Iraqi MPs against US bases
Khalaf al-Ilyan is one of the three leaders of the Iraq Accordance Front, parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc with 44 of the House's 275 seats. Last year, he played a prominent role in the Sunni decision to walk out of the Cabinet in protest of al-Maliki's policies.
MATTHEW PALEVSKY, PRESENTER: The United Nations authorization of multinational forces in Iraq is set to expire at the end of 2008, which is why President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki have begun hammering out an agreement to define the continued presence of US forces in Iraq. A version of the security pact has been leaked to both Gulf News and The Independent in Britain, but has yet to be verified. This leaked version includes language for permanent bases in Iraq, allowance for US troops to continue arrests with legal impunity, and the ability for the US to strike other nations from the Iraqi territories. Ambassador Crocker, in front of Congress last month, stated that the agreement would not establish permanent US bases inside of Iraq. I sat down with former general and current Iraqi parliamentarian Nadim al-Jaberi, a senior member of the Shiite Fadhila Party.
NADIM AL-JABERI, IRAQI MP, FADHILA PARTY (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): What you said about bypassing UN Resolution 1546 is correct. They also have tried to bypass the Parliament so that they do not have to submit their agreement for approval. Expelling Iraq from the 7th clause of the UN charter does not correlate to, or require, Iraq to enter into this new agreement. The Security Council’s resolution only states that the legal mandate for coalition forces ends this year. I believe that al-Maliki’s government is facing difficulties in agreeing to the conditions that the Americans are trying to dictate to Iraq. This will cause severe problems to the US-Iraq relationship, and difficulties for the al-Maliki government.
PALEVSKY: Tens of thousands of Iraqis protested against the security pact last Friday in both Baghdad and southern Iraq. And Muqtada al-Sadr has demanded that it be brought to a national referendum. Since Maliki will likely not have his parliament ratify the agreement, I asked Sheik al-Ilyan, leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, Parliament’s largest Sunni Arab bloc, how Iraqis would respond to an agreement that included permanent bases.
KHALAF AL-ILYAN, IRAQI MP, IRAQI ACCORDANCE FRONT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I believe that such an agreement would be humiliating, not only for Iraq but for the entire Arab nation. If this agreement is implemented, it would not only extend the US presence in Iraq, but it would also imply that Iraq had become part of the United States. I personally trust Mr. al-Maliki to be an extremely nationalistic and patriotic person, who would never approve of the articles that you mention might be included in this agreement. It is true that Iraq needs a treaty with the United States, but not this kind of treaty. We need an agreement of cooperation in fields such as technology, commerce, politics, and investment, and not in the nature of the agreement offered now, which is for a permanent occupation that is not peaceful. I predict that if the US presses forward to cement this agreement, it will face extremely difficult circumstances. If the US wants to be liked by the Iraqi people and the Arabs in the region, it has to deal with us in a different manner.
PALEVSKY: Do you think Iran would let such an agreement pass anyways?
AL-JABERI: Certainly not. If this agreement goes through, Iran will use every possible tool and ally in Iraq in order to thwart it. These efforts [by Iran] would be a response to a clause that they [America] are trying to put in the agreement, giving American forces the right to attack targets in the region using Iraq as a launching pad. It is worth mentioning that the constitution of Iraq does not allow the use of Iraqi land to attack neighboring countries, or any country in the world.
PALEVSKY: Why is the US proposing such a provocative agreement?
AL-ILYAN: It is trying to exploit the Iranian situation and the violence in Iraq in order to spread its hegemony, forgetting that for over five years it failed to eradicate the al-Qaeda terrorist activity. And it was the Iraqi people who succeeded in doing this in their own way. It has also been forgotten that Iraq fought an eight-year war with Iran, and won that war. As I have said, the Iraqi people are capable of defending themselves, and the US needs to find a different way to deal with us.
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