On 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.
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.”
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