President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have signed a deal to provide for an “enduring relationship” in military, economic and political terms. The agreement signifies a potential long-term US troop presence in Iraq, with details to be negotiated in 2008; such as how many US forces will stay in the country, and for how long.
“What U.S. troops are doing, how many troops are required to do that, are bases required, which partners will join them — all these things are on the negotiating table,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush’s adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plan, under the name of “US-Iraq Declaration Of Principles For Friendship And Cooperation,” explores what US presence in Iraq will look like once the “surge” troops have been withdrawn. The agreement would potentially replace the UN mandate regulating the presence of US-led forces in Iraq once it expires this year or the next if it is extended, as many believe it will:
Al-Maliki said the renewal of the multinational forces’ mandate was conditional on the repeal of what he called restrictions on Iraqi sovereignty introduced in 1990 by the UN Security Council to punish Iraq for invading neighboring Kuwait.
The agreement comes as public opposition to the war continues to escalate, and the Democrat controlled Congress scrambles to find votes to legislate the most plausible way out. The US-Iraqi deal focuses on security issues that would allegedly defend Nouri al-Maliki against all enemies, foreign and domestic. With elections at home, it will be interesting to see how the candidates respond.