Today, the UK Independent has a troubling report on a “secret plan” for U.S. occupation in Iraq allegedly being pushed by the Bush administration:
A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
This strategic framework seems even stronger than one reported by UK Guardian in April, which was described as “temporary” and said that the United States “does not desire permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq.”
Perhaps reflecting growing concern over the new plan, Iraqi government officials have said that they will miss a July target for negotiating an agreement on future relations with the United States. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) has also released a letter from 31 Iraqi legislators saying that they oppose a long-term security agreement “if it does not include a specific timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. military troops.” Yesterday, Iraqi parliament member Nadeem al-Jaberi testified to the House that the U.S. occupation is highly unpopular with the public:
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): What percent of the Iraqi people would agree with us leaving under those circumstances? […]
AL-JABERI: The majority of the people of Iraq are with the withdrawal. … Perhaps even about 70 percent. with approximately 70 percent of Iraqis favoring a withdrawal.
The Bush administration has repeatedly denied any interest in permanent bases, even blaming the misunderstanding on a sloppy Arabic translation. One Iraqi source interviewed by the Independent, however, replied, “This is just a tactical subterfuge.” Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is also “believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.”
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker denied the claim today, saying “that the U.S. presence will not be forever” and that “agreements will be public and free of any secret provisions.”