4 former Iraq ambassadors push for embassy funds
Four former U.S. ambassadors to Iraq urged top congressional leaders to back President Barack Obama's budget request of $5.2 billion for the embassy in Baghdad, the world's largest, as well as the costs of police training and some 5,000 security forces.
Pushing back against efforts in Congress to cut the funds, the four - John Negroponte, Zalmay Khalilzad, Ryan Crocker and Christopher Hill - wrote to House and Senate leaders last month that failing to fully fund the operation would jeopardize years of U.S. investments in Iraq.
"We, four former ambassadors to Iraq, believe that a robust embassy, providing a platform for other branches of the government, including the Office for Security Cooperation and the U.S. Agency for International Development, are essential to help guide Iraq to a sustainable and peaceful future," they wrote.
The money would cover operating costs for the embassy, a fortress-like compound the size of Vatican City; training for police as they shift to criminal and investigative work; and the expenses of a security force. The money also would cover satellite offices of the embassy around the country.
The United States intends to have continuing leverage over the Iraqi government, but given its failure to achieve preferred outcomes in Iraq's electoral system, it is a safe bet that US influence over Iraq, while not yet at zero, will continue its steady decline once Iraq announces its decision on US troops staying past the 2011 deadline.
Speaking of which, Ayad Allawi thought the Americans had successfully created a new position for him on an executive council where he would have some authority despite Maliki retaining the seat of prime minister. Turned out not to happen.
Last fall, after losing the premiership to Maliki in a post-election contest of back-room coalition building, Allawi stood aloof from the gritty politics of government formation, preferring to spend time in London and other foreign capitals in a sort of self-imposed exile reminiscent of Al Gore's bearded soul-searching following the 2000 elections. Allawi felt he had been robbed. A power-sharing agreement was supposed to give him a high-level post in Maliki's administration. Instead, Maliki had cherry-picked allies from Allawi's coalition, sidelined Allawi himself, and consolidated power.
I don't worry much about the independence of Iraq or Egypt. I have a firmer foundation for my position regarding Iraq because that country has already has held two elections and established that there are political forces there more than able to thwart US attempts to direct its policy.
Egypt will be a clearer case by the end of this year when elections will have either been held or postponed and if they have been held, results will have been released.
But in Iraq, the US is, as far as Iraqi policy is concerned, throwing away $5.2 billion dollars a year. It nearly goes without saying that if it was not for the US' commitment to and identification with Israel, the US could get far closer cooperation from Iraq for free than it will be able to get for more than $5.2 billion now.