Sunday, July 13, 2008

Maliki continues to press for a "withdrawal-schedule" despite the talks having been "scaled back"

WaPo this morning (Sunday July 13) says the Bush administration has scaled back to trying to negotiate an "interim" agreement insofar as its military presence and operations in Iraq are concerned, having finally realized the solidity of Iraqi opposition to the idea of open-ended American presence, and the difficulty of negotiating a withdrawal schedule.

Interestingly, a piece in Asharq alAwsat published in yesterday (Saturday July 12) quotes UIA leader Sami Al-Askari as having said much the same thing, in a story that begins like this:
A leader of the governing United Iraqi Alliance has says the United States has abandoned the idea of a military agreement, proposing instead the idea of a security protocol to be attached to a cultural agreement, which aims to define the relationship in economic and development and cultural areas, and meanwhile the Sadr trend continued its demonstrations...
AlAskari said there isn't any agreement currently, but discussions aren't ended either. He said that of the two agreements that have been under negotiation, one non-military ("framework agreement" or "strategic framework agreement") and one military, "the United States has abandoned the idea of a military agreement, and has proposed instead the idea of a security protocol to be attached to the framework agreement".

But Al-Askari's point in the Asharq alAwsat interview was also that the issues of withdrawal-schedule still persist, even with the new approach.
[He said] discussions between the two sides are still continuing, and he said the Iraqi government has proposed the matter of a withdrawal schedule and evacuation of the foreign troops, because that is the flip side of any agreement. [After quoting Maliki in his Abu Dhabi remarks about "withdrawal schedule or evacuation", Askari adds]: America is talking about a time-horizon for the withdrawal of those troops of five years from the signing of the agreement, and they see the horizon proposed by the Iraqi side of two to three years as a lower-limit.
And Askari spells out what is involved in the two-to-three-year proposal:
Askari said the turnover of the security portfolio for all provinces can be completed by the end of this year, and there will be a complete withdrawal of the multinational forces from the cities by the middle of 2009. And by the end of 2010 all troops will have been withdrawn, with an exception for air-cover provided by those forces to Iraq, and then in 2011 it will be possible for Iraq to have air-control as well.
Zeroing in on the question to what extent the military-presence issues could just be left out of a "strategic framework agreement", Askari said:
On the "strategic framework agreement" and whether it could be signed separately from the security agreement, AlAskari said: "In spite of the absence of problems in the framework agreement...still the [Iraqi] government does not want to sign it in isolation from a definition of the status of the American forces. He stressed the framework agreement would include commitment to getting Iraq out of Chapter 7, protection of Iraqi funds, commitment to democracy, the Iraqi constitution, and the economy, along with finding a solution to the problem of Iraq's creditors.
The journalist adds:
Observers think the parties could sign a "strategic framework agreement" by the announced deadline (end of this month) as a way of saving face, while still working to complete an agreement on the future of the American forces.
So if you put the WaPo story side by side with these comments by AlAskari, the conclusion appears to be the following: (1) The US side has given up on anything defining the American military presence by the planned deadline of July; however, (2) while the American sources are telling WaPo that the fallback position will be an interim, one-year agreement, the Iraqi side is still talking about withdrawal-schedule.

And the remarks attributed to Maliki's national security adviser Mowaffaq Rubaie by the Sunday Times this morning point this up very clearly: Referring to Rubaie, the report said:
A senior Iraqi government official said this weekend the [GreenZone] enclave should revert to Iraqi control by the end of the year. “We think that by the end of 2008 all the zones in Baghdad should be integrated into the city,” said Ali Dabbagh, the government’s spokesman.

“The American soldiers should be based in agreed camps outside the cities and population areas.

Which in essence is that same as AlAskari's outline including exit of US forces from Iraqi cities by the end of this year.


Anonymous Alex said...

Maliki & Co are remaining very solid, I see. Not backtracking.

I don't see a non-military strategic agreement, with the military tacked on, working either. It's just another US idea to slip the SOFA past the Iraqi public. With the opposition roused, it is unlikely to work.

In my view, any sort of bilateral agreement is now out of the picture, the only conditions acceptable to the US are unacceptable to the Iraqis (non-Kurds). The only recourse for the US, in order to legalise the occupation, is to return to the UN and extend the mandate, as Iraq does not have a voice there. I am sure that in the course of the summer and autumn, we will hear of that being talked up more and more.

5:51 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Not backtracking, you are right, point taken.

If you are also right about the next step and the last-recourse need to go back to the UN, I hope people will remember where they read it first...

9:30 AM  
Blogger Nell said...

This is my favorite part of the Post story, as it describes the actual 'democratic' situation of both governments so well:

"What we're doing now is more . . . a bridge to have the authority in place so we don't turn into a pumpkin on December 31," the [U.S.] official said. Neither country wants an extension of the U.N. mandate. Iraq has rejected its explicit limits on sovereignty, and the administration believes that a limited extension would only postpone the need for a bilateral accord and potentially leave U.S. troops with "our backs against the wall."

According to U.S. officials, Maliki also hopes that a temporary protocol would circumvent the full parliamentary review and two-thirds vote he has promised for a status-of-forces agreement. "He is trying to figure out, just as we did, how you can set up an agreement between the two and have it be legally binding," one official said, "but not go through the legislative body."

11:16 AM  
Blogger Shirin said...

" we don't turn into a pumpkin on December 31"

Them turning into a pumpkin on Dec. 31 would be gift to the world in more ways than one.

"U.S. troops with 'our backs against the wall.'"

Here's hoping!

3:24 PM  

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