The call for changes in the proposed accord came as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki criticized an attack by Iraq-based U.S. forces on alleged al-Qaeda operatives inside Syria last weekend. The cabinet now wants the agreement to include language to “confirm that Iraqi land would not be the center for aggression” against its neighbors, said Planning Minister Ali Baban, who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Ministers also want the pact to grant Iraq more legal authority over U.S. soldiers accused of crimes, to harden a tentative 2011 departure date for U.S. troops and to allow Iraqi inspection of U.S. military shipments. The inspection demand, along with an explicit ban on attacks on neighboring countries, reflects concerns that the United States might launch an attack on Iran from Iraqi territory.
Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that the current text of the document, concluded just weeks ago after nearly eight months of difficult negotiations, reflects the limit of U.S. concessions.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh “said the Iraqis want the right to declare the agreement null and void if the U.S. unilaterally attacks one of Iraq’s neighbors.”
Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that he has also indicated fresh concerns with the agreement:
A statement issued by al-Sistani’s office said the Iranian-born cleric wants to ensure that “Iraq’s sovereignty not be breached” by the accord and that he was monitoring the situation “until the final content of the security agreement becomes clear.”
It’s unclear whether Sistani’s displeasure with a pact that he had previously signed off on is the result of the U.S. action in Syria, but it doesn’t seem unlikely.