Iraqi Sovereignty the Price of US Security

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Policemen operate a checkpoint in Baghdad. As U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq, Baghdad security officials believe Iraqi forces are now more capable of containing violence. (Photo: REUTERS - Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud)

By: Alaa al-Lami

Published Thursday, November 3, 2011

The US-Iraq security agreement expected to go into full effect by the end of this year might be the only international agreement of its kind issued in several versions. But all undermine Iraq’s territorial, judicial, and economic sovereignty.

Though the official government newspaper al-Sabah published an Arabic version of the agreement on 19 January 2009 as the official text, other versions have also been released, leading to speculation over the original text’s validity.

Despite the confusion, there are a number of key points common to all the versions of the agreement. The agreement has little to offer the Iraqis. There are repeated assurances of a smooth and full withdrawal of US occupation forces to avoid exposing Iraq to “Somalization” and complete destruction — an assurance that sounds farcical in light of all the death, destruction, and plunder that took place during the occupation.

There is much talk about what the withdrawal will bring back, in terms of cooperation agreements and extensive American economic and military assistance.

The issue is not a matter of opposing the withdrawal itself. Rather, it is concerning the conditions under which the withdrawal will be carried out. These conditions will make withdrawal closer to a redeployment of troops or limited withdrawal, as opposed to a total evacuation of US forces.

Eight years after occupation, the fruits of assistance, reconstruction, and the building of a new army have never materialized. These were promises of the occupation that resulted in egregious examples of grand theft and organized pillage of Iraq’s wealth and resources.

The agreement’s terms also undermine Iraq’s claims to national sovereignty and independence, revealing that the equality alluded to in many of its articles is either nominal or false.

Iraqi sovereignty over its airspace is one example. One of the agreement’s article states that “United States Government aircraft and civilian aircraft that are at the time operating exclusively under a contract with the United States Department of Defense are authorized to fly over Iraqi airspace, conduct airborne refueling, and land and take off within the territory of Iraq.”

This requires no more than a routine authorization issued annually by the Iraqi government.

The second article stipulates that “vessels and vehicles operated by or at the time exclusively for the United States Forces may enter, exit, and move within Iraqi territory.” This is contingent upon a “request for assistance” from the occupation forces, which as a statement is ambiguous, without procedural and legal clarifications.

The wording of this request is as follows: “The Iraqi government requests temporary assistance from the US forces to support its efforts in keeping peace and stability in Iraq.”

This provision could imply that the Iraqi government must request US assistance, but it may also be a euphemism for allowing immediate American military assistance, without need of an official written request.

Thus far, many military operations, including one in totally peaceful and secure regions of Iraq’s south and Middle Euphrates, were exclusively carried out by the occupation forces without any announcement of an official Iraqi request.

Other ambiguous words appear in the fifth paragraph of the fourth article: “Both parties retain the right to legitimate self-defense within Iraq as is described in international law.” The paragraph puts the occupier and the local government on equal footing in matters of self-defense.

Since the paragraph does not clarify who might target the local government or the occupation forces with an attack wherein they might exercise their right to self-defense, it is logical to assume that what they mean is the internal Iraqi opposition to the local government.

In other words, this article assures a genuine military alliance between the occupation and the local Iraqi authorities against the Iraqi people, in the event that they decide to rise up or rebel against their government.

Observers and analysts say that the agreement contains a blatant spatial prejudice and clear bias toward the American side. The twelfth article indicates that “Iraq has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over members of the US forces and members of the civilian element regarding major and premeditated crimes, according to item 8, when these crimes are committed outside installations and agreed upon areas and while off duty.”

However, that right remains limited, because it applies only to major and premeditated crimes committed outside of the areas controlled by US forces. Also, it exempts American military personnel if they are on duty, meaning the fighting soldier remains outside of Iraqi jurisdiction, so long as he is wearing his military uniform and carrying his gun.

The article’s wording is intentionally vague so that it will be impossible to implement, because it limits the matter to “major and premeditated crimes.” It is not clear how the premeditation of crimes or their degree can be determined, nor how one can confirm their being intentional when there are concepts such as ‘friendly fire’ and other military justifications for operations involving premeditated murder.

The fifteenth article of the agreement violates Iraq’s economic sovereignty over its territory and resources. The occupation army, during the period of withdrawal, will behave as an independent state with regards to economic activity:

“US forces and contractors may import into Iraq and export from it materials that have been bought inside Iraq, and they have the right to re-export, transport, and use in Iraq any equipment, supplies, materials, and technology.”

It’s clear that the ambiguous and open-ended wording allows the army to commit theft without anybody keeping track.

Likewise, the different versions of the agreement are completely silent on the issue of compensation by the invading and occupying party to the Iraqi side. There are hundreds of thousands of civilian victims who were killed with the acknowledgement of the occupation forces. But the families of these civilians have not been offered compensation, except in rare cases (when the crimes committed evoked media outcry).

Nor does the agreement require the US to provide compensation for the complete destruction that it wrought on the Iraqi infrastructure, effectively sending the country back to the Stone Age.

Even more bitter and insulting than this is that Iraq must pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for the American soldiers killed, as well as what has been called “the detainment of American citizens in Iraq throughout that war.”

Without a doubt, these conditions make a historical precedent the likes of which never seen in the world, that a people or country be forced to pay reparations to an invading power that destroyed its society and killed roughly a million of its inhabitants.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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