Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Serious warning from East

June 11, 2008

Serious warning from the East

THE US is making a major mistake by refusing to accept not only that its military action against Iraq has failed to achieve its strategic objectives but also that it faces further disasters if it contiues its military presence in the chaotic country. Most of the key players in Iraq — except of course the Kurds whose priorities are Kurd-specific — have made it clear that they oppose the so-called status of forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad, with some of them warning that the proposed pact could lead to an uprising in Iraq where those who support it would be targeted.
"It is not to the benefit of the US as a major power to dilute the sovereignty of Iraq," says Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Al Modarresi, a top Shiite cleric. "This treaty is humiliating to the Iraqi people, and might cause an uprising against it and those who support it," he says in an implicit warning to groups and individuals who back the agreement because their survival depends on US support.
The US wants to set up 50 military bases in Iraq, secure unchallenged immunity to security personnel from Iraqi law and maintain the right to conduct autonomous military operations as part of the proposed agreement.
Rejection of the draft agreement, which seeks to legitimise the US military's presence in Iraq after Dec. 31, when its UN mandate expires, has also come from others in the region.
The most serious albeit implicit warning has come from Iran, whose supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, added his voice to the opposition against the proposed accord by telling visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki on Monday that the presence of US forces in Iraq was the biggest obstacle to its development as a united country.
Whether the US likes it or not, the Iranian position is indeed supported the ability to keep the US military on its toes in Iraq. The bottom line is that Iran does not want total chaos in Iraq but nor does it want US forces to settle down in Iraq, something that Tehran feels would encourage Washington to consider military options against Iran, which the US sees as posing a hurdle on its way to its "strategic interests" in the region and a threat to Israel, the closest US ally in the Middle East.
Indeed, Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, is perfectly aware of the Iranian concerns and hence his assurance to Tehran that Iraq would not be used as a staging point for US-led military operations against Iran. But that is an assurance no one takes seriously because the realities on the ground dictate that Iraq would indeed be the central platform for US military action against its eastern neighbour across the Shatt Al Arab waterway.
Instead of applying pressure and trying to force-feed the Iraqis with the proposed agreement, Washington should be giving serious consideration to the clear warning from Khamenei that Iran would not allow the realisation of "Americans' dreams" in Iraq. Underestimating it could prove to be yet another but very damaging American blunder in the Middle East.