Iraq told: Keep US troops or face martial law
Starkly pro-American minister threatens Iraqi parliamentIraq's defense minister Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jassim threatened to declare a state of emergency if Iraq's parliament refused to sign an accord allowing US troops to stay in the country for three more years.
His rhetoric was eerily in tune with Bush Administration officials' comments on domestic security and Iran, echoing language used by the Administration to bolster support for the Iraq war.
If the US withdraws, he said, "we shall wait for a strike against us, in our midst." He added that foreign intelligence services may be attempting to infiltrate Iraqi affairs -- a shot at Iran -- an identical charge made by US officials.
A state of emergency could allow Iraq's government to dissolve parliament.
Jassim was a general in Saddam Hussein's army who was demoted after opposing a 1980 invasion of Kuwait and spent several years in jail. Serving under Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [above right], His recent comments have suggested an unusual sycophancy toward US policy and General David Petraeus in particular.
In October, Jassim floated the idea of naming the first tank delivered to the Iraqi army after General Petraeus.
"I think it would be suitable to name the first tank to arrive in General Petraeus’s name," he said at a recent ceremony honoring America's senior Iraqi general. "When they have M1 tanks working with them and supporting them they will remember General Petraeus.”
Noted the New York Times, "There was an element of 'you first, no you first' as General Petraeus went straight to the podium to assure the minister that he would 'certainly be here' for any “celebration of the delivery of the M1 Abrams tanks."
Iraq's cabinet has approved the deal allowing US troops to stay in Iraq for three more years, but it faces a tougher time in parliament. Supporters of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched in Baghdad against the agreement on Friday.
Jassim's threat comes as parliament prepares to adjourn for the annual hajj pilgrimage on Wednesday. US officials have said they have no legal authorization to continue to operate in Iraq past Dec. 31 if the measure is not approved -- a strange claim and seeming threat in itself since their presence never required a Iraqi legal mandate to begin with.