Security

NBC’s Engel: Permanent Bases Would Technically Be Iraqi With U.S. ‘Tenants’ As ‘A Face Saving Device’

engel.jpgOn Thursday, the UK Independent’s Patrick Cockburn reported on “a secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad” that “would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely.” According to Cockburn, the deal result in American soldiers being stationed on permanent bases 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.

On the same day, NPR’s Diane Rehm asked NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel about the report. Engel said that as part of “a face saving device,” the bases would technically be Iraqi and “U.S. troops would reside on them as tenants”:

ENGEL: That’s the question, is it permanent bases or is it not, and the details of this have not been published. The U.S. and Iraqi officials I’ve spoken to say they would not be U.S. permanent bases in Iraq, they would be Iraqi bases and that U.S. troops would reside on them as tenants and may even have to pay some sort of nominal rent, so there would be a face saving device. What’s also trying to be worked out is what’s the exact U.S. mission. Would they be able to conduct independent operations without the advice and consultation of the Iraqi government and that has been a point of contention.

Listen here:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/06/RehmEngelDozier.320.40.flv]

After Cockburn’s report was released, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, tried to quash talk of permanent U.S. bases, telling reporters that “it is not going to be forever.” But Crocker also spoke of a situation that could comport with Engel’s “face saving” description, claiming that “there isn’t going to be an agreement that infringes on Iraqi sovereignty.”

Transcript:

REHM: Here’s an email from James asking about an article published today in the Independent in UK by Patrick Coburn and it’s entitled, Revealed: Secret Plan To Keep Iraq Under U.S. Control. Do you know about this?

ENGEL: I don’t know the article, but I know Patrick Cockburn, he’s a friend and a fine reporter. Is this, I’ll take a look at the article.

REHM: Just published today and our communicator in Raleigh says, “why has this not received more attention?”

ENGEL: I know what he’s talking about. This is the strategic long term agreement that is being negotiated between Iraq and the United States. This is a deal that is supposed to be, and we have reported it, I think NBC News was the first to report this, it was, it is a long term strategic alliance that is being hammered out, mostly in secret in Baghdad. And that has many, many Iraqis concerned, it has some U.S. officials concerned as well. The U.S. negotiators that I’ve spoken to who are involved in this insist that it is not a treaty, that it will not commit large numbers of U.S. forces to Iraq for a long time, but it does clarify what the role of U.S. forces will be for a long period going forward.

REHM: I.E.

ENGEL: That’s the question, is it permanent bases or is it not, and the details of this have not been published. The U.S. and Iraqi officials I’ve spoken to say they would not be U.S. permanent bases in Iraq, they would be Iraqi bases and that U.S. troops would reside on them as tenets and may even have to pay some sort of nominal rent, so there would be a face saving device. What’s also trying to be worked out is what’s the exact U.S. mission. Would they be able to conduct independent operations without the advice and consultation of the Iraqi government and that has been a point of contention.

DOZIER: I know a member of Crocker’s team has been working on this for about a year behind the scenes. And one of the major sticking points is what law will apply to U.S. troops, how much will they be able to do on their own, how much will they have to…they want of course the rights that they have right now, to stage their own missions, their own raids, without getting anybody’s say so, just informing, “We’re headed off, we’re going to do this.” The Iraqis are pushing for approval of everything and also that Iraqi law would apply to soldiers, Marines who conduct violent acts.

Tags