Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Getting to 184 92 Yays

Spencer Ackerman at TPMMuckraker is digging a little bit deeper into the initial announcement on the Bush Legacy/Maliki self-preservation plans to establish permanent US bases and a small corps sized presence in Iraq for preserving the Maliki government after Bush is officially a dead duck and raises the ratification problem.
the Iraqi constitution stipulates that Iraq's parliament has to ratify any such agreement. And the Iraqi parliament is a lot more hostile to the idea of hosting U.S. troops indefinitely than the U.S. Senate is.

Take a look at Article 58, Section 4 of the Iraqi constitution. It stipulates that the Iraqi parliament shall ratify "international treaties and agreements by a two-thirds majority." ( UPDATE Cernig "just checked the Iraqi Constitution and I see no such provision. As far as I can tell, Maliki needs the support of a full 2/3rds of a simple quorum (1/2 of members actually in attendance)before the Parliament can approve Talibani to ratify a treaty. Then Talibani and both VPs (The Presidential Council) have to agree to do so. Maybe Maliki can convince the Sadrists and Sunnis to stay home that day..." So a combination of increased targetted violence, and inconvienent roadblocks would work) Whether or not President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki can finagle the deal so that it's not a treaty -- as Lute suggested yesterday -- it most certainly is an "agreement."
There is a legal, and customary way of avoiding the 2/3rds Senate ratification requirement for treaties, and that is by casting this agreement as an executive agreement. That just requires a 50%+1 majority in the House and Senate; C-SPAN illustrates the mechanics here:
An international agreement entered into by the President, outside of the treaty ratification process. To be implemented, it requires a simple majority vote of the House and Senate. Many agreements require subsequent implementing bills passed by both chambers before they can take force. Congress can express its opposition to any particular executive agreement by withholding the necessary implementing legislation....Recent examples of executive agreements include trade agreements, like NAFTA and GATT.
The relevant question is how does Maliki get to 184 "yays" if he wants to maintain the pretense of being a follower of the Iraqi constitution. The snarky question is how does he find less than 184 nay's.

The projected force of 50,000 to 80,000 US soldiers is there as both a tripwire force against any significant non-Turkish foreign incursions as the Iraqi Army remains designed to be a satrapy force, and as a counter-coup force. The five to ten US brigades would be the only politically loyal, reliable, and competent forces that Maliki can count on.

The Maliki government is currently being supported by a weak and disparate coalition of Kurdish parties, and the Shi'ite Dawa Party and SIIC/BADR Organization. The Kurdish parties are happy with an extraordinarily weak central government that does not have a monopoly on force as that allows the Kurds to possess de facto indepedence with a well organized and motivated militia force in the peshmerga. Badr seems to be losing in confrontations with the Sadrist JAM/Mahdi Army.

The US has done very little overtly to stop Turkish demonstrations against the Kurdish PKK, so I could see some Kurdish votes peeling off from Maliki's bare majority government right there. Both Sunni Arab nationalists, a/k/a the 'concerned local citizens' of the Anbar Awakening and the increasingly well organized Sadrist movement are strongly anti-US/anti-occupation. Since the entire point of permanent bases from the point of view of the weak Maliki government is to have a large US counterweight to the political/military power of both the Sadrists and Sunni Arabs, there are no votes for this proposal. So between some Kurds potentially peeling off, and the Sunni Arabs and Sadrists voting NO en bloc, that is the minimum blocking coalition before you start looking at other members of the 138 to 144 timeline for withdrawal bloc.

Even if this is seen as a fait accompli it won't accomplish much if one wants to believe the fiction that Iraq is a sovereign and constitutional nation

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