Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two articles on the SOFA with Iraq.

The first article regards the newest draft as a defeat for the Bush administration. It is a defeat in that a lot of the terms of the first draft have been changed at the insistence of the Iraqis but there are still provisions that are quite unacceptable. Most of the killings or maimings and wrongdoings of US troops and contractors has been on missions and in this case Iraqi law would not apply. They would have immunity. Without this being changed the agreement is unlikely to pass. Porter is simply wrong about the US not allowing any foreign country to have jurisdiction over their forces when not on a mission. The Philippines is one country where the troops are subject to Philippine law. I imagine there are other countries as well. Just recently a US soldier in the Philippines was tried by a Philippine court and found guilty of rape. Dyer rightly notes that much of the better security in Iraq is due to the purchase of Sunni militias to fight Al Qaeda. However, now they many of them may face loss of their jobs as the Iraqi govt. takes them over. Also, some of the peace has been created by ethnic cleansing of mixed Shia and Sunni neighbour hoods. The problem of the borders of Kurdistan are also an issue that could cause continuing difficulties.


Final Text of Iraq Pact Reveals a US Debacle
by Gareth Porter
The final draft of the US-Iraq Status of Forces agreement on the US military presence represents an even more crushing defeat for the policy of the George W. Bush administration than previously thought, the final text reveals.
The final draft, dated Oct. 13, not only imposes unambiguous deadlines for withdrawal of US combat troops by 2011 but makes it extremely unlikely that a US non-combat presence will be allowed to remain in Iraq for training and support purposes beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all US combat forces.
Furthermore, Shiite opposition to the pact as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty makes the prospects for passage of even this agreement by the Iraqi parliament doubtful. Pro-government Shiite parties, the top Shiite clerical body in the country, and a powerful movement led by nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that recently mobilized hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in protest against the pact, are all calling for its defeat.
At an Iraqi cabinet meeting Tuesday, ministers raised objections to the final draft, and a government spokesman said that the agreement would not submit it to the parliament in its current form. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told three news agencies Tuesday that the door was "pretty far closed" on further negotiations.
In the absence of an agreement approved by the Iraqi parliament, US troops in Iraq will probably be confined to their bases once the United Nations mandate expires Dec. 31.
The clearest sign of the dramatically reduced US negotiating power in the final draft is the willingness of the United States to give up extraterritorial jurisdiction over US contractors and their employees and over US troops in the case of "major and intentional crimes" that occur outside bases and while off duty. The United States has never allowed a foreign country to have jurisdiction over its troops in any previous status of forces agreement.
But even that concession is not enough to satisfy anti-occupation sentiments across all Shiite political parties. Sunni politicians hold less decisive views on the pact, and Kurds are supportive.
Bush administration policymakers did not imagine when the negotiations began formally last March that its bargaining position on the issue of the US military presence could have turned out to be so weak in relation with its own "client" regime in Baghdad.
They were confident of being able to legitimize a US presence in Iraq for decades after the fighting had ended, just as they did in South Korea. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had declared in June 2007 that US troops would be in Iraq "for a protracted period of time".
The secret US draft handed to Iraqi officials Mar. 7 put no limit on either the number of US troops in Iraq or the duration of their presence or their activities. It would have authorized US forces to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain certain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security", according to an Apr. 8 article in The Guardian quoting from a leaked copy of the draft.
When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded a timetable for complete US withdrawal in early July, the White House insisted that it would not accept such a timetable and that any decision on withdrawal "will be conditions based". It was even hoping to avoid a requirement for complete withdrawal in the agreement, as reflected in false claims to media Jul. 17 that Bush and Maliki had agreed on the objective of "further reduction of US combat forces from Iraq" rather than complete withdrawal.
By early August, however, Bush had already reduced its negotiating aims. The US draft dated Aug. 6, which was translated and posted on the internet by Iraqi activist Raed Jarrar, demanded the inclusion of either "targeted times" or "time targets" to refer to the dates for withdrawal of US forces from all cities, town and villages and for complete combat troop withdrawal from Iraq, suggesting that they were not deadlines.
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Baghdad Aug. 21, the United States accepted for the first time a firm date of 2011 for complete withdrawal, giving up the demand for ambiguous such terms. However, the Aug. 6 draft included a provision that the US could ask Iraq to "extend" the date for complete withdrawal of combat troops, based on mutual review of "progress" in achieving the withdrawal.
Because it had not yet been removed from the text, US officials continued to claim to reporters that the date was "conditions-based", as Karen DeYoung reported in the Washington Post Aug. 22.
The administration also continued to hope for approval of a residual force. US officials told DeYoung the deal would leave "tens of thousands of US troops inside Iraq in supporting roles...for an unspecified time". That hope was based on a paragraph of the Aug. 6 draft providing that the Iraqi government could request such a force, with the joint committee for operations and coordination determining the "tasks and level of the troops..."
But the Oct. 13 final draft, a translation of which was posted by Raed Jarrar on his website Oct. 20, reveals that the Bush administration has been forced to give up its aims of softening the deadline for withdrawal and of a residual non-combat force in the country. Unlike the Aug. 6 draft, the final text treats any extension of that date as a modification of the agreement, which could be done only "in accordance to constitutional procedures in both countries".
That is an obvious reference to approval by the Iraqi parliament.
Given the present level of opposition to the agreement within the Shiite community, that provision offers scant hope of a residual US non-combat force in Iraq after 2011.
Another signal of Iraqi intentions is a provision of the final draft limiting the duration of the agreement to three years -- a date coinciding with the deadline for complete withdrawal from Iraq. The date can be extended only by a decision made by the "constitutional procedures in both countries".
The final draft confirms the language of the Aug. 6 draft requiring that all US military operations be subject to the approval of the Iraqi government and coordinated with Iraqi authorities through a joint US-Iraqi committee.
The negotiating text had already established by Aug. 6 that US troops could not detain anyone in the country without a "warrant issued by the specialized Iraqi authorities in accordance with Iraqi law" and required that the detainees be turned over to Iraqi authorities within 24 hours. The Oct. 13 "final draft" goes even further, requiring that any detention by the United States, apart from its own personnel, must be "based on an Iraqi decision".
The collapse of the Bush administration's ambitious plan for a long-term US presence in Iraq highlights the degree of unreality that has prevailed among top US officials in both Washington and Baghdad on Iraqi politics. They continued to see the Maliki regime as a client which would cooperate with US aims even after it was clear that Maliki's agenda was sharply at odds with that of the United States.
They also refused to take seriously the opposition to such a presence even among the Shiite clerics who had tolerated it in order to obtain Shiite control over state power.
(Inter Press Service)

