The New Iraqi Sovereignty

There’s got to be some irony in the U.S. transference of control to Iraqi security forces while the Israelis pound Gaza. Why? Because, despite the hoopla in the U.S. press and its Iraqi clones, the nature of the control being “given back” to the Iraqis seems quite similar to the control given back to the Gazans by the Israelis when they withdrew their forces in 2005. In other words, any control the Iraqi government and its security forces might now have can be removed at any time by U.S. forces. Indeed, the U.S. forces are not even withdrawing. They are merely turning the security details they performed for the past five years or so to Iraqi security forces whose existence depends on the presence of U.S. forces populating bases around Iraq.

According to a Washington Post article about the transfer, “the long-term plan, which could change if security deteriorates, is to maintain a handful of heavily secured American compounds,” which would facilitate support, intelligence, and other such functions on an ongoing basis. In addition, the U.S. forces will also be available for raids and other police and military actions when the U.S.-approved government in Baghdad asks for their help. While it is safe to assume that many of these actions will be at the genuine request of that government, it is also safe to expect that some will be at the behest of the U.S. command.

While no one has suggested that this transfer of control is tantamount to the evacuation of U.S. and allied forces from Saigon in 1975, the tone of some of the U.S. mainstream media indicates that it is a step in that direction. This is patent nonsense. The nation of Iraq will not be rid of U.S. military influence until every last U.S. soldier is gone. This means troops considered combat forces along with those in support, intelligence, and advisory roles. In case Americans have missed it, this fact will not exist on the ground for a long time. This means, quite simply, that there is plenty of time for things to go in a direction unfavorable to Washington’s designs. Should this occur, the likelihood of the recently negotiated status of forces agreement (SOFA) existing in its current status diminishes rather quickly. For those unfamiliar with the actualities of the agreement, there is a section that allows either Washington or any Iraqi government to abrogate the agreement at any time. As for the rest of the agreement, U.S. military officials are already on record calling into question elements of the agreement that limit their troops’ ability to conduct raids, move freely about the country, and defend U.S. bases.

When it comes to Washington, the Bush administration has also questioned the interpretation of various parts of the agreement and left it open for its successor to do the same. These questions seem to stem from the Pentagon’s resistance to the limitations on its mobility and perceived mission a strict interpretation of the agreement would require. Unless the Obama administration makes it clear that it will listen to U.S. voters and begin the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq immediately, then the Pentagon will continue the occupation despite the opposition of the American and Iraqi people. Unfortunately, Barack Obama has made no indication that he will fulfill the hopes of those who want all U.S. troops home now. Like every past president of the U.S., he seems to have tuned out the voters and tuned in the generals. It is up to us to reverse that situation.

Only a few hours after the United Nations mandate for Iraq expired and the SOFA went into effect, U.S. forces opened fire on a female staffer for Iraq’s Biladi TV, critically wounding her. The reason for the attack was unclear. This incident could be the first test of the SOFA. After all, U.S. forces are not supposed to do anything in Iraq without coordinating with the Iraqi government, and they aren’t supposed to have anything to do with civilians outside of an Iraqi-court-issued warrant. The possibility exists that this may be treated as a criminal assault and the U.S. forces involved will be tried in an Iraqi court. The greater likelihood, however, is that nothing will happen and U.S. forces will continue to operate like the occupying forces they are. Kind of like the way the Israeli military operates in Gaza.