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Tenuous Agreement on Maintaining
Phyllis Bennis | October 24, 2008
Editor: Emily Schwartz Greco and Erik Leaver
Foreign Policy In Focus
Despite the recent surge of attention to the U.S.-Iraqi negotiations over an agreement to keep
But both Bush and Maliki face political and electoral pressures to posture as if they do want a timetable for troop withdrawal. As a result, most of the negotiations seem to have focused less on substantive disagreements between the two sides, and more on finding language that disguises the reality of continued occupation and
The negotiations are officially aimed at producing a bilateral agreement between the
In fact, it's quite unlikely that any new bilateral agreement, or any extension of the UN mandate, will have any real impact on the fighting. The
It should be noted that so far the actual content of the agreement remains unclear. No version, either in Arabic or English, has been released, though Arabic drafts have been leaked, and informal English translations are all that are available. So, if the devil is in the details, the devil remains hidden.
Congress and Parliament
The agreement hasn't been submitted to
The Bush administration has similarly refused to engage Congress, claiming that the agreement is "merely" an ordinary Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), similar to agreements the
However, if the agreement fails it would mean official recognition by governments, inter-governmental institutions, and other international diplomatic entities of the illegality of the
Article 25 of the draft agreement describes "withdrawal of
But the existence of that text doesn't indicate a serious
So the whole idea of a deadline is a politically driven fraud. It's not coincidental that when the Bush administration appeared to give in on the once-rejected idea of a timeline, the actual description was that of a "time horizon" — very beautiful, perhaps, but you could never get there.
There are similar wiggle-word descriptions of how
As to the hot-button issue of immunity vs. accountability for
The text is replete with references to
The agreement does nothing to end or even curtail
So What Is Likely to Happen?
It's very unlikely that the Iraqi parliament, veering between skepticism and outright rejection of the agreement, will come to accept it in the next two months. It is certainly possible that Prime Minister Maliki will simply assert, as he has before, that his government doesn't need parliamentary approval; but with important provincial elections looming in
There's already a move in Congress, led by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), to challenge the legitimacy of the exclusion of Congress from approval of the agreement, but urging the Security Council to extend the UN mandate after Dec. 31 instead. This would mean repeating the common tactic of using the UN to provide political, and in this case legal, cover for illegal
If the December 31 expiration of the UN mandate looms closer, and the U.S.-Iraq agreement is not accepted by both sides, and Bush and Maliki fail to win political support for their claim that congressional/parliamentary approval is not necessary, three possibilities are likely:
• An effort to win Security Council agreement for a short-term extension of the mandate;
• A Bush-Maliki "handshake" agreement to maintain the status quo for three or six months, perhaps longer, the equivalent of Congress' frequent "continuing resolutions" that maintain current funding and activity levels;
• Agreement by Congress and the Iraqi Parliament to accept a shorter-term and perhaps stripped-down version of the agreement, essentially endorsing a "handshake" agreement between the governments.
So What Does the Peace Movement Do?
The December 31, 2008 expiration of the UN mandate should lead to an immediate recognition of the illegality of the
Although much of the nation's attention is captive to the current elections, there's an immediate need for a strong response against the latest round of negotiations that includes:
• Opposing any U.S.-Iraq agreement to maintain the
• Opposing any such agreement being negotiated or signed without
• Rejecting interim measures designed to continue the occupation.
• Standing against any Security Council decision to extend the current mandate authorizing the U.S.-led occupation in
Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, and a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor. Her newest books include Ending the
Published by Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a project of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS, online at www.ips-dc.org). Copyright © 2008, Institute for Policy Studies.
Copyright © 2008, Institute for Policy Studies.
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