Iraq

Bush’s secret plans for permanent occupation

The US government has set a deadline for the end of July for negotiating an agreement between the US and Iraqi government, but the deal is facing strong opposition from lawmakers in both the US and Iraq:

In Iraq, objections to the agreements have provided long-battling political blocs something to agree on. In a letter this week to Congress, representatives of virtually all of Iraq’s major political and sectarian groups said they "strongly reject" any agreement without "clear mechanisms [and] an agreed timetable" for U.S. withdrawals.

The Iraqi government, still struggling toward political reconciliation, can ill-afford to sign an agreement that leading political actors have branded a violation of sovereignty. After a meeting Wednesday of the Council of Ministers — made up of Maliki, the Iraqi president and the two vice presidents — government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told the London-based newspaper Asharq Alawsat that "the Iraqi government’s vision differs from that of the Americans, who think . . . [the agreements] will give them almost totally a free hand in Iraq and that, as a military force, they must have absolute powers."

Patrick Cockburn, in an article in The Independent, outlines terms of the deal:

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.

This is one of many instances in which the US government’s plans to spread “democracy” in Iraq require ignoring the will of the Iraqi people, who overwhelmingly support a withdrawal of US troops in Iraq.

Fortunately, there is bipartisan opposition in Congress to passing the agreement without congressional oversight. Leaders on the Senate foreign Relations Committee, including Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), John Kerry (D-MA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, emphasizing that Congress must have oversight of the agreement, regardless of what will happen in the upcoming presidential election.

There has also been action in the House on the issue.  The House passed an amendment offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) requiring congressional oversight of any bilateral agreement between the US and Iraqi governments.  You can also urge your representatives to cosponsor one of these House bills on the issue, and your senators can sponsor their version here.

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