Iraqi government has made more demands for more changes to the status of forces security agreement with the United States.
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had already demanded changes to the agreement last month and last week the US sent an amended draft proposal back for approval.
But even with the US acquiescence to Iraqi demands, on Tuesday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh told the London based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, “The US reply to the Iraqi amendments is not satisfactory and there are many points that still need clarification and amendment.”
The agreement must be approved by the Iraqi parliament before the 31 December 2008 deadline of the U.N. mandate that allows US troops to operate legally within Iraq. Without an agreement the US would have to go back to the Security Council to get an extension.
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More Iraqi demands on security deal
Producer: Carlo Basilone
CARLO BASILONE, TRNN: The Iraqi government demanded more changes to the status of forces security agreement with the United States on Tuesday. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had already demanded changes to the agreement last month, and last week the US sent an amended draft proposal back for approval.
ROBERT WOOD, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN, US STATE DEPARTMENT: The government of Iraq has debated this agreement thoroughly. They forwarded to us their suggested amendments, we got back to them, and now the negotiating process has come to an end. So they will now move it through their internal process, as I said.
REPORTER: So you’re not willing to have any more negotiations with them.
WOOD: We will talk with the Iraqis about, you know, various issues with regard to SOFA, but as I said, the process from our side is concluded.
BASILONE: Iraqi national security minister Shirwan al-Waili, who delivered a message to the Arab League from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said the accord contains “… basic content that no violations are undertaken from Iraqi soil against any neighboring Arab or friendly country, and it does not undermine Iraqi sovereignty.” The Iraqis were unhappy with loopholes in the agreement that would allow the US to use their bases in Iraq to attack its neighbors.
GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN: And this draft, according to the reporting that I’ve seen, shows that the United States has now agreed to the demands by the Maliki government for basically closing those loopholes completely. On one hand, no possibility for extension of US forces beyond 2011—and this appears to cover both combat and support troops. And there’s no possibility for using the bases in which the United States forces will be located between now and the end of 2011 to carry out operations beyond Iraq’s borders. So the loopholes have been closed. This is, I would argue, the final sort of victory for the Maliki government over the neocon and neocolonial, if you will, demand of the United States previously that it would be able to use Iraq as a sort of stepping stone for projecting power throughout the region.
BASILONE: But even with the US acquiescence to previous Iraqi demands, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday, “The US reply to the Iraqi amendments is not satisfactory, and there are many points that still need further clarification and amendment.”
PORTER: I think there is still a very strong opposition within the Iraqi Parliament. I think it probably represents the majority, and very possibly represents a two-third majority, to vote this down. And therefore it is not at all clear that this can pass even if the United States, you know, as it has now done, is willing to go along with these demands. I think the likelihood still is that there will not be a status of forces agreement by the end of this year, and therefore we’ll go into this extension of the US mandate through the UN Security Council.
BASILONE: The agreement must be approved by the Iraqi Parliament before 31 December 2008 deadline of the UN mandate that allows US troops to operate legally within Iraq. Without an agreement, the US would have to go back to the Security Council to get an extension.
PORTER: It seems to me that this is going to run into a problem with, certainly, Russian and Chinese members of the UN Security Council, who I think would be reluctant to be in the position of approving an agreement that would allow the United States greater freedom than the Iraqi people are willing to accept.
BASILONE: But what would a lack of a status of forces agreement or non-extension of the UN mandate mean for US troops in Iraq?
PORTER: I think it means that the US forces there are really available only at the request, and essentially on the whim, of the al-Maliki regime. So Iraqi forces, when and if they ever get into trouble, then they can call on the US in specific circumstances. But I think it does mean that day in and day out, American forces are likely to be involved in many fewer operations, very carefully selected by the Iraqi government, and that essentially the US is going to have to stay out of the cities. It’s going to be on a very, very limited role from here on in.
BASILONE: And what questions does this pose for the new Obama administration when it takes over in January?
PORTER: Will the administration stick with what Obama was talking about, at least at one point in the campaign, of a roughly 16-month period for complete withdrawal of US combat forces? There is, as we can see from the coverage in the news media these past few days, an obvious effort by the political elite and the national security elite to mousetrap Obama, to put pressure on Obama and get him to sort of compromise with the military and to drop that demand. I think it’s more likely at this point that he is going to stick with that demand and he’s going to take advantage of this opportunity to get out, lock, stock, and barrel, over certainly a period of between 16 and 32 months. I don’t think he’s going to stay the entire three-year period.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.