Monday, June 09, 2008

Bush game playing itself out

June 9, 2008

A Bush game that is playing itself out

US President George W Bush wants 50 military bases, absolute control of Iraqi airspace, unrestrained freedom of movement and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors in Iraq. This is the gist of the "secret" deal that the US is trying impose on the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to legitimise the continued US military presence in Iraq after a UN mandate runs out this year.
Parallel to the impact of the proposed deal on the situation in Iraq and the region, the outcome of Bush's quest has also become an important element on the internal US scene ahead of presidential election in a few months.
Clearly, the "strategic alliance" deal, formally called a "security agreement," is aimed at perpetuating the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely. It is known that American negotiators are under strict instructions not to allow any modifications or amendments in the draft accord.
The agreement, if signed in the next few weeks, will allow Bush to push it through by the end of next month and declare a military victory in Iraq. Effectively, he will claim that the strategic objectives of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq have been realised and thus his decision for military action against Iraq has has been vindicated.
The sought-for agreement will seriously undermine pledges made by the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops from Iraq if he is elected president in November.
On the other side, the Republican candidate, John McCain, would get a boost if the agreement is signed now because it will vindicate his claim that the US is on the verge of victory in Iraq and that Obama would be abandoning the victory by a premature military withdrawal.
The Maliki government, aware that disclosure of the details of the deal to the people of Iraq could be politically explosive, is known to oppose some of the key elements of the agreement. However, Maliki and his associates would have little option when it comes to taking the final decision whether to accept or reject the agreement because their survival depends on American support. At the same time, their acceptance of the agreement would undermine whatever popular support they might have among the people, who would most definitely resent having to watch US troops setting up permanent bases, conducting military operations, arresting Iraqis and enjoying immunity from Iraqi law. Iraqi politicians are already arguing that if the security deal is signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American puppet.
Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has declared his rejection of the agreement, and his people are waging a political campaign against it.
The one man who could really make a difference at this point in time is Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who is demanding that any agreement be put to a referendum in Iraq.
It is expected that it will be rejected if put to a referendum, and hence the US opposes the call.
Some expect Sistani to change his mind because at time point he would have to accept that the loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shiite community.
Whatver way the cookie crumbles, the reality remains that the proposed agreement will lead to a permanent US occupation of Iraq and render the people of Iraq with little power and authority in their affairs.