Saturday, October 22, 2011

Doing it wrong

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy's "The Cable" has the details on how the Obama administration badly bungled the Iraq SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) negotiations. Here are two key points:
She (M.C. Sullivan) said that the administration's negotiating strategy was flawed for a number of reasons: it failed to take into account Iraqi politics, failed to reach out to a broad enough group of Iraqi political leaders, and sent contradictory messages on the troop extension throughout the process.

"From the beginning, the talks unfolded in a way where they largely driven by domestic political concerns, both in Washington and Baghdad. Both sides let politics drive the process, rather than security concerns," said Sullivan.

Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy's diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

"An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that's done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry," said one former senior Hill staffer. "If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass."
This is a case study in making damn sure that petty and unimportant things override strategic imperatives, one that likely Americans will one day rue. I'd say the same about Iraqis, but the lesson of history in that region is that very few fools around those parts live long enough to rue their mistakes. But the blame for this outcome, if one were to wish to place it, should not fall on the Iraqis. This, and the awful possibility of having to go back there one day not so far in the future, should be squarely placed on the heads of those in the Obama administration that wilfully chose this outcome.

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