Tuesday, April 08, 2008

No permanent bases in Iraq....

Just temporary ones that last forever. (Emphasis mine)
A confidential draft agreement covering the future of US forces in Iraq, passed to the Guardian, shows that provision is being made for an open-ended military presence in the country.

The draft strategic framework agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked "secret" and "sensitive", is intended to replace the existing UN mandate and authorises the US to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.

The authorisation is described as "temporary" and the agreement says the US "does not desire permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq". But the absence of a time limit or restrictions on the US and other coalition forces - including the British - in the country means it is likely to be strongly opposed in Iraq and the US.

Iraqi critics point out that the agreement contains no limits on numbers of US forces, the weapons they are able to deploy, their legal status or powers over Iraqi citizens, going far beyond long-term US security agreements with other countries. The agreement is intended to govern the status of the US military and other members of the multinational force.

And in true Bush fashion the whole ratification process, which requires the approval of the US Senate, is being circumvented.

The defence secretary, Robert Gates, argued in February that the planned agreement would be similar to dozens of "status of forces" pacts the US has around the world and would not commit it to defend Iraq. But Democratic Congress members, including Senator Edward Kennedy, a senior member of the armed services committee, have said it goes well beyond other such agreements and amounts to a treaty, which has to be ratified by the Senate under the constitution.
And having been caught out in the open, the rats start scurrying, looking for a corner.

Administration officials have conceded that if the agreement were to include security guarantees to Iraq, it would have to go before Congress. But the leaked draft only states that it is "in the mutual interest of the United States and Iraq that Iraq maintain its sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence and that external threats to Iraq be deterred. Accordingly, the US and Iraq are to consult immediately whenever the territorial integrity or political independence of Iraq is threatened."
Consult. Immediately. Nice try.

This thing looks like it is intended to cover two items in one document. Generally a status of forces agreement follows a mutually agreed upon defence treaty - the former relying on the latter to possess force. But "consult immediately"? And then what?

Oh... I know, the president bypasses Congress and uses the powers provided as Commander in Chief of the armed forces to "defend" US interests. While it doesn't come out and say the US would defend Iraq, the wording doesn't present a case where the US needs a specific invitation.

This would hobble any future president attempting to withdraw from Iraq, if the Iraqis agreed to it and, given the current state of affairs, that isn't likely.

There is however, an interesting line in the document.

Significantly - given the tension between the US and Iran, and the latter's close relations with the Iraqi administration's Shia parties - the draft agreement specifies that the "US does not seek to use Iraq territory as a platform for offensive operations against other states".
Right. That's what carrier strike forces and battle groups are for. However, if Iraq is being threatened, in the view of either party, that changes things, doesn't it.

So, when those contractors are tying iron and pouring concrete in Iraq they don't have to worry about meeting a "permanent" standard. Just an "enduring" one.

H/T Cat

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