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Iraqis Condemn American Demands

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/10/AR2008061003415.html?wpisrc=newsletter Iraqis Condemn American Demands Sides Negotiating U.S.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 11, 2008

      Iraqis Condemn American Demands
      Sides Negotiating U.S. Military Role

      By Amit R. Paley and Karen DeYoung
      Washington Post Foreign Service
      Wednesday, June 11, 2008; A01

      BAGHDAD, June 10 -- High-level negotiations over the
      future role of the U.S. military in Iraq have turned
      into an increasingly acrimonious public debate, with
      Iraqi politicians denouncing what they say are U.S.
      demands to maintain nearly 60 bases in their country

      Top Iraqi officials are calling for a radical
      reduction of the U.S. military's role here after the
      U.N. mandate authorizing its presence expires at the
      end of this year. Encouraged by recent Iraqi military
      successes, government officials have said that the
      United States should agree to confine American troops
      to military bases unless the Iraqis ask for their
      assistance, with some saying Iraq might be better off
      without them.

      "The Americans are making demands that would lead to
      the colonization of Iraq," said Sami al-Askari, a
      senior Shiite politician on parliament's foreign
      relations committee who is close to Prime Minister
      Nouri al-Maliki. "If we can't reach a fair agreement,
      many people think we should say, 'Goodbye, U.S.
      troops. We don't need you here anymore.' "

      Congress has grown increasingly restive over the
      negotiations, which would produce a status of forces
      agreement setting out the legal rights and
      responsibilities of U.S. troops in Iraq and a broader
      "security framework" defining the political and
      military relationship between the two countries.
      Senior lawmakers of both parties have demanded more
      information and questioned the Bush administration's
      insistence that no legislative approval is required.

      In Iraq, the willingness to consider calling for the
      departure of American troops represents a major shift
      for members of the U.S.-backed government. Maliki this
      week visited Iran, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the
      supreme leader, urged him to reject any long-term
      security arrangements with the United States.

      Failing to reach agreements this year authorizing the
      future presence of American forces in Iraq would be a
      strategic setback for the Bush administration, which
      says that such a presence is essential to promoting
      stability. Absent the agreements or the extension of
      the U.N. mandate, U.S. troops would have no legal
      basis to remain in Iraq.

      President Bush has spoken directly to Maliki about the
      issue in recent days and instructed his negotiating
      team to show greater flexibility, Iraqi politicians
      said. U.S. officials circulated a draft of the status
      of forces agreement over the weekend without many of
      the most controversial demands, buoying hopes that a
      deal could be reached, according to Iraq lawmakers.

      David M. Satterfield, the State Department's top
      adviser on Iraq, said he is confident the pacts can be
      finalized in July, a deadline that Bush and Maliki
      endorsed last year. "It's doable," he told reporters
      in Baghdad. "We think it's an achievable goal."

      U.S. officials have refused to publicly discuss
      details of the negotiations. But Iraqi politicians
      have become more open in their descriptions of the
      talks, stoking popular anger at American demands that
      Iraqis across the political spectrum view as a form of
      continued occupation.

      "What the U.S. wants is to take the current status quo
      and try to regulate it in a new agreement. And what we
      want is greater respect for Iraqi sovereignty," said
      Haider al-Abadi, a parliament member from Maliki's
      Dawa party. "Signing the agreement would mean that the
      Iraqi government had given up its sovereignty by its
      own consent. And that will never happen."

      Iraqi officials plan to present the status of forces
      document and the security framework to parliament as a
      single agreement.

      In a news conference in the heavily fortified Green
      Zone, Satterfield repeated several times that the U.S.
      goal is to create a more independent Iraq. "We want to
      see Iraqi sovereignty strengthened, not weakened," he

      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

      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.

      "We rejected the whole thing from the beginning," said
      Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a senior lawmaker from the
      Supreme Council. "In my point of view, it would just
      be a new occupation with an Iraqi signature."

      If the talks collapse, several Iraqi officials said,
      they would request another one-year extension of the
      U.N. mandate. But Iraqi officials said they would also
      ask for modifications to the mandate similar to those
      they are seeking in the current negotiations.

      "All the same issues would then be transferred to the
      talks with the U.N. Security Council," Abadi said.

      Assuming that violence in Iraq will continue to
      decrease, politicians such as Saghir have begun
      discussing another option: asking the U.S. military to
      leave Iraq.

      "Maybe the Iraqi government will say: 'Hey, the
      security situation is better. We don't need any more
      troops in Iraq,' " he said. "Or we could have a pledge
      of honor where the American troops leave but come back
      and protect Iraq if there is any aggression."

      The Iraqi government is also upset because it wants
      the United Nations to lift its Chapter 7 designation
      of Iraq as a threat to international security, which
      dates from Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in
      1990. Iraqi officials said the United States will not
      commit to supporting the removal of the label -- a
      position the Iraqis call an inappropriate bargaining

      U.S. negotiators also said the agreements would not
      obligate the American military to protect Iraq from
      foreign aggression, Iraqi officials said, a promise
      they believe was a fundamental part of a declaration
      of principles signed by Bush and Maliki last winter.

      "The prime minister is not happy about this," said
      Askari, who helped negotiate the declaration of
      principles, which outlined the strategic framework.
      "This is not what we agreed on."

      Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of
      parliament who has been briefed on the negotiations,
      said the Americans recently had changed their position
      on four key issues: Private contractors would no
      longer be guaranteed immunity; detainees would be
      turned over to the Iraqi judicial system after combat
      operations; U.S. troops would operate only with the
      agreement of the Iraqi government; and the Americans
      would promise not to use Iraq as a base for attacking
      other countries.

      "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."

      In a letter Monday to Secretary of State Condoleezza
      Rice, Levin and Warner wrote that Congress, "in
      exercising its constitutional responsibilities, has
      legitimate concerns about the authorities, protections
      and understandings that might be made" in the

      Although they have questioned the status of forces
      agreement's contents, lawmakers have not raised the
      issue of its congressional ratification.

      The United States is a party to more than 80 such
      bilateral agreements in countries where American
      forces are stationed, but its proposals for the Iraq
      accord far exceed the terms of any of the others. Such
      agreements are traditionally signed by the U.S.
      president under his executive authority.

      Although the administration has since said that the
      security framework is "nonbinding" and would not
      include any provisions for permanent bases or specific
      troop numbers, lawmakers charged that the White House
      was trying to tie the hands of Bush's successor and
      said the terms of the accord amounts to a defense
      treaty requiring congressional approval.

      In a Senate hearing in April, a senior Defense
      Department lawyer acknowledged under questioning by
      Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) that the Pentagon had no
      definition for the term "permanent base" and that it
      "doesn't really mean anything."

      DeYoung reported from Washington.
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