Topic(s): Iraq | Comments Off on Rene — FINAL TEXT OF IRAQ PACT REVEALS A US DEBACLE

by Gareth Porter
Inter Press October 23, 2008
WASHINGTON – The final draft of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces
agreement on the U.S. military presence represents an even more
crushing defeat for the policy of the George W. Bush administration
than previously thought, the final text reveals.
A US soldier on a rooftop during a sandstorm in Baghdad’s Sadr City
in April 2008. The White House on Tuesday said it was not surprised
by difficulties in nailing down a security pact with Iraq, even as the
war-torn country’s cabinet called for changes to the planned agreement.
(AFP/USAF-HO/Sgt Adrian Cadiz)The final draft, dated Oct. 13, not only
imposes unambiguous deadlines for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by
2011 but makes it extremely unlikely that a U.S. non-combat presence
will be allowed to remain in Iraq for training and support purposes
beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces.
Furthermore, Shiite opposition to the pact as a violation of Iraqi
sovereignty makes the prospects for passage of even this agreement
by the Iraqi parliament doubtful. Pro-government Shiite parties,
the top Shiite clerical body in the country, and a powerful movement
led by nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that recently mobilized
hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in protest against the pact,
are all calling for its defeat.
At an Iraqi cabinet meeting Tuesday, ministers raised objections to the
final draft, and a government spokesman said that the agreement would
not submit it to the parliament in its current form. But Secretary
of Defense Robert Gates told three news agencies Tuesday that the
door was “pretty far closed” on further negotiations.
In the absence of an agreement approved by the Iraqi parliament,
U.S. troops in Iraq will probably be confined to their bases once
the United Nations mandate expires Dec. 31.
The clearest sign of the dramatically reduced U.S. negotiating power
in the final draft is the willingness of the United States to give up
extraterritorial jurisdiction over U.S. contractors and their employees
and over U.S. troops in the case of “major and intentional crimes”
that occur outside bases and while off duty. The United States has
never allowed a foreign country to have jurisdiction over its troops
in any previous status of forces agreement.
But even that concession is not enough to satisfy anti-occupation
sentiments across all Shiite political parties. Sunni politicians
hold less decisive views on the pact, and Kurds are supportive.
Bush administration policymakers did not imagine when the negotiations
began formally last March that its bargaining position on the issue
of the U.S. military presence could have turned out to be so weak in
relation with its own “client” regime in Baghdad.
They were confident of being able to legitimize a U.S. presence in
Iraq for decades after the fighting had ended, just as they did in
South Korea.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had declared in June 2007 that
U.S. troops would be in Iraq “for a protracted period of time”.
The secret U.S. draft handed to Iraqi officials Mar. 7 put no limit
on either the number of U.S. troops in Iraq or the duration of their
presence or their activities. It would have authorized U.S. forces to
“conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain certain individuals
when necessary for imperative reasons of security”, according to an
Apr. 8 article in The Guardian quoting from a leaked copy of the draft.
When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded a timetable for complete
U.S. withdrawal in early July, the White House insisted that it would
not accept such a timetable and that any decision on withdrawal “will
be conditions based”. It was even hoping to avoid a requirement for
complete withdrawal in the agreement, as reflected in false claims
to media Jul. 17 that Bush and Maliki had agreed on the objective
of “further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq” rather than
complete withdrawal.
By early August, however, Bush had already reduced its negotiating
aims. The U.S. draft dated Aug. 6, which was translated and posted on
the internet by Iraqi activist Raed Jarrar, demanded the inclusion
of either “targeted times” or “time targets” to refer to the dates
for withdrawal of U.S. forces from all cities, town and villages and
for complete combat troop withdrawal from Iraq, suggesting that they
were not deadlines.
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Baghdad Aug. 21,
the United States accepted for the first time a firm date of 2011
for complete withdrawal, giving up the demand for ambiguous such
terms. However, the Aug. 6 draft included a provision that the
U.S. could ask Iraq to “extend” the date for complete withdrawal
of combat troops, based on mutual review of “progress” in achieving
the withdrawal.
Because it had not yet been removed from the text, U.S. officials
continued to claim to reporters that the date was “conditions-based”,
as Karen DeYoung reported in the Washington Post Aug. 22.
The administration also continued to hope for approval of a residual
U.S. officials told DeYoung the deal would leave “tens of thousands
of U.S. troops inside Iraq in supporting roles…for an unspecified
time”. That hope was based on a paragraph of the Aug. 6 draft providing
that the Iraqi government could request such a force, with the joint
committee for operations and coordination determining the “tasks and
level of the troops…”
But the Oct. 13 final draft, a translation of which was posted by Raed
Jarrar on his website Oct. 20, reveals that the Bush administration
has been forced to give up its aims of softening the deadline for
withdrawal and of a residual non-combat force in the country. Unlike
the Aug. 6 draft, the final text treats any extension of that date
as a modification of the agreement, which could be done only “in
accordance to constitutional procedures in both countries”.
That is an obvious reference to approval by the Iraqi parliament.
Given the present level of opposition to the agreement within the
Shiite community, that provision offers scant hope of a residual
U.S. non-combat force in Iraq after 2011.
Another signal of Iraqi intentions is a provision of the final draft
limiting the duration of the agreement to three years — a date
coinciding with the deadline for complete withdrawal from Iraq. The
date can be extended only by a decision made by the “constitutional
procedures in both countries”.
The final draft confirms the language of the Aug. 6 draft requiring
that all U.S. military operations be subject to the approval of the
Iraqi government and coordinated with Iraqi authorities through a
joint U.S.-Iraqi committee.
The negotiating text had already established by Aug. 6 that U.S. troops
could not detain anyone in the country without a “warrant issued
by the specialized Iraqi authorities in accordance with Iraqi law”
and required that the detainees be turned over to Iraqi authorities
within 24 hours. The Oct. 13 “final draft” goes even further, requiring
that any detention by the United States, apart from its own personnel,
must be “based on an Iraqi decision”.
The collapse of the Bush administration’s ambitious plan for a
long-term U.S. presence in Iraq highlights the degree of unreality that
has prevailed among top U.S. officials in both Washington and Baghdad
on Iraqi politics. They continued to see the Maliki regime as a client
which would cooperate with U.S. aims even after it was clear that
Maliki’s agenda was sharply at odds with that of the United States.
They also refused to take seriously the opposition to such a presence
even among the Shiite clerics who had tolerated it in order to obtain
Shiite control over state power.
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising
in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest
book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War
in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.