Our guests this week are Stephen Zunes and Raed Jarrar:
- The House is trying to pass a bill that would make it illegal for the Obama administration to have any diplomatic contact with Iran – an interview with Stephen Zunes
- The Iraq war is not over – an interview with Raed Jarrar
Stephen Zunes analyzes the likely passage of a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives that would bar the Obama administration from having any diplomatic contact with Iran. If the bill becomes law, it would be the first time in history, even during wartime, that Congress would legally prevent the White House or State Department from negotiating with another country.
The bill already has 349 sponsors, so passage is almost certain. (See http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR01905:@@@P to find out if your member of Congress is one of the co-sponsors and the let them know how you feel.)
Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi-American blogger and political analyst based in Washington, D.C.
Quote: “The Iraq war is not over yet. Shortly after President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. is going to withdraw all of its troops from Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta started talking about planned negotiations with the Iraqi government on a new role for troops inside the country. Most of Iraq’s politicians believe the Pentagon is trying one last attempt to keep trainers by sending them under the NATO umbrella. The Iraqi government signed a training agreement with NATO in 2009, but did not send it to the parliament for ratification until earlier this month, a day after the immunity talks with the U.S. collapsed. The agreement, which grants NATO trainers some level of immunity, will be debated in the Iraqi parliament after the recess that ends on November 20th. It is not likely the Parliament will pass the agreement.
“But even if the Pentagon’s attempt fails, the U.S. is planning to leave up to 16,000 State Department personnel in Iraq after the end of this year. This number includes 8,000 armed mercenaries and 4,500 so-called ‘general life support’ contractors who provide food and medical services, operate the aviation equipment, etc. This huge presence will be distributed over several sites around the country: The massive U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone, two consulates in Basra and Erbil, two support sites in Iraqi airports, three police-training facilities, and one diplomatic presence office in Kirkuk. A report by the Office of Inspector General in 2009 recommended downsizing the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The OIG report, number ISP-I-09-30A, described the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as ‘overstaffed,’ and confirmed it should be able to carry out all of its responsibilities with ‘significantly fewer staff and in a much reduced footprint.’ The report claimed that there is a ‘clear consensus from the top to the bottom of the Embassy’ that the time has come for a ‘significant rightsizing,’ and it recommended that ‘the rightsizing process has to begin immediately.’
“The plan to leave 16,000 personnel in Iraq, the size of an Army division, contradicts the OIG’s recommendations and puts the future of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship in jeopardy. The U.S. intervention in Iraq started more than 20 years ago, and it will not be over from an Iraqi perspective until the U.S. downsizes its massive footprint in Iraq.”