How many times have we heard our president tell us that the troops will be coming home [insert every statement here.]
President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a joint letter in November. On the surface, the "Declaration of Principles" appears as a mutual "expression of friendship," as it has been characterized by administration officials.
But a closer look reveals a blueprint for how the two administrations plan to set the foundation for the future of America's involvement in Iraq.
With the benefit of hindsight; when we put particular statements together uttered by various members of our administration, a different picture begins to form when we think of the long term future of Iraq.
Bush Language: "enduring relationship."
Condoleeza Rice Language: "a relationship with Iraq for the long term."
Robert Gates (Defence Sec.) Language: "a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence."
What does the language adopted by all, have in common?
Each one speaks about a long-term presence of American troops in Iraq - and to their alarm, Congress are seriously beginning to think that Bush means - decades.
If one remembers back, President Bush delivered a speech last January where he advised the public that increasing the troops in Iraq, would hold the violence back, long enough for the Iraqi police to become better trained and handle their own security.
The months came and went, till September when a report revealed that the army had made "some progress" but was far from ready to protect it's own. The report had gone on to say that the current Iraqi police force had been infiltrated by sectarian death squads and should be disbanded.
Today, Iraqi ground forces themselves are saying that their units lack strength in numbers and are asking for better weapons - and for the U.S., to stay for the a further undetermined time.
Iraq's minister of defense agrees, saying that the country's security forces wouldn't be ready to control internal security for another four years. As far as protection from external threats go, he'd already predicted the their inability to last until 2018.
Rep., Bill Delahunt (D-MA) has instigated a series of congressional hearings to explore what all the vague language used by the administration really means. However, the administration officials seem to have answered him by one of two ways: they've ignored him or declined.
Delahunt believes that there are "secret negotiations" underway between the Pentagon; State Department officials and their Iraqi counterparts regarding the future relationship between Washington and Baghdad.
There is already a Declaration of Principals between Iraq and U.S., that was confirmed in a communique from Iraqi leaders in August of 2007. The signed correspondence was promptly endorsed by President Bush. It was clear then, that the two leaders are committed to their long-term friendship and cooperation as two fully sovereign and independent states, for "a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal and unified Iraq."
I actually managed to find a copy at the White House web site - a range of issues were covered including complete cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and security fields.
Fact Sheet: U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation
The U.S. and Iraqi "Declaration of Principles" 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 Iraq and the United States commit to begin negotiating the
formal arrangements that will govern such a relationship.
- Iraq's leaders have asked for an enduring
relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a
democratic Iraq. We are ready to build that relationship in
a sustainable way that protects our mutual interests, promotes regional
stability, and requires fewer Coalition forces.
- In response, this Declaration is the first step in a
three-step process that will normalize U.S.-Iraqi relations in a way
which is consistent with Iraq's sovereignty and will help Iraq regain
its rightful status in the international community – something both we
and the Iraqis seek. The second step is the renewal of the
Multinational Force-Iraq's Chapter VII United Nations mandate for a
final year, followed by the third step, the negotiation of the detailed
arrangements that will codify our bilateral relationship after the
Chapter VII mandate expires.
- The UN Chapter VII resolution that is binding under
international law gives the MNFI legal authorization to “take all
necessary measures to preserve peace and security”. Both the
U.S. and Iraq are committed to Iraq moving beyond an international
presence based on a UN Security Council Chapter VII mandate.
- Iraqis have expressed a desire to move past a
Chapter VII MNFI mandate and we are committed to helping them achieve
- After the Chapter VII mandate is renewed for
one year, we will begin negotiation of a framework that will govern the
future of our bilateral relationship.
The Declaration Is A Continuation Of A Commitment That Began This August
The governments of Iraq and the United States are committed
to developing a long-term relationship as two fully sovereign and
independent states with common interests.
