2005 October 30 Sunday
Sistani Wants US Troop Withdrawal From Iraq

Here's the best news I've heard since the United States invaded Iraq. Hamza Hendawi of the Associated Press has the scoop:

NAJAF, Iraq -- Iraq's top Shiite cleric is considering demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops after a democratically elected government takes office next year, according to associates of the Iranian-born cleric.

If U.S. officials and their coalition partners do not comply, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani would use peaceful means such as mass street protests to step up pressure for a pullout schedule, according to two associates of the cleric.

I see this as a positive development. The US could withdraw with assurances from the Shiites that the Shiites can handle the Sunni rebellion on their own. The war camp in the US could declare a victory for their strategy. They could support a US pull-out without having to admit huge mistakes in strategy. Their continued delusion could be a price worth paying to end the $6 billion dollars per month cost, the deaths of US soldiers, and the maimings and permanent injuries of US soldiers. It would also reduce the ability of Sunni extremists to mobilize recruits for jihad.

A call from Sistani would be hard for the United States to ignore.

Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiites who lectures on national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, Calif., said al-Sistani's intention to call for a withdrawal timetable has been an "open secret" for some time.

"He will not do it in an anti-American way, but in a pro-Iraqi way," Nasr said.

Ahmed S. Hashim, a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., said a public declaration by al-Sistani "will leave us without any legs to stand on in Iraq."

"But if we are made to withdraw prematurely, the country will plunge into civil war," said Hashim, who has visited Iraq several times since 2003.

George W. Bush ought to take this as an opportunity for "peace with dignity". He could claim that the US was not retreating and that the Iraqis have decided they can carry on without further US help. Declare success and withdraw.

Thanks to Greg Cochran for the tip.

Update: Modest proposal for British Prime Minister Tony Blair: Send a secret emissary to meet with Sistani's associates to relay a British request to be asked to leave Iraq. Blair needs a way out of Iraq. It has become a huge political liability for him. Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani could save his political skin by providing him with the leverage he needs with the Americans to exit Iraq.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 30 01:37 PM  Mideast Iraq

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 1:44 PM:

Sistani is not the leader of Iraq. It would be wise for him to go through legitimate political channels to achieve his ends.

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 1:55 PM:


Sistani is the spiritual leader of the Iraqi Shiite Arabs. Given that the Kurds will secede and create their own country that means Sistani is the spiritual leader of three quarters of Arab Iraqis. We've got to respect his wishes or we'll be insulting the culture and religion of the Iraqi Arab people.

We've succeeded gloriously with the brilliant Bush/neocon strategy. We can proudly withdraw now secure in the knowledge that the Shia lovers of democracy and freedom will heed the call and defend their territory and their way of liberal democratic life.

As the Bush Administration has stated, the Iraqi military has become extremely able. They are taking over most of the fighting. Every month they become more potent. We should not insult their manhood by pretending they can't handle it.

Victory is already ours. Time to bring the troops home.

gcochran9 said at October 30, 2005 2:06 PM:

Sistani is so weak, has so little support, that he can actually survive outside the Green Zone, survive without American armor surrounding him. What an unpopular wuss.

Kurdistan leaving has pluses for Sistani: without Kurds, it's a lot easier to build a Shi'ite theocratic state, which is the goal our soldiers died for. Actually it's not that bad a thing - I figure that the New Iraq will be no more of a threat than the old (no threat at all).

Shit, Randall, we should give the Shi'ites the Bomb, to show how much we trust them. Anything less would be insulting. And it'll deter Iran!

Ivan Kirigin said at October 30, 2005 2:09 PM:

There is an odd, counter-productive sarcasm in recent comments...

I stand by my first comment.

gcochran said at October 30, 2005 2:14 PM:

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for a strategy in which we invade, then decisively and efficiently occupy Syria and Iran (just as we have Iraq): then stay there for years and years and years and years, until the US Army learns the political lesson that the French learned in Algeria, the Portuguese in Angola, and the Russians in Afghanistan.

Because Iraq is not the problem, the Arabs are not the problem, 'Islamofascim' is not the problem. Our own incompetent political class is the problem. You know what will happen if they keep the reins: decline punctuated by disaster.

Ecrasez l’infâme !

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 2:19 PM:


Absolutely agree about the nukes. Excellent suggestion. Those Shiites are great freedom lovers. If we give them nukes we'll be safeguarding democracy.

Learning French lessons: Good idea. We should go bounding around in other countries until we learn what we can from those foreign cultures. Our political class obviously can't learn from books. Only real direct experience of soldiers living isolated in bases and getting blown up in convoys can teach us what we need to know about foreign cultures.

If we get enough French lessons will American women become more fashion conscious and wear most tasteful make-up?

Marvin said at October 30, 2005 3:24 PM:

I give full credit to Randall Parker and gcochran. All they had to do is stand and pout for a few years until the Iraqis more or less got to their best mediocre level of democracy, then stand up and yell boo!! and demand the US remove its troops. When the US does just that, (because that's what it planned all along), RP and GC are revealed as international statesmen, on a level with Jimmy Carter, no doubt receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Damn those american cowboy presidents, but eventually they listen to reason. Well done, RP and GC, well done boys!

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 3:34 PM:


We've been wrong all this time. The Bush Administration policy has been such a raging success that the Iraqis are ready to stand on their own. The imminent US troop withdrawal is a success for the neocons and they should declare it as such when the US and British troops are all rapidly withdrawn in 2006.

In order to show our respect for the democratic culture which Sistani and the Iraqis are so firmly dedicated to we should prepare tp respond promptly respond to Sistani's call when the call comes. Get those troops headed to Kuwait and on board transport ships as soon we get the friendly democratic invitation to leave. In fact, our troops should start packing now so that we can respond rapidly when the call comes. Send transport ships to Kuwait and have them waiting there for the call when it comes.

