Dec 1, 2007

The New US - Iraqi Treaty

A major part of the rationale behind “The Surge” was to give Prime Minister Nouri al-Maleki and his government the time to build strength domestically and then act as does any normal government. Basic services would be provided to all citizens, hospitals would treat the sick,, schools would teach local children, and police would not use the citizenry as their own personal cash machines.

And make no mistake, many good things have happened; Anbar Province (mostly Ramadi) is in the midst of a building boom and economic revival, thousands of Iraqis in other provinces have copied the Sunni’s by starting their own ‘Concerned Citizen” groups to take control of their own destiny, and even the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr has restrained itself as he gauged the mood of his followers.

There were certain benchmarks set by the Administration that would be used to judge the effectiveness of the war, and to be used to determine American “success” in Iraq: 1 – Passage of an Oil Revenue Sharing law, 2 – Bringing the Sunni’s back into the government, and 3 – Standardized rules for new provincial elections.

None of these benchmarks have been reached, and too many interviews with the military commanders and PRT leaders have expressed their frustration to ON POINT and other media outlets over over Iraqi Government inaction.. This week’s announcement by the Administration and the Iraqi Government of the signing of a long-term co-operation treaty came as a surprise to most Americans, most of whom have been resigned to the corruption and chicanery of Mr. Maleki and his ministers.

Whether or not this is a serious agreement or not is difficult to ascertain, so I took the opportunity to talk with the the government of Iraq spokesman, Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh , about it:

Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh:
The U.S. and Iraqi Declaration of Principle is a shared statement of intent that establishes common principles to frame our future relationship. This moves us closer to normalized bilateral relations between our two countries.

With this Declaration, leaders of Iraqi and the United States commit to begin negotiating the formal arrangements that will govern such a relationship. The relationship envisioned will include the U.S.-Iraqi cooperation in the political, diplomatic, economic, and security arenas.

The United States and Iraq intend to negotiate arrangements based upon a range of principles -- political and diplomatic, and economic and security. The political and diplomatic is regarded that U.S. and Iraq have committed to strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions, upholding the Iraqi constitution, and enhancing Iraq's position in regional and international organizations so that it may play a constructive role in the region.

For the economic aspect, as both countries have agreed to support the development of Iraqi economic institutions and further integration into international financial institutions, to encourage all parties to abide by their commitment made in the International Compact with Iraq, to assist Iraq in its effort to recover illegally-exported fund and properties, and to secure debt relief; and to encourage the flow of foreign investment to Iraq.

On the security aspect, is to support the Iraqi government in the training, equipping and arming the Iraqi security forces so they can provide security and the stability to all Iraqis.

Q - The Kurdish ministers are travelling to Houston today and negotiating with the oil companies directly. What is the status of the oil agreement, and how does this help the government of Iraq with the Kurds negotiating without the approval of Baghdad?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Yes. The government of Iraq believes that all the agreements should be approved by the central, and by a federal government in Baghdad. Although that there is no oil law been approved, but it is not allowed to go on agreement unless it has been approved by the federal government.

This would create a complication of all the agreements which has been signed by the Kurdish Regional Government. The minister of oil of Iraq had declared clearly that this is an illegal contract, and it should not be performed by any foreign companies because it got no legality, and it's -- they should not go further in any operation in the north of Iraq.

Q- Will you stop the negotiations, then?
MR. AL-DABBAGH: Well, the -- at the end, they have to get the approval. But since there is no oil law been approved now, nobody should sign such agreement unless it gets an approval. Government of Iraq and the Oil Ministry doesn't have any information, and they've not been informed about any agreement being signed between the Kurdistan Regional Government and such oil company.

Q - What will your side seek in the negotiations seek in terms of a residual U.S. troop presence? What will it seek in terms of U.S. access to enduring or a long-term basis in Iraq, under what legal authority?

And what is your perspective on the requirement of the Council of Representatives having to approve this treaty, or any such agreement, as stipulated under Article 58 in the Iraqi constitution? Does the parliament have to sign off on whatever agreement you reach?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Yes. This is a joint declaration. It's like a declaration of principle -- it is not an agreement, it's not a treaty, it doesn't need any approval from the Council of Representatives of Iraq.

But the negotiation has been started in order to replace this Declaration of Principle, to have an agreement and a treaty for the long-term, and strategic relation between Iraq and United States. That definitely needs an approval.

On the security side and the troops, definitely Iraqi is still needs the support of the Multi-national Forces, which is going to be renewed only -- the last renewal will be later this year. So we do need an agreement and a treaty in order to regulate the presence of the American forces here in Iraq. And such a presence of the American forces is necessary to support the Iraqi effort to defend its national security and to defend Iraq from any threat might come from outside.

Q- Does that also mean that you will seek to have the U.S. stay in -- say, x-number of troops out indefinitely, and also give the U.S. access to the bases that either it uses, or it will develop jointly with Iraqis on a permanent basis?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: Yes. We are not talking of any permanent bases yet. It is too early to speak about this one.

As long as the Iraqi security forces will be ready, then the number will be diminishing, and it will definitely will be reduced in a way that, as long as the Iraqi security forces will be trained and will be ready to take all the responsibility on the border, as well as the internal security.

Q - A lot of American service members who've been to Iraq - they've expressed -- they want their service in Iraq to be lasting and meaningful. What would you say to them if you could speak to all American service members that serve in your country to help protect it against terrorists and other criminals? Do you appreciate their efforts?

MR. AL-DABBAGH: I believe that whoever serves here in Iraq is not serving as just a member being asked as is the staff of the United States. Those who serve here in Iraq they are brave people which they are helping Iraqis which they deserve such help because the destruction here in Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam makes any person in any place in the world making sympathy to this country which is a rich country and this is a personal might be -- personal believe we -- so with the people who are serving here. All the Americans are serving here -- we didn't notice that they are -- we didn't notice any disappointment from them.

They are believing that they want to help this country and Iraqis will never forget the sacrifice which the staff, whether they are in the army or in the political or in the humanitarian aid, they are helping Iraqis definitely. We believe that such sacrifice -- Iraqi people will not forget all the sacrifice of the United States people. Thank you.

Andrew: Thank you for your time, Dr. al-Dabbagh

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