Talabani talking with Syria

January 14, 2007

Iraqi President Talabani is continuing to show a pro-active stance in Iraqi foreign policy. Following the official return of diplomatic ties with Syria in November, the President is now meeting with his Syrian counterpart in Damascus.

Syria is a vital player in the region and, over the years, has had important relations with Iran: the ties between the two nations developed when Syria sided with Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. It’s also worth mentioning that the Iraq Study Group’s report released in early December favored dialogue with Iran and Syria, Iraq’s immediate neighbors. President Talabani seems to be following this policy, even if the US is reluctant to do the same. In fact, the Iraqi President has become a somewhat unnamed figure in Iraqi leadership.

In his address to Americans Wednesday, President Bush did not mention Talabani, only mentioning Prime Minister Maliki. This is consistent with US foreign policy of late, which has been centred on dealing exclusively with Maliki.

Part of the reason that the US is dealing with Maliki is that as Prime Minister he is the one dealing with domestic issues and the US’ main concern is the domestic insurgency in Iraq. However, if one is to accept US reports of Iranian and Syrian involvement in the insurgency, then Iraq’s foreign policy is key. In that sense, President Talabani is doing his job well: he met with the Iranian leadership in November and is now meeting with Assad in Syria.

In fact, Talabani is showing an independent approach to foreign policy, and the US has been very keen on having Iraqis take the lead in securing their own safety.

If its intentions are peaceful, then the US must consider talking to Iran and Syria as well. The two countries have shown that they are ready to talk and this is not a direct result of the announced troops surge. Reportedly, the meeting between Talabani and Assad has been a year in the making.

Independent Iraq

December 25, 2006

A British raid of a police station in Basra is bringing forth questions of the degree of Iraqi independence. The Guardian reports that British forces stormed Jamiat prison, to free 127 prisoners, many of whom British forces feared would be killed or were falsely imprisoned.

The BBC reports that the head of city council of Basra has called this operation illegal, saying that the council had not been informed of the raid.

It’s noteworthy that Basra is one of the areas the British hoped to leave for Iraqi forces to secure, as a first test of how prepared Iraqi forces are to handle security on their own. Foreign Secretary Beckett has said that British forces could be out of Basra province by spring.

This raid and the Iraqi response seems to be a vote of no confidence on the part of the British, on how well Iraqis can secure their own freedom. It’s yet another confirmation that Iraq is not an independent democracy. After all, Iraqi President Talabani invited to Iranian envoys, who have been detained by US forces.

It’s clear that Iran is not a favored player by occupying forces, however if Iraq can create stability through its contacts with Iran, this should be allowed. Also, the US clearly favors Iraqi PM Maliki over President Talabani, but again, if Talabani can bring peace, this should be allowed. But Iraq is not a free country.

Maliki Snubs Bush?

November 29, 2006

President Bush’s meeting with Iraqi PM al-Maliki has been postponed till Thursday. The reason given is that Maliki had already met King Abdullah prior to Bush’s arrival in Jordan’s capital and it wasn’t necessary for the three parties to meet tonight.

The White House has denied the postponing being a snub by the Iraqi PM. However, it is difficult to see it as anything other than that; if Maliki is to work with the US in bringing stability to Iraq, he needs to spend as much time with Bush as possible. Today’s event dictated otherwise. This is possibly a signal for Iran, indicating that Iraq is ready to cooperate with its neighbor. After all, Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei offered Iranian help yesterday when he met with Iraq’s President Talabani, while criticizing US presence in the country.

Hussein Trial, a failure

November 29, 2006

After the recent severe criticism of Saddam Hussein’s trial by Human Rights Watch, experts at the United Nations have come to similar conclusions. A UN group studying arbitrary detention has deemed the trial flawed and has called Hussein’s detention illegal.

The group released its statement yesterday because it believes Hussein’s death penalty must be readdressed due to procedural inconsistencies throughout the trial.

This is not welcome news to the new Iraqi government, which oversaw the Saddam Hussein’s trial. The first significant judicial case executed under this government has now been criticized by two major organizations, one of which is an NGO, the other an IO; with time, more similar reports may be published. This is part of the reason that Iraqi PM Maliki has already stated that Hussein may be hanged by the end of 2006. The Iraqi government knows the trial was illegitimate and it wants to move on.

This is also not welcome news for the US, as it has ostensibly been supporting an Iraqi government which does not conform to standards of democratic behavior. If the US went into Iraq to bring democracy to the region, then the mission has certainly not been accomplished.

US President George Bush is set to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman. And President Bush has some questions.

“My questions to him will be: What do you need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence,” said Bush.

Ultimately, the US President is ridding himself of any responsibility of having to deal with the sectarian violence and is making it look like the issue is with the Iraqi government. It is, but the occurrence of the sectarian violence is not the result of the Iraqi government’s policies. The sectarian violence is something that developed with the American occupation of Iraq. If we look back to the initial occupation of the country, sectarian friction in the country was at its lowest. However, as the US occupation of Iraq has elapsed, sectarian violence has been on the rise.

It is up to Iraq’s government to solve the state of civil war it is in right now, but if the US had any good intentions when it invaded the country, then it is also up to the US to be involved. Especially considering the fact that President Bush has spoken out against any troops withdrawals.

Meanwhile, Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei has told Iraqi President Talabani that US forces must leave Iraq for a possible peace in the country. Khamenei offered the Iraqi President assistance in stabilizing the country.