Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not So Fast

The "security" agreement the White House has been pushing in Iraq has apparently had another set-back. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has just replaced his country's negotiating team with members of his inner circle, which means the agreement in all likelihood will not be reached before the end of the year, much less before the US election. An article in today's Los Angeles Times details some of the sticking points.

"People gave the impression we were close when Rice was here, but it's not over. We would have a serious problem if we took it to the parliament right now," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue.

The official insisted that if U.S. troops remained exempt from Iraqi rule of law, the pact would never get passed by the lawmakers. ...

The sides also are still negotiating a withdrawal date, the official said.

The latest version of the agreement, which was read to The Times by the Maliki confidant, says all U.S. forces will leave Iraq by the end of 2011, unless Iraq requests otherwise. It also says the Americans will withdraw from cities in June 2009, unless the Iraqis ask them to stay.

The new wording is a departure from the White House's insistence on a conditions-based timeline for a pullout. Under the new language, Iraq, not the U.S. military, decides when the troops will leave. U.S. officials have gone back to Washington to consult on the language, the Maliki confidant said.
[Emphasis added]

That the Iraqi government insists on acting like a sovereign nation even while under occupation must really gall the White House. The fact of the matter is, nonetheless, that even the US installed Prime Minister has to go to the Iraqi Parliament for approval of any such agreement and the Parliament has made it clear that it will not approve an agreement which is nothing more than maintaining the status quo.

Iraq made it clear that it would not accept the idea of immunity from Iraqi law for US troops. The US has made it equally clear that no "security" agreement is possible without the immunity. In fact, right from the start, the US negotiators wanted that immunity extended to all sorts of people, something the US press has not really emphasized in its coverage of the talks. The LA Times article at least gives a quiet nod to that extensive immunity:

Some Western and Iraqi officials blame the Americans for sending a team in the spring that demanded more than 50 long-term bases, the ability to launch operations without permission from the Iraqi government and immunity for security contractors and U.S. troops. Their opening stance played into the hands of Shiite lawmakers in Maliki's coalition, who want the Americans to leave, officials said. [Emphasis added]

Yes, you read that right: the immunity would extend to such run-amok contractors as Blackwater. Can you blame the Iraqis for digging their heels in on such an issue?

The UN mandate for the Iraqi occupation runs out in December, and clearly the Bush administration wanted to tie down this agreement before then, leaving at least one positive element in the last bit of presidenting that Mr. Bush still appears to be interested in, his legacy. The Iraqis, however, are fully aware that a new administration will be installed in January, one that might be willing to actually negotiate rather than demand. Unless the current White House occupier is willing to drop the expansive immunity language, his legacy will be missing an entry.

142 days

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home