The cowboys can withdraw victorious. There's no need for further fighting. They've accomplished their task. Peace in our time. Peace with honor. A thousand points of light.

Oh, and get those transport ships headed to Kuwait right now.

Marvin said at October 30, 2005 4:12 PM:

You are too modest, RP. Your analyses, prognostications, and recommendations have all been perfect. If you need to occasionally bend the facts to illustrate their perfection, well then so be it. We all understand and support all that you have done. You are to be lauded universally.

razib said at October 30, 2005 5:11 PM:


at least randall, unlike a large portion of the blogosphere and the administration, has put forward ideas and models which are sensitive the facts at hand...i have no idea what relevance ivan kirigin's comment has??? do all public figures have to consult their kommissars?

Invisible Scientist said at October 30, 2005 5:24 PM:

Marvin wrote:
"When the US does just that, (because that's what it planned all along), RP and GC are revealed as international statesmen, on a level with Jimmy Carter, no doubt receiving the Nobel Peace Prize."

You don't know what you did, Marvin. You are in mortal danger because Randall Parker is the nemesis of Jimmy Carter.
Randall hates Jimmy Carter, and your putting him at the same level as Jimmy Carter, is the worst possible insult.
Apologize to Randall Parker immediately before it's too late for you, you are in serious danger...

Randall Parker said at October 30, 2005 6:07 PM:


If the war proponents only could make statements with predictive value I'd take them more seriously. But they've been continually so incredibly wrong I can't. Consider:

1) We were supposed to find big nuclear and biological warfare programs (and I foolishly believed them).

2) There wasn't supposed to be an insurgency.

3) These various events were supposed to end the insurgency:

A) Capture of Saddam's sons.

B) Capture of Saddam.

C) Capture of other top Saddam era leaders.

D) Creation of the initial Iraqi government.

E) Election of the first elected government.

F) Improvements in US tactics and intelligence.

G) Very rapid training of Iraqi military. Really, they now try to backpedal and claim that training a new military takes time. But that hilarious Exile article several months back quoting administration fools over a period of years makes clear they stated that position.

H) etc. etc.

I could list more wrong predictions. But the war camp does not care how wrong it has been.

I could dig up links for all the above. But what would be the point of it? The faithful are firm in their faith. Empirical evidence doesn't enter into it.

I hope Sistani provides us with a way to exit.

Bulldog said at October 31, 2005 4:36 AM:

I have to admit at some amusement at Randall's antics when he gets on his political high horse. Over at futurepundit he maintains an attractive objectivity toward things that can be known and not known. Over here, well . . .
Politics and religion bring out some of the more dogmatic aspects of human nature, blindspots abound. People who're normally pretty balanced and smart come unhinged frequently. Don't tell them that though.

Bob Badour said at October 31, 2005 5:26 AM:

What is unbalanced about wanting to put a stop to pointless, counter-productive loss of young American lives? To let our soldiers eventually retire with all of their limbs, both eyes and an intact brain?

If stroking neo-con egos is what's required, why not stroke a little?

Silchiuk said at October 31, 2005 6:20 AM:

I'd like seeing to stop soldiers to volunteer. If stopping soldiers to volunteer then no more soldiers to kill or maimed. Why the soldiers be volunteered? Is that like being drafted too? Is Bush being volunteering the soldiers by law? Shame.

Randall Parker said at October 31, 2005 7:26 AM:


Instead of being condescending and snotty how about some specific objections to specific statements with some evidence for why I'm wrong?

Ryan said at October 31, 2005 7:29 AM:

The $300+ Billion spent in Iraq could have been spent on better things.

How about securing the borders?

HOw baout making more non-oil-burning power plants?

How about coverting every car to electric (how much would that cost anyway..

We should ahve used that money to change our energy infrastructure to WIN the war on Islam, oops I meant "terror", by bankrupting the Arabs. Let China or India buy their oil. We take care of Chavez as well by not needing his oil.

Enough fighting, lets win this.

Engineer-Poet said at October 31, 2005 10:15 AM:

Do the math yourself, Ryan.  Even $5000 per vehicle times 200 million vehicles is $1 trillion, and oil accounts for less than 3% of electric generation in the USA.

Paradoxically, we use more oil by burning it directly in cars (16-17% average efficiency) than if we burned it in stationary combined-cycle plants (55+%) and used it to charge batteries to run the cars (70-80% throughput efficiency).

Bankrupting the Arabs is my goal, but it can't be done overnight.

Randall Parker said at October 31, 2005 12:07 PM:


I think the best way to spend taxpayer government money on energy research would be to fund electrochemistry and battery research.

Given big enough advances in batteries we could break free of liquid fuels for most ground transportation. I realize you know that already.

A fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on Iraq could have funded a great deal of energy research in nuclear, photovoltaics, batteries, insulation, and other areas.

Another fraction could have retrofitted government buildings to make them all extremely well insulated and efficient in other ways.

Invisible Scientist said at October 31, 2005 2:47 PM:

Randall Parker:
"A fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on Iraq could have funded a great deal of energy research in nuclear, photovoltaics, batteries, insulation, and other areas."

Old habits are hard to lose. I am referring to the habit of making obscene profits from oil sales. These habits are a fundamental barrier to battery research. When automobile companies bragged about the infinitesimal hydrogen car project, this was just a method of deflecting attention from their intention to continue the old method of wasteful cars, and to get the pressure off their backs... Everybody knew that hydrogen fuel cells are too convoluted in comparison to battery research, but that was their intention anyway, to adopt an impossible technology to continue the old cars.

Engineer-Poet said at November 1, 2005 8:24 AM:

Detroit had the collusion of the Republicans in Washington on that one.

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