Thursday, October 23, 2008

US/Iraq Security Pact Crumbling

The Security Agreement between Iraq and the United States has hit numerous rocks, and there is better chance that it does not pass now before the end of the year, than that it does. This news should be getting covered more, but with the election, it is getting lost in the clutter. We really need to hear what the two candidates think on this, and how will they deal with it. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen last Tuesday is reported to have said that the Iraqis really do not have much time to pass this agreement and might not understand the full consequences of failure to do so. I think he is right that they might not have much time, but they know full well what the consequences are. If the Iraqi Parliament fails to approve the draft before the U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31, there would be no legal basis for the U.S.-led military mission to stay on. This in turn could force hard decisions in Baghdad and Washington on the future of the unpopular war.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh reacted sharply to Admiral Mullen on Wednesday. Dabbagh said, "It is not correct to force Iraqis into making a choice and it is not appropriate to talk with the Iraqis in this way."

This against the back drop of tens of thousands of al-Sadr followers who rallied in Baghdad against the proposal on Saturday. The mass public show of opposition came as U.S. and Iraqi leaders face a December 31st deadline to replace the U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

In another blow to the agreement, Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri issued a fatwa denouncing the proposed security pact. Now his stand against the security pact has a lot to do with a struggle within the Shiite hiearchy. Grand Ayatollah Al-Haeri declines to live in Iraq under U.S. occupation and currently resides in Iranian holy city of Qom, and is a rival to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf.

A portion of Grand Ayatollah Al-Haeri's statement:

"We have learned of the pressures exerted by the Occupation forces on the Iraqi government for the purpose of obtaining its assent to a humiliating agreement termed 'a long term security agreement,' which leads to Iraq's loss of its national sovereignty, and its acceptance of humiliation and abasement."

"Whoso aids the Occupiers in achieving what they desire, God shall not forgive his sins, nor will the oppressed Iraqi nation go easy on him, norwill the blessed centers of Islamic learning nor any Muslim with a conscience who believes in the Judgment Day."

Grand Ayatollah Al-Haeri holds great sway with a large number of Shiites, and his words could gum up the works.

One way or another, As of Jan. 1, US troops will not be able to act at will in Iraq but rather will have to get assent from Iraqi authorities for campaigns.

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