Friday, September 19, 2008

Diplomats & Traitors

Shared Hope Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Oberst, Gladstone, Mich., native, teaches Iraqi children how to make the peace sign during Operation Hammer Bonzai XI in the Taji Qada, northwest of Baghdad. Oberst serves as an infantry platoon sergeant in Company B, 52nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment “Wolfhounds,â€‌ 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Warrior,â€‌ 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad. Photo by Staff Sgt. J.B. Jaso.
Photo by Staff Sgt. J.B. Jaso. Multi-National Force - Iraq

As Iraq transitions to a country on the mend and the ebbing violence takes it off the US front pages, I was reflecting on Iraq's next steps towards whatever end state it will have.

For some reason, I remembered a "debate" I had with the Queen of Hard Left Ideologues (whose name I dare not speak, lest I invoke her) at the end of 2006 on 24 Steps to Liberty's blog. Follow it here, I think, if you dare. The gist of her argument was that Maliki, who was/is Bushitler's hapless puppet of course, would be overthrown within days if he did not push through the "Oil Law" that would cede Iraq's black gold to evil US neocons through the use of "Production Sharing Agreements".

My counter argument, if I remember correctly because I'm not going to read it again, was that no such thing would happen. She was quite certain her prediction would come true. I was less certain mine would. After all, PM Maliki's government was under attack from nearly every side at the time, with sticks, stones, AND words. There certainly was a very real chance we'd see them swept away in a more traditional transition of power that Iraq has been used to, but I thought the US would not be behind it if it happened that way. Well, it didn't and Maliki and his government have survived as of this writing.

Today, two brief articles on Iraq Updates caught my eye in particular.

The first was this: Syria names ambassador to Iraq. At first glance, this may not seem like a big deal. And maybe it's not... but it's interesting to think "what took them so long"? The short article reminds us that Syria has not had diplomatic relations with Iraq since the 1980s. A Gulf News article reminds us this was due to Syria's backing of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and Saddam's storming of the Syrian embassy shortly after it broke out. This is elementary history to any Iraqi for sure, but think about it in terms of everything us ignorant Westerners are supposed to know about the region: Persian Shiite Iran and Arab Sunni Ba'athist Syria... working together... against Arab Sunni Ba'athist Saddam?

Also, Syria has maintained its cold shoulder despite the now allegedly Iranian-backed Shia-dominated new government of Iraq in power and also allegedly has been a prime supporter of the mostly Sunni scorched-earth "Resistance" in Iraq.

As far as the cold shoulder goes, Syria is hardly alone in being slow to embrace the new democratic order in Iraq. In fact, most countries in the region have been slow to name ambassadors to Iraq. As far as I know, Arab countries with ambassadors named are:

* Egypt, June 2005 (abducted, killed July 2005), may name another soon

* United Arab Emirates (UAE), June 2008

* Kuwait, July 2008

* Jordan, August 2008

* Bahrain, September 2008

* and Syria, September 2008

Iran named their ambassador in April, 2006. As far as I can tell, Turkey hasn't named an ambassador to Iraq yet. Between the reception Ihab el-Sherif received in 2005 and suspicion or animosity or whatever towards the new government, it's good to see other countries warming to the new Iraq diplomatically.

Anyway, there is an interesting quote from Syrian president Bashar Al Assad in this take on the ambassador story:
"Syria will stand with Iran on all the major strategic issues," ... [Hooray! BFF! - RL]
"Only one situation would distance Syria from Iran, and that is if Tehran sided with Israel, and if America sided with the Arabs,"
So. There's our opportunity to improve our relations with Syria!

But speaking of Israel, here is the second Iraq Updates article: Iraq: Are You Traitors Too? This article describes a rare moment of unanimous unity among the Iraqi parlaiament: lifting immunity for the popular (among Iraqi bloggers and Iraqi blogger readers, at least) Mithal al-Alousi for either a) visiting Israel or b) criticizing Iran. Nibras Kazimi @ Talisman Gate has much more detail & background about what this could mean for him. In short, he could face treason charges and the death penalty! Apparently, the altercation in parliament ended in fisticuffs but I can't tell if al-Alousi kicked *ss or not. A McClatchy article here gives further details (h/t "Anonymous" from Nibras' comments).

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