Is There Sovereignty for Iraq?
- "Is There Sovereignty for Iraq--or Isn't There?"
Amid Iraqi Fury, U.S. Offers Concessions on Military Bases
By PATRICK COCKBURN
The reaction in Iraq to the US demands for the long-term use of
military bases and other rights has been so furious that Washington
is now offering limited concessions in the negotiations George Bush
is willing to modify some of the demands so the Iraqi government can
declare "a significant climbdown" by the American side allowing
Baghdad to sign the treaty by July 31.
In practice, there is less to the American "concessions" than would
first appear. For example, the US is lowering the number of bases it
wants from 58 to "the low dozens" and says it is willing to
compromise on legal immunity for foreign contractors according to
information leaked to this reporter.
But the US currently only maintains about 30 large bases in Iraq,
some the size of small cities; the rest are "forward operating
The US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, denied my report that the
US wanted permanent bases in Iraq. But the reality of the US plan is
that Iraqi authority would be purely nominal with a few Iraqi
soldiers stationed outside the bases.
It will also be difficult for the US to concede that the tens of
thousands of foreign contractors in Iraq, who vary from heavily
armed security men to support staff, be liable to Iraqi law because
the US Army has become dependent on these forces and could scarcely
function without them.
The new deal between Iraq and the US is in theory a "status of
forces agreement", which the US already has with more than 80 other
countries, but, in practice, it is a manoeuver by the US
administration to avoid calling the agreement a treaty which, under
US law, would then have to be submitted to the Senate. With American
politicians wholly absorbed in the presidential election there
appears to be only limited interest by congressmen and senators in
demanding that the agreement, when signed, be submitted to them.
The fate of the new agreement may depend on the attitude of Iran,
which has denounced it fiercely, claiming it would permanently
enslave Iraq and turn it into an American client state. Senior Iraqi
politicians denouncing the deal include members of the main
government party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), such
as Jalal al-Din al-Saghir.
"Is there sovereignty for Iraq or isn't there?" he was quoted as
saying. "If it is left to them [the US], they would ask for immunity
even for American dogs. Other Iraqi politicians have questioned the
continuation of the American occupation in any form.
Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, promised Iranian leaders
during his visit to Tehran last weekend that Iraqi territory would
not be used as an American platform for a military attack on Iran.
It is noticeable that the Iraqi politicians within ISCI most
vehement in opposing the deal are close to the Badr militia wing of
ISCI that has traditionally had close links to Iran.
Patrick Cockburn is the the author of "Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the
Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq"
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