[Marxism] Secret plan to keep US control over Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jun 5 07:19:31 MDT 2008

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal 
immunity for all American soldiers and contractors

By Patrick Cockburn
Thursday, 5 June 2008

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American 
military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of 
the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to 
The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in 
Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would 
occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and 
enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the 
Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. 
President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he 
can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been 
vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term 
settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential 
nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president 
in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, 
John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of 
victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a 
premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected 
withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 
10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under 
the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term 
use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also 
demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a 
free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq 
without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until 
now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is 
a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding 
that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the 
government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one 
Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also 
wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue 
its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody 
it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the 
so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next 
month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs 
as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar 
Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, 
said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". 
He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into 
slaves of the Americans."

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally 
opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government 
cannot stay in power without US backing.

The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran 
and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.

Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement 
limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they 
will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as 
defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi 
with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, 
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a 
referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a 
parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would 
drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in 
elections in 2005.

The US is adamantly against the new security agreement being put to a 
referendum in Iraq, suspecting that it would be voted down. The 
influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on his followers to 
demonstrate every Friday against the impending agreement on the grounds 
that it compromises Iraqi independence.

The Iraqi government wants to delay the actual signing of the agreement 
but the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney has been trying to force it 
through. The US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, has spent weeks 
trying to secure the accord.

The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a 
legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by 
most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will 
probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab 
political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. 
The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war 
against US occupation, is likely to be split.

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