At last! Genuinely good news from Iraq

Al-Jaafari withdraws. Kudos to Zalmay Khalilzad.

Looks as if Ibrahim al-Jaafari has blinked in his two-month-long staring contest with Zalmay Khalilzad (with Ali al-Sistani apparently backing Khalilzad). Al-Jaafari, a Shi’a nationalist with links to the death squads who was Moqtada al-Sadr’s candidate, and the official candidate of the dominant Shi’a coalition to continue as Prime Minister of Iraq, has withdrawn his candidacy. That candidacy was opposed by the Sunni Arabs, the Kurds, and secularists of all religious and ethnic identities, as well as the U.S. and the U.N.

If al-Jaafari had been confirmed, or if the democratic process had been scrapped in favor of some sort of coalition of unelected strongmen, the case for getting American troops out of Iraq would have been overwhelming. But if our presence actually gives us political leverage that can actually be used for the good &#8212 and anything bad for Moqtada is good for humanity &#8212 then it’s reasonable to stay awhile.

Update But here’s some bad news from the streets to offset the good news from the political process.

Footnote Staying awhile is not, of course, the same thing as building a vice-regal palace and permanent military bases, or grabbing oil-drilling and infrastructure contracts for American companies.

The need for a “timetable” seems to me the wrong way to frame the issue; the basic question is whether we intend to make Iraq into a virtual U.S. protectorate or not. To the neocons, displacing Saddam was and remains merely a means to the end of seizing control of Iraq as a military base and slush fund. But that purpose, as opposed to the purpose of first getting rid of a dictator and then preventing a civil war, has virtually no popular support. So Democrats ought to try to make that the topic of debate.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

7 thoughts on “At last! Genuinely good news from Iraq”

  1. It is sadly ironic to see that particular headline today, even though I agree it is accurate. Many of us have been following the war through the eyes of the "amazing…inspiring" Iraqi bloggers (the words are David Ignatius in a reply to a letter I sent him. Of them all, the two who put out "Iraq The Model" are among the most highly respected. Today Mohamed, one of them, informed his readers that his sister's husband, ("a brilliant young doctor with a whole future awaiting him, the couple were the top graduates in their branch of specialty. They had to travel abroad to get their degrees and the war started while they were there but months after Saddam fallen they decided to come back to help rebuild the country and serve their people") was killed last week by 'criminals and terrorists."
    Yes, the news you report is important and good, but many of us still have a few tears in our eyes — and minds — that blur the words.
    Mohamed tells the story at
    The TRULY good news frim Iraq will be when we no longer have to anticipate hearing stories like this.

  2. Can you please point to the evidence that "to the neocons, displacing Saddam was and remains merely a means to the end of seizing control of Iraq as a military base and slush fund"? My understanding of the neocon position was to use Iraq as a wedge in the pattern of Arab dictatorships under the assumtpion that they provide the breeding ground for terrorism.

  3. Do we have even the slightest idea of how to prevent a civil war in Iraq and establish a stable democracy there? Is there any precedent of anybody doing that in the Arab world, or of the U.S. doing that at gunpoint as the result of a war of choice?
    We do, however, know how to establish a quasi-colony, with permanent American bases and an insider status for American oil companies.
    I am afraid of an American success in Iraq just as much as an American failure, for success would help corrode our national character. The chances are diminishing all the time, though.

  4. Firstly, the Times is not quite correct: al-Jaafari has agreed to submit to a revote in the UIA caucus. He could still win this revote. Juan Cole doesn't think it likely, given that al-Jaafari got in by only one vote with one absent. I'm not so certain. Certainly having U.S. officials like Khalilzad and Rice getting into a public pissing contest over al-Jaafari strengthens his hand among Iraqis who don't happen to like foreign interference into Iraqi internal matters.
    Second, al-Sistani did not back Khalilzad. I'm not aware that al-Sistani has so much as met with Khalilzad. As far as I know, George Bush's letter asking al-Sistani to intervene is still sitting on a corner of al-Sistani's desk, unopened. Granting that it was the U.N. who asked al-Sistani to intervene, al-Sistani is on his own side and intervened because of his own concerns about Iraqi stability.
    And that was just the first sentence, Mark.
    Frankly, these clumsy Florida tactics are burnishing Moqtada's resume. There's influence, and then there's wielding a veto over any leader the Iraqis may pick. If we were truly smart and effective, these efforts would have been made very privately, behind the scenes, before the UIA caucus vote, and then hands off to allow the winner to at least appear to be somewhat independent of the U.S. If any Iraqis are still paying attention to this process, they're thinking "Stooges."

  5. the only genuine good news would be that we are getting out and letting the Iraqis run their country themselves. As far as evidence of the neo-cons desires, does anyone remember the chain of 13 bases we planned to build and occupy as a continuing regional "peace" force? Also let's look at the list of facilities occupied and protected in the initial days of occupation. The Museum? no The Oil Ministry. yes…
    Stop these power-mad greed heads now! Get out and stay out. It isn't our country. We don't get to make the rules there. When Frenchmen blew up Nazi jeeps, it was the loyal resistance. When Iraqis do the same thing to their occupiers, they are terrorists, dead-enders and evil-doers. hmmmm….

  6. It's not at all clear to me that this is good news. It means that Iraq does not have a political system where the government that takes power is the coalition that gets the most votes; instead, Iraq has a political system where the government that takes power (to the extent that there is a "government" that has power) is selected by complicated back room negotiations in which the representative of a foreign government has more influence than any Iraqi political party.
    It is quite likely that Americans will be able to ignore this fact, and that the American press will continue, with straight faces, to describe Iraq as a sovereign democratic state. But even if the American public is willing to play along with that description, I doubt if Iraqis, or other Arabs, will be equally willing.

Comments are closed.