Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Won't Bush Release Wording on Pact?

If news reports are to be believed, the Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation than the Iraqi government of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement.

The administration has intentionally withheld the official English translation of the agreement from both Congress and the public in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes. The White House National Security Council said it had purposedly held up the translation's release until the Iraqi parliament votes. My question is why?

What is the Bush administration hiding? Why should we not know what Bush is signing us up for? What if the Iraqi's are agreeing to something that Barack Obama and the majority of Americans will not agree too?

U.S. officials have told McClatchy Newspapers that the Bush administration was eager to complete the deal before it leaves office in January and acquiesced to many Iraqi demands.
McClatchy's Baghdad bureau last week produced an unofficial English translation of the agreement based on the Arabic text. McClatchy on Tuesday also obtained an official English version.

According to McClatchy Newspapers, that upon studying the agreement, and speaking to the Iraqi government, it becomes pretty clear that the Bush administration has very different interpretations of some very key provisions than Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's and his government has. In fact Iraqi lawmakers might actually balk at approving the pact or delay a vote if they were to understand the Bush administration's interpretations. The Iraqi's definitely would post-pone the vote while seeking clarification from the U.S. government.

Among the areas of dispute are:
  • Iraqi legal jurisdiction over U.S. troops or military contractors who kill Iraqis on operations. The agreement calls for Iraq to prosecute U.S. troops according to court procedures that have yet to be worked out. Those negotiations, administration officials have argued, could take three years, by which time the U.S. will have withdrawn from Iraq under the terms of the agreement. In the interim, U.S. troops will remain under the jurisdiction of America's Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • A provision that bars the U.S. from launching military operations into neighboring countries from Iraqi territory. Administration officials argue they could circumvent that in some cases, such as pursuing groups that launch strikes on U.S. targets from Syria or Iran, by citing another provision that allows each party to retain the right of self-defense. One official expressed concern that "if Iran gets wind that we think there's a loophole there," Tehran might renew its opposition to the agreement.
  • A provision that appears to require the U.S. to notify Iraqi officials in advance of any planned military operations and to seek Iraqi approval for them, which some U.S. military officials find especially troubling, although Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, all have endorsed it.
The administration has sought to assuage such concerns by arguing that the pact doesn't require the U.S. to give the Iraqis detailed information, however Iraqi's seem to be of the opinion they do. The administration has claimed that it interprets the agreement to mean that U.S. commanders would merely need to inform their Iraqi counterparts that they plan to launch counterterrorism operations somewhere in an Iraqi city or province sometime during the month of January. There is no way that this is the interpetation that the Iraqis have. So all this will mean is there are about to be major problems with the Iraqi government, and the Bush administration is kicking the can down the lane for Obama.

That said, it is important that some deal is put in place. The current United Nations mandate governing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq expires on December 31st, and there needs to be something in place to govern how we end this useless war and occupation.

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