Monday 20 October 2008 (21 Shawwal 1429)
Editorial: Iraq-American security pact
20 October 2008
Any poll taken of Iraqis will reveal that they want US troops out sooner rather than later. But the Bush administration, the Americans who supported the war and members of the Iraqi government installed by the occupation authorities would insist that a US withdrawal must depend on Iraq's ability to stand on its own two feet by the time the last American soldier leaves town. And who will decide whether Iraqis are capable of standing on their own two feet? Of course, those who initiated the war, supported it and stand to benefit by it.
This is the context in which the security pact that has been agreed by Iraqi officials and US should be seen and analyzed. The most important thing is that this is not a deal between two sovereign states, despite all talk of two elections and the Iraqi people braving terrorists to exercise their voting rights.
The deal would require the US forces to leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011 unless the Iraqi government asked some of them to stay. Thousands of people marched in central Baghdad on Saturday to protest the proposed security agreement. They were furious that they would have to live three more years under an occupation that has destroyed their nation beyond recognition. More important, they were protesting the fact that it will be a government installed by the occupation authorities that will decide whether "some of the troops" will stay after three years and in what size and in what capacity. The pact must be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament but given the narrow partisan interests, sectarian and ethnic divisions that characterize Iraqi politics, trouble awaits the deal. The weekend protests in Baghdad by tens of thousands of supporters of cleric Moqtada Sadr calling on Parliament to reject the pact was a clear signal to lawmakers of what ordinary Iraqis expect of them.
Eight years is a long time for the military of one country to remain in another country, especially when there was no credible reason for the foray in the first place. The Bush administration used every ruse, including lies and false documents, to establish the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. While the ploy worked to win domestic support for the war and get US forces into Iraq, there was nothing that could be done after that but watch as American forces sank deeper and deeper into the Iraqi quagmire. The American insistence on pursuing its project of global hegemony in the guise of the war on terror was ultimately detrimental to both causes. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed, the US and Iraq have been sapped of enormous resources, and terrorism has become more widespread. The war has created the biggest exodus of people in the Middle East since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. One of the many lessons learned from Iraq: Terrorism can be created where there was none. Another is that it is dangerous for a single nation, however powerful, to monopolize the international decision-making process, especially on matters that concern war.
The US went to Iraq saying it wanted to put down a "threat" to its security. The Bush administration now seems to be seeking to legitimize its entry and gains by way of a security deal. But what is in the interest of Washington may not be in the interest of the Iraqi people. It may be even detrimental to their interests if the leaked details of the terms of the pact are true. The US also needs to think whether the best way of helping the Baghdad government to win legitimacy and acceptability by the Iraqi people is to impose on that government a treaty the Iraqis consider very unfavorable to them.