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Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/revealed-secret-plan-to-keep-iraq-under-us-control-840512.html Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2008
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      Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

      Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi
      airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers
      and contractors

      By Patrick Cockburn
      Thursday, 5 June 2008

      A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would
      perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq
      indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US
      presidential election in November.

      The terms of the impending deal, details of which have
      been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an
      explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials
      fear that the accord, under which US troops would
      occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations,
      arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will
      destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay
      the basis for unending conflict in their country.

      But the accord also threatens to provoke a political
      crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it
      through by the end of next month so he can declare a
      military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been
      vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in
      Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges
      by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama,
      to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in

      The timing of the agreement would also boost the
      Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the
      United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a
      victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a
      premature military withdrawal.

      America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even
      after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels
      will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than
      when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under
      the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would
      retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in
      Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity
      from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a
      free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military
      activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad

      The precise nature of the American demands has been
      kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to
      generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible
      breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician,
      adding that if the security deal was signed it would
      delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be
      seen as an American pawn.

      The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases
      in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a
      tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of
      Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue
      its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority
      to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military
      campaigns without consultation.

      Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to
      sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without
      modifications, by the end of next month. But it is
      already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs
      as a continuing American attempt to dominate the
      region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and
      usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that
      such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He
      added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the
      Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."

      Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to
      be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but
      feels his coalition government cannot stay in power
      without US backing.

      The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being
      fought between Iran and the United States over who
      should be more influential in Iraq.

      Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject
      any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political
      observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end
      and simply want to establish their credentials as
      defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance
      now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is
      the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah
      Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to
      a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the
      election of a parliament. But he is said to believe
      that loss of US support would drastically weaken the
      Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in
      elections in 2005.

      The US is adamantly against the new security agreement
      being put to a referendum in Iraq, suspecting that it
      would be voted down. The influential Shia cleric
      Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to
      demonstrate every Friday against the impending
      agreement on the grounds that it compromises Iraqi

      The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing
      of the agreement but the office of Vice-President Dick
      Cheney has been trying to force it through. The US
      ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks
      trying to secure the accord.

      The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel
      deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in
      Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But
      the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will
      probably favour a continuing American presence, as
      will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces
      to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab
      community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war
      against US occupation, is likely to be split.
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