In a meeting between US President George W. Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani they discuss what Bush calls “a strategic framework agreement that suits the Iraqi government.” The push for a deal on a US-Iraq security pact has been stepped up after Washington submitted new, unspecified proposals. The pact would allow permanent US bases in Iraq as well as immunity from prosecution for US citizens. Many Iraqis say this would violate the nation’s sovereignty and fear this would leave Iraq under US domination for years. The Real News Network’s Senior Analyst Aijaz Ahmad comments.
GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: It’s been my honor to welcome a friend.
CARLO BASILONE (VOICEOVER): US President George W. Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani expressed cautious optimism on Wednesday about prospects for completing a security agreement that would keep US troops in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires at year end.
BUSH: There’s still a lot of work to be done. We recognize that. We talked a variety of subjects. We talked about a strategic framework agreement that suits the Iraqi government.
Talks have bogged down over several key issues, like permanent US bases and that the US could use these bases to attack neighboring Iran. Many Iraqi lawmakers say this violates the nation’s sovereignty and fear that this would leave Iraq under US domination for years. Recently, however, the push for a deal has been stepped up after Washington submitted new, unspecified proposals. Bush wants the agreement in place before he leaves office; if not, major decisions about how US forces operate in Iraq would be left to the next president, including how much authority the US must give Iraqis over military operations and how quickly the handover takes place.
BASILONE (ON CAMERA): We’re joined now by Aijaz Ahmad, the Real News Network’s senior news analyst. So, Aijaz, exactly what is this agreement that they’re talking about?
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK : The main thing here is what in the 19th century used to be called extraterritoriality. The United States wants to control forever, in perpetuity, Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet. The US wants to keep any number of military personnel in Iraq so long as this agreement lasts. That personnel will not be under Iraqi law, but is strictly and exclusively under American law. The US wants the freedom to pursue the war on terror from Iraqi soil in any manner and to whatever extent it wishes to do. It wants the right to arrest, detain, interrogate any Iraqi, without the Iraqi government having any sovereign right to find out what’s happening to these Iraqi citizens.
BASILONE: Now, how can the Iraqis, any Iraqis at all, actually agree to this? Like, why would anybody, why would Jalal Talabani or Nouri al-Maliki or any other leader in Iraq want to agree to this?
AHMAD: That’s why you need clients. You understand the United States has established a client regime. And the wonder of it is that members of that very client regime are very reluctant to do so because of immense opposition to this agreement from a number of quarters. You know, even the majority of this Iraqi Parliament, which has been elected under US occupation, the majority of them have written to the Congress saying that unless a date of US withdrawal is specified, we shall not be a party to any security agreement. Muqtada al-Sadr, which leads the largest Shia organization in Iraq, is leading weekly demonstrations against it. The Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is the second largest Shia organization and very much a part of the government, has denounced this agreement in the most vociferous manner. One of their most senior leaders said that at this rate, Americans would want immunity even for their dogs.
BASILONE: Are there any groups that are in favor of this?
AHMAD: You see, there is something very interesting going on. President Bush wants to do it as an executive accord, so that he doesn’t have to present it to the US Congress. He wants to have an agreement with Nouri al-Maliki and Mr. Talabani without the consent of the Iraqi Parliament. So precisely because both of these people, both these forces, are afraid that if they take it to even their own Congress and their own Parliament, it would be rejected. The Iraqi people on the other hand, you know, they were under occupation, colonial occupation, until 1958, and now they have been under US occupation for the last six or seven years. The populace is extremely sensitive about treaties of this kind. That is why I would suggest that it’s really a very small coterie, and even they are reluctant to accept that.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.