(10:00AM EST (part 1 of 2 essays) – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)
The Washington Post and McClatchy are both reporting that the Iraqi parliament is growing increasingly bold in its opposition to Bush’s Status of Forces Agreement.
In particular, the Iraqis object to the establishment of long-term bases and to the US (i.e. Bush) demand that the US (i.e. Bush) be allowed to determine unilaterally when a third country is “attacking” Iraq and to respond accordingly. The Iraqi parliament is also demanding that contractors not be granted legal immunity.
The Bush administration is giving ground on some of these issues. McClatchy credits pressure from Senator Obama and bipartisan opposition in Congress for some of the change in stance on the part of the White House, but it is clear that the majority of the credit goes to the Iraqis themselves. The Iraqi parliament is standing up forcefully.
On June 9, McClatchy reported on dissatisfaction in the Iraqi parliament.
By Leila Fadel | McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD -Iraqi lawmakers say the United States is demanding 58 bases as part of a proposed “status of forces” agreement that will allow U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely.
Leading members of the two ruling Shiite parties said in a series of interviews the Iraqi government rejected this proposal along with another U.S. demand that would have effectively handed over to the United States the power to determine if a hostile act from another country is aggression against Iraq. Lawmakers said they fear this power would drag Iraq into a war between the United States and Iran.
“The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation,” said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. “We were occupied by order of the Security Council,” he said, referring to the 2004 Resolution mandating a U.S. military occupation in Iraq at the head of an international coalition. “But now we are being asked to sign for our own occupation. That is why we have absolutely refused all that we have seen so far.”
The Iraqis also object to legal immunity for US contractors and several other US demands.
Today we read in McClatchy and the Washington Post that Iraqi pressure is working.
By Leila Fadel and Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers
BAGHDAD – A proposed U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that would set the conditions for a defense alliance and long-term U.S. troop presence appears increasingly in trouble, facing growing resistance from the Iraqi government, bipartisan opposition in Congress and strong questioning from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
How excellent it is to read that last sentence! But we must give primary credit where it is due: to the Iraqi people.
President Bush is trying to finish the agreement before he leaves office, and senior U.S. officials insist publicly that the negotiations can be completed by a July 31 target date. The U.S. is apparently scaling back some of its demands, including backing off one that particularly incenses Iraqis, blanket immunity for private security contractors.
But meeting the July 31 deadline seems increasing doubtful, and in Baghdad and Washington there is growing speculation that a United Nations mandate for U.S.-led military operations in Iraq may have to be renewed after it expires at the end of 2008.
Senator Obama demands Congressional approval of any White House deal or a punt to the next (i.e. Obama’s) administration to work out such a deal with the Iraqis.
A spokesman for Obama (D-Ill) said any long-term U.S. security commitment to Iraq must be subject to Congressional approval; alternatively the administration should seek an extension of the current UN mandate. Obama wants a new administration to make it “absolutely clear that the United States will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq,” said spokesman Bill Burton.
But the Iraqis are now publically going even further: suggesting that neither option may be needed, and that the Americans may just be kicked out altogether by the end of the year.
Some Iraqi parliamentarians are now saying that Iraq has a third option besides extending the U.N. mandate or agreeing to the proposed Status of Forces Agreement: telling the Americans to go home.
“By December Iraq has to decide what to do,” said Sami al Askari, a Shiite lawmaker who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. “If we are put in a corner…we have three options, not just two.” Askari said the U.S. side is “keen to sign it early” but has to be “realistic and deal with the issues that are very sensitive for the Iraqis.”
Now, this talk of kicking the Americans out is undoubtedly election-year talk from many in the parliament. None of them want to appear weak in the run-up to the provincial elections in October. In the end, parliamentarians would apparently like a weak agreement, for now, for the simple reason that many of them think the US presence is keeping the Iraqi parliament in place. (Which is no doubt true enough.) Even so, it is very encouraging that the Iraqi parliament sees and must respond to the will of the Iraqi people.
Bush is getting pressured from all sides. The Washington Post is documenting his concessions in a three-page story in tomorrow’s edition. He had originally been demanding all sorts of things:
Abadi and other Iraqi officials said that assertion is undercut by the U.S. request to maintain 58 long-term bases in Iraq. The Americans originally pushed for more than 200 facilities across the country, according to Hadi al-Amiri, a powerful lawmaker who is the head of the Badr Organization, the former armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the country’s largest Shiite political party.
Iraqi officials said the U.S. government also demanded the continuation of several current policies: authority to detain and hold Iraqis without turning them over to the Iraqi judicial system, immunity from Iraqi prosecution for both U.S. troops and private contractors, and the prerogative for U.S. forces to conduct operations without approval from the Iraqi government.
The American negotiators also called for continued control over Iraqi airspace and the right to refuel planes in the air, according to Askari, positions he said added to concerns that the United States was preparing to use Iraq as a base to attack Iran.
But pressure is apparently having some effect.
“Now the American position is much more positive and more flexible than before,” said Mohammed Hamoud, an Iraqi deputy foreign minister who is a lead negotiator in the talks.
In Washington, the White House hastily organized a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday after Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.), the chairman and ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee, respectively, demanded Monday that the administration “be more transparent with Congress, with greater consultation, about the progress and content of these deliberations.”
Now, it worth wondering exactly what Bush would be prevented from doing by any modifications in an agreement with an occupied country. Maybe he would be prevented from doing nothing. But in the event that Bush was required to break his own agreement with the Iraqis in order to get what he originally demanded that they agree to, his postition is thereby weakened, and at least the Iraqis are trying.
The Washington Post notes that Levin and Warner are sending stern letters to Rice, but so far are not talking about the need for Congressional ratification. “Although they have questioned the status of forces agreement’s contents, lawmakers have not raised the issue of its congressional ratification.” This is not quite true, as it appears Obama in fact has. To repeat the above quote from McClatchy:
A spokesman for Obama (D-Ill) said any long-term U.S. security commitment to Iraq must be subject to Congressional approval; alternatively the administration should seek an extension of the current UN mandate.
As a final point in all of this, note the Iran connection.
This week Maliki met with the Supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who urged Maliki to reject US demands for bases. In a move that is undoubtedly meant as a threat to Iran not to interfere in these matters, Bush yesterday announced a tougher stance on Iran, allegedly about Iran’s nuclear program.
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 11, 2008; Page A15
KRANJ, Slovenia, June 10 — President Bush and European Union leaders threatened Iran on Tuesday with new financial sanctions unless the country curbs its nuclear ambitions and opens facilities to international inspection.
Of course, the US wants to deter Iran’s nuclear enrichment, but it hard not to see the timing of this threat as also targeting Iranian influence in the ongoing negotians between Bush and Maliki over the Status of Forces Agreement.
Stay tuned. Events are getting tense.