Iraqi sovereignty? What Iraqi sovereignty?

Word out of Iraq is there is a deal which will allow the US to establish “permanent” military bases there but somehow not affect Iraqi sovereignty.  Yet when you read the fine print, that notion falls flat on its face and Iraq, since the invasion has ceased to be a sovereign nation.

Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country…

“It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty,” said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: “This is just a tactical subterfuge.” Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its “war on terror” in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

The agreement in essence allows a foreign power the right to conduct military operations against its own citizens on its own soil.  Doesn’t sound like sovereignty at all, and certainly not something any American government nor its citizens would allow.  But what’s interesting is even the Iraqis see this for what it is, continued occupation of their territory, that leaves them utterly helpless to defend themselves and to rely solely on US help.  But what’s even more interesting are the political undercurrents involved that will influence this decision.

Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.

The signature of a security agreement, and a parallel deal providing a legal basis for keeping US troops in Iraq, is unlikely to be accepted by most Iraqis. But the Kurds, who make up a fifth of the population, will probably favour a continuing American presence, as will Sunni Arab political leaders who want US forces to dilute the power of the Shia. The Sunni Arab community, which has broadly supported a guerrilla war against US occupation, is likely to be split.

The US is playing both sides, it appears, and continued strife is the only way to insure American presence in Iraq.  Strife, not reconciliation is and has always been  the goal of US military presence in Iraq, not finding WMDs or removing Saddam from power, except to provide a power vacuum that allows strife.  This can only happen with the absence of Iraqi sovereignty.

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