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Occupied: The drones are the latest example of the US State Department's efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Photo: Reuters

Iraqis Outraged Over Unauthorized US Drone Flights

“Our sky is our sky, not the USA’s sky”

Common Dreams staff

Top leaders of Iraq are infuriated that the United States is continuing to fly unmanned (and unauthorized) surveillance drones to protect US assets such as the massive US Embassy in Baghdad as well as American embassy employees and private contractors, The New York Times reported Monday.

The US military left behind the drones during its “withdrawal” from Iraq last December—and have continued the flights without approval from the Iraqi government.

Iraqi officials say the US government needs Iraqi approval to use the drones.

* * *

From the New York Times report:

A senior American official said that negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans.

Mr. Asadi said that he opposed the drone program: “Our sky is our sky, not the U.S.A.’s sky.” [...]

“If they are afraid about their diplomats being attacked in Iraq, then they can take them out of the country,” said Mohammed Ghaleb Nasser, 57, an engineer from the northern city of Mosul.The American plans to use drones in the air over Iraq have also created yet another tricky issue for the two countries, as Iraq continues to assert its sovereignty after the nearly nine-year occupation. Many Iraqis remain deeply skeptical of the United States, feelings that were reinforced last week when the Marine who was the so-called ringleader of the 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqis in the village of Haditha avoided prison time and was sentenced to a reduction in rank.

“If they are afraid about their diplomats being attacked in Iraq, then they can take them out of the country,” said Mohammed Ghaleb Nasser, 57, an engineer from the northern city of Mosul.

Hisham Mohammed Salah, 37, an Internet cafe owner in Mosul, said he did not differentiate between surveillance drones and the ones that fire missiles. “We hear from time to time that drone aircraft have killed half a village in Pakistan and Afghanistan under the pretext of pursuing terrorists,” Mr. Salah said. “Our fear is that will happen in Iraq under a different pretext.”

Still, Ghanem Owaid Nizar Qaisi, 45, a teacher from Diyala, said that he doubted that the Iraqi government would stop the United States from using the drones. “I believe that Iraqi politicians will accept it, because they are weak,” he said.

* * *

Glenn Greenwald writing this morning in Salon:

So militarized is U.S. foreign policy — and so reviled is the U.S. in Iraq — that even when it “withdraws” from that country, it maintains a presence that is so large and menacing as to be unimaginable in most other countries around the worldSo militarized is U.S. foreign policy — and so reviled is the U.S. in Iraq — that even when it “withdraws” from that country, it maintains a presence that is so large and menacing as to be unimaginable in most other countries around the world: basically the equivalent of a small army. Then we have this, about the state of Iraqi domestic politics vis-a-vis the United States:

The United States, which will soon begin taking bids to manage drone operations in Iraq over the next five years, needs formal approval from the Iraqi government to use such aircraft here, Iraqi officials said. Such approval may be untenable given the political tensions between the two countries. Now that the troops are gone, Iraqi politicians often denounce the United States in an effort to rally support from their followers. [...]

When the face you constantly show to the world is one of extinguishing the lives of civilians from the air — which is exactly what the U.S. has been doing for a full decade in multiple Muslim countries — then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is how people in that region react (just imagine what an attack on Iran, either with direct U.S. involvement or support for an Israeli attack, would generate in this regard). One of the favorite tropes of the American media is how propagandized and misled Arabs are in that part of the world, yet here we find yet again that well-informed, justified skepticism is prevalent over there – “drone aircraft have killed half a village in Pakistan and Afghanistan under the pretext of pursuing terrorists” and “our fear is that will happen in Iraq under a different pretext” in exactly the ways that an uninformed American citizenry most lacks and most needs.

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