Under Iraq Troop Pact, US Can't Leave Any Forces Behind

Published on
by
McClatchy Newspapers

Under Iraq Troop Pact, US Can't Leave Any Forces Behind

by
Leila Fadel

A demonstrator displays a poster of Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a march in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad, November 19, 2008. Hundreds of people took to the streets of Basra on Wednesday to support the recently signed security agreement between the Iraqi and the U.S. government. (REUTERS/Atef Hassan)

BAGHDAD - The status of forces of agreement between the United
States and Iraq is now called the withdrawal agreement, and that's
exactly what it is: an ultimate end to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

If Iraq's parliament endorses the agreement, in six weeks American
forces would have to change the way they operate in Iraq, and all U.S.
combat troops, police trainers and military advisers would have to
leave the country by Dec. 31, 2011. President-elect Barack Obama's
campaign plan to leave a residual force of some 30,000 American troops
in Iraq would be impossible under the pact.

Unless
the agreement is amended, which would require the formal written
approval of both sides, in three years there no longer would be any
legal basis for U.S. armed forces or civilian contractors of the
Department of Defense to remain in Iraq.

If
Iraq wants American forces to leave earlier, it could terminate the
agreement with one year's notice. The United States has the option to
do the same.

The American military now can come and go as it
pleases in Iraq. It raids homes without judicial approval, controls
Iraq's airspace, detains civilians without warrants for as long as it
wants and conducts unilateral operations against high-value targets,
including a recent cross-border attack on an al Qaida in Iraq member in
Syria that was condemned by Iraq, the Arab League and Syria.

The
agreement forbids attacks on other countries from inside Iraq, and if
it were approved, beginning Jan. 1 all U.S. operations would have to be
conducted in cooperation with the Iraqi government.

"It is not
permitted to use Iraqi land, water and airspace as a route or launching
pad for attacks against other countries," the pact says, according to
an Arabic copy that McClatchy obtained.

The military also would
have to get arrest warrants from the Iraqi government, judicial orders
for raids on homes and to consult in advance on every operation,
including the attacks on high-value targets that American forces now
routinely conduct on their own.

Privately, U.S. military
officials worry about sharing sensitive information with their Iraqi
counterparts, out of fear of revealing intelligence sources and methods
but also because many officials still suspect that some of the Iraqi
security forces are working with Shiite Muslim militias or Sunni Muslim
insurgents.

All detainees in American custody who are wanted by
the Iraqi government would be handed over based on arrest warrants or
else released, and anyone detained by U.S. forces during approved
operations if the agreement is implemented next year would have to be
handed over to Iraqi authorities within 24 hours.

The Green Zone,
where American contractors, some military personnel and officials live
and work, would come under Iraqi control on the first day of next year.
U.S. soldiers currently protect the area in central Baghdad, and
checkpoints are manned by Peruvian mercenaries. State and Defense
department officials breeze through the checkpoints, while most Iraqis
are subjected to long searches.

American Embassy personnel plan
to move to a new embassy compound before the Green Zone is turned over
to the Iraqis at the end of the year. The embassy staff members already
live in the new 104-acre compound, but most of the offices haven't been
moved yet.

Control of Iraqi airspace would be transferred to the
Iraqis the day the agreement took effect, and after that the Iraqi
government would issue annual permits to all U.S. military aircraft.
Currently, the U.S. controls all air traffic over Iraq, including
civilian flights, and it could shut down Iraq's airspace. Of course,
the Iraqi government could seek American or other help with air traffic
control and with the protection of the Green Zone.

In provinces
that have been turned over to Iraqi control, U.S. troops couldn't
remain in cities, villages or towns after the agreement took effect,
and as of June 30, all American combat troops would have to be in
agreed-on locations outside populated areas. They'd have no right,
beginning next year, to venture off their bases and outposts without
Iraqi authorities' approval and cooperation.

While the agreement
doesn't give Iraqi officials blanket authority to search U.S. mail and
cargo, it does give them the right to "ask the U.S. forces, in their
presence" to open containers based on viable intelligence.

The
Bush administration refused to meet Iraqi demands for legal
jurisdiction over American military personnel, but the agreement does
give Iraqi authorities the right to prosecute private contractors, and
it leaves a remote possibility that a U.S. service member could be
prosecuted in Iraq for major and premeditated crimes.

The Iraqi
government would have to request jurisdiction by notifying the U.S. in
writing within 21 days of the discovery of a crime, and a joint
American-Iraqi committee would decide whether the service member was
off- or on-duty, and where he or she would be tried.

"I am deeply
troubled by the sections of the agreement that could result in U.S.
troops facing prosecution in Iraqi courts," Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo, the
chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "I
am also troubled by vague language in the agreement that will likely
cause misunderstandings and conflict between the U.S. and Iraq in the
future."

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