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As the Bush administration applies pressure on Iraq to sign a “Status of Forces Agreement” long-term security pact, Iraqi lawmakers fear the deal will mean permanent US bases in their country. Though Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said publicly that he doesn’t believe a deal is possible, the administration insists that the July 31 deadline will be met. The Real News Network Analyst Pepe Escobar comments.

Story Transcript


GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.


PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Everyone remembers Mission Accomplished. Over five years and a trillion dollars later, President Bush came up with a new ploy to accomplish his mission: to force a neocolonial Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) under Iraqi throats by the end of July, acquire the right to go on a war on terror in Iraq forever, declare victory, and thus win again—perhaps finally—his war in Iraq. Call it Occupation Forever. Initially, the Bush administration wanted no less than 58 permanent US bases in Iraq. There are already 30 in place. It doesn’t matter that on April 8, this year, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said:


RYAN CROCKER, US AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: The agreement will not establish permanent bases in Iraq, and we anticipate that it will expressly forswear them.


Technically, most of these would be Iraqi bases, but under full US control. So that’s the ploy. It amounts to turning over legal control of US bases to a client regime. Heavy pressure is the name of the game. To convince the Iraqis, the Bush administration is holding no less than $50 billion of Iraqi money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. But there are other forms of pressure as well. The Iraqis wanted to sell oil in Euros as well as in dollars; the Bush administration said no. Bush himself does not care about Iraqi public opinion. Last week in Germany, his farewell tour of Europe, he said Iraqi opposition to the deal was just noise. This deal the Bush administration wants so badly is a SOFA only in theory. In fact, it’s a smokescreen. Under US law, it would have to be submitted to the Senate, but the Bush administration wants to bypass the Senate. And the deal is not about Iraq, either; it’s about Iran. That’s the meaning of the US demand, according to Iraqi lawmakers, of, I quote, “the right … to strike from within Iraqi territory, any country it considers a threat to its national security.” The Bush administration wants to control Iraqi airspace. Bush administration wants to employ US firepower without approval from the Iraqi government. Bush administration wants immunity from prosecution in Iraqi ports for all American troops and even contractors—some people call them mercenaries. The US Army simply cannot work without these contractors. Were a deal to be reached under the current terms—the deadline is July 31—the Bush administration would be able to say Iran is interfering in Iraq and then attack Iran under cover of this Status of Forces Agreement. The Bush administration also would have a hard time getting the US Congress to approve an attack on Iran. So why not use the Iraqi Parliament instead? But many Iraqi parliamentarians, Sunni and Shiite alike, they fear that this deal is basically a cover to use Iraq as a base to attack Iran. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, he went to Tehran and solemnly promised that Iraq would not be used as a US base for an attack on Iran. And then there’s Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. He told al-Maliki in Tehran that Iraqis have to, I quote, “think of a solution to free themselves from US power. Not surprisingly, Ayatollah Khamenei advised al-Maliki not to sign the deal. And al-Maliki, for his part, he reassured the Iranians that Iraq is not an arena for a battle between Washington and Tehran. Every Iraqi politician is now stepping up to denounce this deal, from Dawa and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq—they are part of the government coalition—to Sunnis and Shiites in the opposition, these people that Bush called noise. The consensus now in Baghdad is that no deal will be reached before the US presidential elections in November. Anyway, the Bush administration would not give up without a fight. The State Department’s top Iraqi adviser, David Satterfield, he believes that the deal:


DAVID SATTERFIELD, US STATE DEPT, COORDINATOR FOR IRAQ: We believe this is doable by the end of July. So does the Iraqi side.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.