Iraqi officials are demanding an investigation into a U.S. raid on the town of Janaja, in the southern Karbala Province, according to McClatchy. Janaja happens to be the birthplace of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and because the province has been officially handed over to Iraqi security forces, the Iraqis are talking about a violation of terms.
The incident may be minor, but it underlines a few issues I’ve been wondering about.
First, does a rushed transfer of control create more problems than it solves? Obviously, when the U.S. wants to take someone down, it will not wait for Iraqi permission. Maliki, for his part, won’t take public embarrassments lightly, not after his (largely imagined) solo successes in Basra and Mosul. Hence the stage is set for a confrontation neither side will win.
Second, what does ‘transfer of control’ mean, exactly? If it means U.S. troops assuming overwatch, surely it falls to the ISF to conduct the kinetic stuff? And if so, why did they not do it in Janaja? (The obvious answer: They couldn’t, they wouldn’t, and they weren’t allowed to by the Americans.)
Third, what will happen in more contested provinces like Anbar? Whether one likes it or not, someone needs to fight this war, and by all accounts it won’t be the ISF. On the other hand, an agreement is an agreement, and surely the COIN maxim “strengthening the host government” means more than just parades?
And fourth, if the U.S. and the Iraqis have trouble reading the fine print of their agreements in a minor Shia town, how do they suppose SOFA would work?
UPDATE SUNDAY: What’d I tell you:
The incident puts an added strain on U.S.-Iraqi negotiations to draft a Status of Forces Agreement, a long-term security pact that will govern the conduct of U.S. forces in Iraq. Members of the Iraqi government and security forces said the raid only deepened their reluctance to sign any agreement that did not leave Iraqis with the biggest say on when and how combat operations are conducted.