Today, the House held a hearing featuring two members of the Iraqi Parliament in order “to hear their assessment of the proposed U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement,” an agreement proposed by the Bush administration permitting combat forces in Iraq for an unspecified period of time. Iraq is currently seeing “growing and widespread protests…over the scope of the agreement.”
In the hearing, parliamentarians Nadeem Al-Jaberi and Khalaf Al-Ulayyan expressed their support for a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. In an exchange with Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Al-Jaberi said that U.S. presence in Iraq is highly unpopular with the public, as roughly 70 percent of Iraqis favor a withdrawal:
PAUL: What percent of the Iraqi people would agree with us leaving under those circumstances?
AL-JABERI: I ask you to perhaps have a referendum, and that will tell you the truth.
PAUL: So you have no idea. You have no idea. Maybe only 5 percent would support us leaving. You have to have an idea.
AL-JABERI: Of course not. The majority of the people of Iraq are with the withdrawal. … Perhaps even about 70 percent.
Given the Iraqis’ opposition to U.S. forces, Paul asked how the public perceives the 104-acre, $700 million U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which consists of 27 buildings and 3,000 employees. Jaberi ripped its massive scale:
AL-JABERI: It is certainly larger than the diplomatic mission for which it has arrived for. … I mean why do we need 3,000 employees in an embassy in Iraq if we consider it as a diplomatic mission like any other diplomatic mission? From the principle of reciprocity, would it be appropriate for Iraqis to establish a 3,000 employee embassy in Washington? … It [the embassy] certainly would not be a very positive signal to the Iraqi people.
Al-Jaberi also criticized the enclosed nature of embassy activities, which sits in the heavily-fortified Green Zone: “And yes, there is some procrastination in its relationship with the society, because its relations are limited to the Green Zone.”
Spencer Ackerman notes that al-Ulayyan, when asked about the invasion of Iraq, remarked: “I would prefer if it didn’t happen, because it led to the destruction of the country. The U.S. got rid of one person. It put in hundreds of persons that are worse than Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, now Iran is going into Iraq, and this is under the umbrella of the United States.”
,Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) also released a letter today from 31 Iraqi legislators “asserting that the proposed [long-term security] agreement is opposed by a majority of the parliament if it does not include a specific timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. military troops.”