients in Baghdad.

However, the change in the al-Maliki regime’s behavior over the past six months, starting with the prime minister’s abrupt refusal to go along with Gen. David Petraeus’s plan for a joint operation in Basra in mid-March, strongly suggests that the era of Iraqi dependence on the United States has ended.

Given the strong consensus on the issue among Shiite political forces of all stripes as well as Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader, the al-Maliki regime could not back down to U.S. pressure without igniting a political crisis.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

Citations

Gareth Porter, "Bush, U.S. Military Pressure Iraqis on Withdrawal," Right Web with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:
http://rightweb.irc-online.org/rw/4939.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   IRC logo 1310 Broadway, #201, Somerville, MA   02144 | pra@publiceye.org

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), a stalwart advocate of Pentagon spending now based at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, says he would have voted for the Iraq War even if he had known the Bush administration’s claims about WMDs were false.


Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a conservative Republican congressman who was voted into office as part of the “tea party” surge in 2011 and nominated by Donald Trump to be director of the CIA.


Although better known for his domestic platform promoting “limited” government, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has expressed strong sympathies for projecting U.S. military power abroad.


James “Mad Dog” Mattis is a retired U.S Marine Corps general and combat veteran who served as commander of U.S. Central Command during 2010-2013 before being removed by the Obama administration reportedly because of differences over Iran policy.


Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was one of Congress’s staunchest foreign policy hawks and a “pro-Israel” hardliner.


A self-styled terrorism “expert” who claims that the killing of Osama bin Laden strengthened Al Qaeda, former right-wing Lebanese militia member Walid Phares wildly claims that the Obama administration gave the Muslim Brotherhood “the green light” to sideline secular Egyptians.


Weekly Standard editor and PNAC cofounder Bill Kristol is a longtime neoconservative activist and Washington political operative.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

Spurred by anti-internationalist sentiment among conservative Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration, the US is headed for a new confrontation with the UN over who decides how much the US should pay for peacekeeping.


Print Friendly

Decent developments in the Trump administration indicate that the neoconservatives, at one point on the margins of Washington’s new power alignments, are now on the ascendent?


Print Friendly

As the end of Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president approaches, it seems that his version of an “America-first” foreign policy is in effect a military-first policy aimed at achieving global hegemony, which means it’s a potential doomsday machine.


Print Friendly

Hopeful that Donald Trump may actually be their kind of guy, neoconservatives are full of praise for the cruise-missile strike against Syria and are pressing for more.


Print Friendly

Steve Bannon’s removal from the NSC’s Principals Committee doesn’t mean that he’s gone from the White House or no longer exerts a powerful influence on Trump. His office is still located very close to the Oval Office, and there’s nothing to indicate that his dark and messianic worldview has changed.


Print Friendly

Promoting sanctions that could undermine the Iran nuclear deal, pushing security assistance for Israel, combatting BDS, and more.


Print Friendly

Contrary to some wishful thinking following the Trump administration’s decision to “put Iran on notice” and seemingly restore U.S.-Saudi ties, there are little signs of apprehension in Tehran.


RightWeb
share