Gwyn Dyer article:

Dyer: Iraqi deal with the United States over troops isn't just for show
Gwynne Dyer

It has been a short hundred years. That's how long Republican presidential candidate John McCain said that American troops might have to stay in Iraq at the beginning of his campaign, but the deal that Washington concluded with the Iraqi government last week said that they must all be gone by 2011. And they must be off the streets of Iraqi cities by the middle of next year. That's not enough for a lot of Iraqis. Fifty thousand supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader who embodies the resentment of the poor against the Shia establishment, came out onto the streets of Baghdad on Saturday to protest against the deal signed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They want the Americans to leave now, which is also Sadr's position, and it may win him a commanding position in parliament when Iraq votes again next year. Maliki stood up for Iraqi sovereignty partly because he would pay for it in next year's election if he did not, but he was never just an American puppet. He opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and he also opposed the decision of his own party, al-Dawa, to join the first Iraqi "governing council" set up by occupation pro-consul Paul Bremer six months later. So the negotiations for a "status of forces agreement" to provide legal cover for the U.S. military presence in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires in December were not just window-dressing. The Bush administration had to abandon
its quest for permanent military bases in Iraq, although there is a clause in the deal that allows for a change of mind in Baghdad. As Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh put it, "in 2011 the government at that time will determine whether it needs a new pact or not, and what type of pact will depend on the challenges it faces." But the shoe is definitely on the other foot now, with the American right to keep troops in Iraq lapsing automatically at the end of 2011 unless the Iraqi government wishes otherwise. Iraq was less successful in trying to make American troops responsible to Iraqi courts for their actions. The deal contains a clause saying that Iraqi law will apply "if they commit a serious and deliberate felony outside their bases and when off duty," but in practice no American soldiers leave their bases when off duty, and while on duty they can still kill any Iraqi who seems threatening with no questions asked. However, foreign civilian contractors will be subject to Iraqi law in future. It's not all that bad a deal, given the extent to which Maliki's government depends on American troops for survival. But even within the alliance of Shia parties that dominates the government it faces severe criticism and may not get through parliament. Outside, in the real world, it still feels like a fantasy. It is now an undisputed factoid in the American political debate that Iraq has been stabilized by last year's "surge" of U.S. troops. But the reality on the ground is rather different. There is less sectarian killing, but that is mainly because the ethnic cleansing of mixed neighbourhoods where Sunni and Shia Arabs used to live side by side is almost complete. Other major outbreaks of violence remain possible. The "Awakening" movement, in which tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs who had been fighting the American occupation went on the U.S. government payroll in order to fight the takeover of their community by al-Qaida extremists, is at a crossroads. Starting this month, the "Awakening" fighters are being paid by the Iraqi government, not by the Americans, and it has announced that only 20 percent of them will be absorbed into the Iraqi army. The other 60-odd thousand fighters of the "Awakening" will only be paid until they find civilian jobs - but there are almost no well-paying jobs available in Iraq apart from government work, which usually requires a recommendation from one of the big Shia parties. So what do the rest of the Sunni fighters do? Go back to fighting the Americans? It's not unimaginable. And the possibility of war between Arab Iraq and Kurdish Iraq over the border between the two regions is ever present: The promised referendum on the future of the city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oilfields is the sword of Damocles hanging over the whole of Iraqi politics. The relative calm that Iraq is experiencing at the moment may just be the eye of the hurricane. --- * GWYNNE DYER is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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