“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Iraq - "US influence is falling by the day."

Sun sets on US influence in Iraq as deal on new government looms

By Patrick Cockburn


Thursday, 11 November 2010

US Army soldiers on a joint Iraqi security operation in al-Noor village in Kirkuk province, north of Baghdad, yesterday


US Army soldiers on a joint Iraqi security operation in al-Noor village in Kirkuk province, north of Baghdad, yesterday

The United States is facing a decisive political defeat in Iraq over the formation of a new government, as its influence in the country sinks lower than at any time since the invasion of 2003.

The increased power of Iran is expected to be underlined with a vote in parliament today inBaghdad to name the leadership after eight months of political stalemate during which political violence has continued throughout the country.

The US campaign to promote its favoured candidate, Iyad Allawi, as president appears to have failed spectacularly. Mr Allawi's al-Iraqiya party, which won most seats in the election on 7 March, is breaking up as several of its factions join the government.

President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator John McCain, who is in Baghdad leading a congressional delegation, all lobbied the Kurdish leaders to give up the post of President but without success. The incumbent, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are expected to be re-elected as the country's leaders.

Dr Mahmoud Othman, a senior Kurdish leader and MP, said by phone from Baghdad yesterday there is "severe American pressure on us until now to give up the presidency", but said so far the Kurds had resisted it.

The US still has 50,000 troops in Iraq, but Mr Obama has made it clear that he intends to withdraw all of them. "American hegemony in Iraq is over," Ghassan al-Attiyah, a commentator and political scientist, said. "US influence is falling by the day."

Iraqi sources say the powerful job of Speaker of parliament is likely to go to Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni member of al-Iraqiya, who, along with his brother, controls the northern city of Mosul. Kamran Karadaghi, a veteran Kurdish journalist and a former chief of staff for President Talabani, said: "I expect Talabani to be President, Maliki to be Prime Minister and Nujaifi Speaker of parliament."

He added that American pressure on the Kurds to give up the presidency to the Sunni had been deeply resented and counter-productive; the Kurds have been closely allied with the US.

Mr Allawi, who was Prime Minister of Iraq at the height of the American occupation in 2004-05, appears to have overplayed his hand. His al-Iraqiyah party, strongly backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, won 91 of 325 seats in the Iraqi parliament in March. The State of Law bloc of Mr Maliki won 89 seats, the Shia religious parties, grouped in the Iraqi National Alliance, a further 70 seats, and the Kurds some 57 seats.

A secular Shia himself, Mr Allawi's voters were mostly Sunni and his al-Iraqiya party was always divided. He also seems to have exaggerated the ability of the US and the Sunni Arab states to make him prime minister or president. Influential Sunni politicians such as Mr Nujaifi, who is believed to control 20 MPs, has made no secret in recent days about his wish to be part of a power-sharing government. Dropping his previous opposition to Mr Maliki, he said earlier this week of his party that "there are signs of a deal".

The Speaker in the Iraqi parliament has a powerful and high-profile position, since he calls parliament into session and largely controls its work. If Mr Nujaifi gets the job this may go some way to satisfying the Sunni demand for a share in government. A former Industry Minister, he and his brother Atheel took control of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city with a population of 1.7 million, during provincial elections in 2009. They have been at daggers drawn with the Kurds in and around Mosul, but have reached an understanding with the Kurdish leadership.

Private talks between Mr Maliki and Sunni leaders were happening yesterday afternoon, but the Prime Minister appears certain of re-appointment.

Mr Attiyah said: "It is unbelievable how he has won the support of all those, like the Kurds, Sadrists, Iranians and others who wanted to get rid of him after the election."

His main strength has probably been that there was no obvious candidate on the Shia side able to replace him. Iran has outmanoeuvred the US in shaping the new government to its own liking.

Along with its ally, Syria, Iran has shown flexibility in dropping its earlier opposition to Mr Maliki and persuading the followers of the nationalist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who did well in the Iraqi election, to do the same. It thereby reunited the Shia coalition which, with the Kurds, has ruled Iraq since 2005. The only Shia party left out is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, once seen as an Iranian pawn.


  1. "Iran has outmanoeuvred the US in shaping the new government to its own liking.

  2. Nobody can blow money like US.

  3. I mean just burn through that shit. That's what it's there for, right?

  4. Wonder what the Iranians spent?

    Couple hundred k?

  5. If you've got a problem, throw money at it!

    Shit, everybody knows that.

  6. My daughter knows how to blow my money. Expert at it. Thankfully my son is frugal.

    So it averages out I think.

  7. "America has a stake in an Indonesia that plays its rightful role in shaping the global economy (through the G20) so that emerging economies like Indonesia have a greater and bear greater responsibility," Mr Obama said.

    "And through its leadership of the G20's anti-corruption group, Indonesia should lead on the world stage by example in embracing transparency and accountability."

    Transparency International's 2010 "corruption perception index" ranked Indonesia at 110 out of 176 countries.

    Reaching Out to Islam

  8. "One of the things about the UK/China relationship is that it is at the very highest level. We have dialogues covering all of these areas," Mr Cameron told Sky News.

    "Obviously, this visit is predominantly a UK/China summit and also about the economic and trading relationship, but we have dialogue covering all the issues in the right way."

    Legal expert Mr He told UK newspaper The Times that he hoped Mr Cameron would raise human rights cases in his meetings, adding that “Britain should be concerned with human rights, since this is a principle the British government has always upheld. Freedom is being trampled, and of course Mr. Cameron should be concerned.”

    Lawyer Held in China

  9. If I read that right, what's so bad about it? A Kurd as President, a shia as Prime Minister, and a Sunni as head of Parliament, is that it? Have I read that right? Seems more or less reasonable to me, given the population shares.

    But it is past my bedtime.

  10. It is anyway the Iraqis and the Iranians choose.

  11. Viktor closed down. His blog is gone. I added the close notice to the bottom of his post

  12. Even during the war some people were convinced that the country with a real possibility to come out as a winner was Iran. Now it seems that their predictions were true. What is of great concern to the whole world is the current situation in the streets of Iraq. It really poses some challenging questions about the future of the country and its leadership.