Iraq: Biden's 'cool reception,' Maliki 'wants us to be targeted,' sucking 'from Uncle Sam's bountenous mammary glands' and more from the Reese memo

Michael Gordon reported yesterday on a memo written by a senior U.S. military advisor in Baghdad, Col. Timothy Reese. I’ve now read a copy the Reese memo, too. (Update: The Times has the full text here.)  A couple more highlights  below, including what to make of VP Joe Biden’s reception, Uncle Sam’s nurturing powers, and some tough words about Maliki.

Iraq is not a country with a history of treating even its welcomed guests well. This is not to say we can be defeated, only that the danger of a violent incident that will rupture the current partnership has greatly increased since 30 June. Such a rupture would force an unplanned early departure that would harm our long term interests in Iraq and potentially unraveling the great good that has been done since 2003.

Iraqi soldiers during a June 30 celebration of US troops withdrawing from Iraqi cities(Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty )

Iraqi soldiers during a June 30 celebration of US troops withdrawing from Iraqi cities(Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty )

Reese is half saying the same thing as I did yesterday–that the longer we stay, the greater the chance that something catastrophic is going to happen. But, he’s also arguing that this potential violent “rupture” will make us look bad while we’re leaving, while I suggested that a flare up of violence would actually keep us around longer.

The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis “forward.” Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:

1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.
2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki
3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.
4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.
5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.
6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.
7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.
8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.
9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.

Reese isn’t really doing anything here but stating the obvious–summarizing the current critique of the issues we face in Iraq that you could get by reading the New York Times everyday.  (Saying political violence is “rampant” though, probably didn’t sit too well with Reese’s bosses.) Problem is, when you’re an official that has the guts to state the obvious in a memo, and that memo gets leaked, the obvious takes on a much more profound and sinister character. The most  interesting line from the above ten points, though, is how the Iraqis told Biden to mind his own business. Clearly, this kind of–call it, perceived ingratitude–is rankling senior military officials.

Here’s the last part I’m going to quote, at length.

The GOI and the ISF will not be toppled by the violence as they might have been between 2006 and 2008. Though two weeks does not make a trend, the near cessation of attacks since 30 June speaks volumes about how easily Shiite violence can be controlled and speaks to the utter weakness of AQI. The extent of AQ influence in Iraq is so limited as to be insignificant, only when they get lucky with a mass casualty attack are they relevant. Shiite groups are working with the PM and his political allies, or plotting to work against him in the upcoming elections. We are merely convenient targets for delivering a message against Maliki by certain groups, and perhaps by Maliki when he wants us to be targeted. Extremist violence from all groups is directed towards affecting their political standing within the existing power structures of Iraq. There is no longer any coherent insurgency or serious threat to the stability of the GOI posed by violent groups.

Our combat operations are currently the victim of circular logic. We conduct operations to kill or capture violent extremists of all types to protect the Iraqi people and support the GOI. The violent extremists attack us because we are still here conducting military operations. Furthermore, their attacks on us are no longer an organized campaign to defeat our will to stay; the attacks which kill and maim US combat troops are signals or messages sent by various groups as part of the political struggle for power in Iraq. The exception to this is AQI which continues is globalist terror campaign. Our operations are in support of an Iraqi government that no longer relishes our help while at the same time our operations generate the extremist opposition to us as various groups jockey for power in post-occupation Iraq.

The GOI and ISF will continue to squeeze the US for all the “goodies” that we can provide between now and December 2011, while eliminating our role in providing security and resisting our efforts to change the institutional problems prevent the ISF from getting better. They will tolerate us as long as they can suckle at Uncle Sam’s bounteous mammary glands. Meanwhile the level of resistance to US freedom of movement and operations will grow. The potential for Iraqi on US violence is high now and will grow by the day. Resentment on both sides will build and reinforce itself until a violent incident break outs into the open. If that were to happen the violence will remain tactically isolated, but it will wreck our strategic relationships and force our withdrawal under very unfavorable circumstances.

That about speaks for itself.

But what stood out for me: Reese suggesting that Maliki, recent guest of the White House, occasionally targets American forces when it’s politically convenient. And got to give props to Reese for his balls out language–Uncle Sam’s mammary glands is quite the turn of phrase. Hopefully, despite the leak, his candor will still be welcomed at the Baghdad HQ.

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About michaelhastings

Journalist
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One Response to Iraq: Biden's 'cool reception,' Maliki 'wants us to be targeted,' sucking 'from Uncle Sam's bountenous mammary glands' and more from the Reese memo

  1. Mr. Hastings,

    You are quite correct that this report could have been written three years ago with not too much editing. I think that since the US military knows it is going to leave, they would rather do that sooner rather than later. This report was “leaked” to facilitate that process.

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