- The August 26 Communiqué signed by the five
political leaders – Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the three members
of the Presidency Council, and Kurdish leader Ma'sud Barzani – on
August 26, 2007, and endorsed by President Bush states: "The
leaders considered it important to link the renewal of UN Resolution
1723 for another year with a reference to the ending of Iraq's Chapter
VII status under the UN Charter and the concomitant resumption of
Iraq's normal status as a state with full sovereignty and authorities
and the restoration of Iraq's legal international status, namely the
status that it had before UN Resolution 661 of 1990. In this context,
the leaders affirmed the necessity of reaching a long term relationship
with the American side … that is built on common interests and covers
the various areas between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of
America. This goal should be realized in the near future."
- President Bush endorsed the August 26th communiqué:
- President Bush: "I welcome and accept
the expressed desire of the Iraqi leadership to develop a long-term
relationship with the United States based on common interests. The
United States is committed to developing this relationship and to
strengthening diplomatic, economic, and security ties with the Iraqi
government and its people." (President George W. Bush, Remarks,
Kirtland AFB, NM, 8/27/07)
- President Bush: Iraq's leaders
"understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic,
and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency. These Iraqi
leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we
are ready to begin building that relationship – in a way that protects
our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops."
(President George W. Bush, Address to the Nation, The White House,
The Declaration Sets The U.S. And Iraq On A Path Toward Negotiating Agreements That Are Common Throughout The World
The U.S. has security relationships with over 100 countries
around the world, including recent agreements with nations such as
Afghanistan and former Soviet bloc countries.
The relationship envisioned will include 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: The U.S. and
Iraq have committed to strengthening Iraq's democratic institutions,
upholding the Iraqi Constitution, supporting Iraqi national
reconciliation, and enhancing Iraq's position in regional and
international organizations, so that it may play a constructive role in
- Economic: 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 commitments made in the International Compact
with Iraq, to assist Iraq in its efforts to recover illegally exported
funds and properties and to secure debt relief, and to encourage the
flow of foreign investments to Iraq.
- Security: To support
the Iraqi government in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi
Security Forces so they can provide security and stability to all
Iraqis; support the Iraqi government in contributing to the
international fight against terrorism by confronting terrorists such as
Al-Qaeda, its affiliates, other terrorist groups, as well as all other
outlaw groups, such as criminal remnants of the former regime; and to
provide security assurances to the Iraqi Government to deter any
external aggression and to ensure the integrity of Iraq's territory.
Source: The White House
It makes for an interesting read.
Examining the document a little more, one sees that there is a provision that declares America will maintain Iraq's stability from "internal and external threats."
Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst said:
"The declaration of principles would appear to commit the United States
to keeping the elected Iraqi government in power against internal
threats," says Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East analyst at the
Congressional Research Service. "I leave it to the lawyers to determine
whether that's the definition of a treaty or not but it certainly seems
to be — is going to be — a hefty U.S. commitment to Iraq for a long
Now here's the thing - as an "agreement" alone, it's up front and transparent with no dirty dealings going on behind the bushes - but what if it's actually a treaty?
So you think to yourself, "so what - it's all good." However, such decisions have to be made legally, via Congress and ratified.
Not unsurprisingly, the administration deny that there is any treaty, because it would then have to admit that Bush side-stepped Congress to further his own goals for Iraq. Officials have compared the Iraqi-US military relationship to a "status of forces" agreement - a military relationship that the U.S. already holds with around one hundred countries all over the world, including Australia, Japan, South Korea and Germany. Conveniently, such an agreement doesn't have to be passed by Congress.
For their part, Iraqi leaders aren't mincing words. They call the
upcoming agreement a treaty. At a recent press conference in Baghdad,
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called it a "long-term treaty."
Here's my final question for anyone who cares to answer it: How can Bush promise to keep our troops in Iraq as peace keepers, when US. Congress has already passed three laws that prohibit any U.S., funding to be used for permanent U.S. military installations in Iraq?
NPR: Anne Garrels
NPR: Guy Raz
AFP/Getty Images: Jim Watson
NPR: Ahmad Al-Rubaye