[Marxism] Wallerstein: Firestorm Ahead

Max Clark poeticaleconomy at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 11 06:40:13 MDT 2009


http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/22556

The Firestorm Ahead
September 10, 2009
By Immanuel Wallerstein 

There is a firestorm ahead in the Middle East for which neither the US government nor the US public is prepared. They seem scarcely aware how close it is on the horizon or how ferocious it will be. The US government (and therefore almost inevitably the US public) is deluding itself massively about its capacity to handle the situation in terms of its stated objectives. The storm will go from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to Israel/Palestine, and in the classic expression "it will spread like wildfire."
 
Let us start with Iraq. The United States has signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, which went into effect on July 1. It provided for turning over internal security to the Iraqi government and, in theory, essentially restricting US forces to their bases and to some limited role in training Iraqi troops. Some of the wording of this agreement is ambiguous. Deliberately so, since that was the only way both sides would sign it.
 
Even the first months of operation show how poorly this agreement is operating. The Iraqi forces have been interpreting it very strictly, formally forbidding both joint patrols and also any unilateral US military actions without prior detailed clearance with the government. It has gotten to the point that Iraqi forces are stopping US forces from passing checkpoints with supplies during daytime hours.
 
The US forces have been chafing. They have tried to interpret the clause guaranteeing them the right of self-defense far more loosely than the Iraqi forces want. They are pointing to the upturn in violence in Iraq and therefore implicitly to the incapacity of Iraqi forces to guarantee order.
 
The general commanding the US forces, Ray Odierno, is obviously extremely unhappy and is patently scheming to find excuses to reestablish a direct US role. Recently, he met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq and President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Regional Government. Odierno sought to persuade them to permit tripartite (Iraqi/Kurdish/American) joint patrols in Mosul and other areas of northern Iraq, in order to prevent or minimize violence. They politely agreed to consider his proposal. Unfortunately for Odierno, his plan would require a formal revision of the SOFA agreement.
 
Originally, there was supposed to be a referendum in the beginning of July on popular approval of the SOFA agreement. The United States was afraid of losing the vote, which would have meant that all US forces would have had to be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2010, one full year earlier than the theoretical date in the SOFA agreement.
 
The United States thought it was very clever in persuading al-Maliki to postpone this referendum to January 2010. Now it will be held in conjunction with the national elections. In the national elections, everyone will be seeking to obtain votes. No one is going to be campaigning in favor of a "yes" vote on the referendum. Lest this be in any doubt, al-Maliki is submitting a project to the Iraqi parliament that will permit a simple majority of "no" votes to annul the agreement. There will be a majority of "no" votes. There may even be an overwhelming majority of "no" votes. Odierno should be packing his bags now. I'll bet he still has the illusion that he can avoid the onset of the firestorm. He can't.

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