Will the Iraqis Kick US Out?

>> Friday, June 13, 2008

Every one should be following the story of the US-Iraqi SOFA. This agreement has major implications for the future of the US in Iraq and has some constitutional implications in both countries. As the self-imposed deadline over the completion of the agreement nears several important question are being asked. The most interesting of these is, “Will the Iraqi’s kick us out?”

In lithiumcola’s diary, he talks about the idea that the possible rejection of the SOFA by the Iraqi government is a positive sign for Democracy in Iraq. The problem is that once the people in Iraq start thinking that they should be running their own country agreements like SOFA where they are forced to fully subvert themselves to our will become very unpopular. A part of this thought is that the Iraqi people might very well decide to kick us out before we can get around to deciding we should leave.

Here is a brief summary of what the US is asking for in the agreement.

...the US wants its troops to have complete freedom of movement in the country, whereas the Iraqis want it to be limited. The Americans are said to be seeking to retain the right to dominate Iraqi air space up to 29,000 feet, and to gain open access to the land, air and water of Iraq. The US wants to retain the right to arrest and detain any Iraqi whom the US believes represents a security threat. Washington desires the right to launch military operations to chase terrorists without seeking Iraqi government permission. The US wants immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for American troops, contractors and corporations in Iraq.

The US also wants to retain the right to define terrorism against Iraq. It does not want to give any undertaking that it will defend Iraq from any outside attack unless it is convinced about the nature of that attack. Likewise, it is not offering to safeguard the democratic regime in Iraq. -Juan Cole

These terms would definitely end any hope of Iraq gaining true democracy or becoming a functioning nation state. In addition, these terms would have had the effect of perpetuating our presence and control in Iraq far beyond the end of President Bush’s term. It was this aspect of the SOFA that sparked outrage here in the US. With the possibility of a coming Democratic administration and the possibility of withdrawal from Iraq, Bush sought any means available to cement our presence.

There is another reason beyond the possibility of an Obama administration that requires the SOFA between our two countries. In December, the UN mandate that provides the legal framework for our presence there will expire. The last time the UN mandate expired the US and al-Maliki went to the UN and got an extension. That will not be happening this time.

...the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution earlier this year, in May, stating that any United Nations renewal that doesn't come back to the parliament is illegal and unconstitutional. And they sent a letter one month before that to the Security Council to this effect. One hundred and forty-four Iraqi parliamentarians, which is more than half of the parliament, sent this letter saying that any renewal without coming to the parliament is unconstitutional. And they demanded to set a timetable for a withdrawal of all the multinational forces. Source

The Parliament has no interest in renewing the mandate. This includes members of al-Maliki’s own party. As the LAT describes

Officials in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's ruling coalition are questioning whether Iraq needs a U.S. military presence even as the two countries press forward with high-pressure negotiations to determine how long American forces will remain.


Maliki's advisors are now asking aloud whether the American presence creates more trouble for Iraq with its Arab and Iranian neighbors or whether it safeguards the country's sovereignty, the Western official explained.

The recent campaigns in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul have emboldened the Iraqi’s confidence in their own abilities. While these beliefs may be totally unfounded, their presence combined with the beliefs of some that the US should not have been authorized previously and those who want a role more limited than the current US government is willing to accept has led to the formation of a coalition who just might do what our own legislators have been unable or unwilling to do, get us out of Iraq.

Opposition in Iraq has brought together the forces of al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Sadr’s supporters have been marching in the streets in opposition for some time now. Sadr has also decided to fight the agreement in a military fashion. He has formed a new militia dedicated to fighting the Occupier (Us). Sistani has sent his supporter into a Mosque in Karbala order to foment opposition to the agreement.

Opposition here at home has been mostly on the Democratic side.

Six senators, including the chairmen of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and their ranking minority members have written Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the past week asking for transparency in the negotiations and more briefings. White House, State Department and Pentagon officials briefed lawmakers and staff members on the talks Tuesday.

"There's a tremendous amount of concern up here about the state of these negotiations. ... It's been expressed repeatedly," said a senior congressional staffer, who requested anonymity. He noted that their appeared to be growing talk in Iraq of simply extending the U.N. mandate.

A spokesman for Obama (D-Ill) said any long-term U.S. security commitment to Iraq must be subject to Congressional approval; alternatively the administration should seek an extension of the current UN mandate. Obama wants a new administration to make it "absolutely clear that the United States will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq," said spokesman Bill Burton. Source

This does not mean that the Republicans are totally on board. When this was, being talked about in April even some Republicans realized that reaching the agreement without getting approval from congress is just a bad idea.

Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, warned Satterfield that the level of congressional concern could jeopardize the pact.

"From my perspective and from what I am picking up from my colleagues, it is not going to happen, and it is going to turn into a big political thing between now and the election, and I think in the long run could even hurt the situation rather than help the situation," said George Voinovich. "I'm saying, 'look at reality.'"

Voinovich suggested the administration ask the United Nations to extend its mandate authorizing the U.S.-led military mission for several more months, after a new U.S. president is seated. Source

We already know that the UN thing is not going to happen. It will be interesting to see how the Republicans treat this going forward. What will they do when the mandate runs out any we are left without a justification for our being there. Will they demand we stay there in defiance of international law? McCain is on record as saying

"I am confident that I can convince the American People that the consequences of a date for withdrawal are catastrophe and Al Qaeda trumpets that they win. I believe I can convince the American people that after nearly four years of mishandling the war, that we're now doing the right thing and are succeeding. I think I can convince the American people that by continuing with this strategy, we will be able to withdraw more troops" and then proceeded to say he didn't think it was an issue whether or not Bush went to Congress on a plan to say in Iraq long-term, saying, "We have status of force agreements with countries that have never been approved by Congress." [ABC's This Week, 2/17/08]

Will al-Qaeda claim to have won if Iraq decides to use their sovereignty over their own country to kick us out? Under the rhetoric of McCain and Bush we would have to really take over Iraq and have a real occupation. I cannot see how this would pass muster even with the craziest of the right wing. Therefore, if we cannot reach an agreement then we are looking at being kicked out of Iraq.

It would be poetic Justice to have Bush and the Republicans shown up by the Iraqi people themselves. The rhetoric of the right is never truly concerned with the Iraqi people. The discussion of Iraq has always been conducted based on the assumption that we can stay as long as we want. It turns out that our puppet regime is not such a puppet after all.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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