WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (IPS) – The final draft of the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces agreement on the U.S. military presence represents an even more crushing defeat for the policy of the George W. Bush administration than previously thought, the final text reveals.
The final draft, dated Oct. 13, not only imposes unambiguous deadlines for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by 2011 but makes it extremely unlikely that a U.S. non-combat presence will be allowed to remain in Iraq for training and support purposes beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces.
Furthermore, Shiite opposition to the pact as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty makes the prospects for passage of even this agreement by the Iraqi parliament doubtful. Pro-government Shiite parties, the top Shiite clerical body in the country, and a powerful movement led by nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that recently mobilised hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in protest against the pact, are all calling for its defeat.
At an Iraqi cabinet meeting Tuesday, ministers raised objections to the final draft, and a government spokesman said that the agreement would not submit it to the parliament in its current form. But Secretary of Defence Robert Gates told three news agencies Tuesday that the door was "pretty far closed" on further negotiations.
In the absence of an agreement approved by the Iraqi parliament,
The clearest sign of the dramatically reduced
But even that concession is not enough to satisfy anti-occupation sentiments across all Shiite political parties. Sunni politicians hold less decisive views on the pact, and Kurds are supportive.
Bush administration policymakers did not imagine when the negotiations began formally last March that its bargaining position on the issue of the
They were confident of being able to legitimise a
When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded a timetable for complete
By early August, however, Bush had already reduced its negotiating aims. The U.S. draft dated Aug. 6, which was translated and posted on the internet by Iraqi activist Raed Jarrar, demanded the inclusion of either "targeted times" or "time targets" to refer to the dates for withdrawal of U.S. forces from all cities, town and villages and for complete combat troop withdrawal from Iraq, suggesting that they were not deadlines.
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Baghdad Aug. 21, the United States accepted for the first time a firm date of 2011 for complete withdrawal, giving up the demand for ambiguous such terms. However, the Aug. 6 draft included a provision that the
Because it had not yet been removed from the text,
The administration also continued to hope for approval of a residual force.
But the Oct. 13 final draft, a translation of which was posted by Raed Jarrar on his website Oct. 20, reveals that the Bush administration has been forced to give up its aims of softening the deadline for withdrawal and of a residual non-combat force in the country. Unlike the Aug. 6 draft, the final text treats any extension of that date as a modification of the agreement, which could be done only "in accordance to constitutional procedures in both countries".
That is an obvious reference to approval by the Iraqi parliament.
Given the present level of opposition to the agreement within the Shiite community, that provision offers scant hope of a residual
Another signal of Iraqi intentions is a provision of the final draft limiting the duration of the agreement to three years — a date coinciding with the deadline for complete withdrawal from
The final draft confirms the language of the Aug. 6 draft requiring that all
The negotiating text had already established by Aug. 6 that
The collapse of the Bush administration’s ambitious plan for a long-term
They also refused to take seriously the opposition to such a presence even among the Shiite clerics who had tolerated it in order to obtain Shiite control over state power.
[Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in