Cross posted from Iraq Insider
The U.S.-Iraq security agreement, unofficially translated into English, still contains some ambiguous language on security commitments first unveiled in the November 2007 draft.
For instance, the agreement says that joint military operations are to be undertaken “for the purpose of deterring external and internal threats against the Republic of Iraq.” The problem is that the document says that military operations must respect “Iraqi sovereignty and national interests as defined by the Iraqi government.”
Does this mean the Iraqi government gets to dictate the missions for American forces according to Iraq’s national interests? And who exactly – Sunni, Shiite, Kurd – determines Iraq’s national interests? Henry Kissinger said the problem with Europe was that it lacked a single telephone number you could call to get Europe’s policy. The same can be said of Iraq.
As I noted back in January, this language might be interpreted as requiring U.S. support for the Iraqi government against both external and internal security threats without regard for whether or not the Iraqi government has made efforts to address the sources and causes of the threat, or whether or not the threat is pursuing a legitimate grievance against the Iraqi government.
Iraqi leaders might try to use U.S. armed forces against external threats to advance their own sectarian interests. U.S. forces might be drawn into an internal dispute over what exactly constitutes a proper security threat to Iraq. For example, Iraqi Kurds might argue that the United States is required to confront Turkey over its military actions against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Or, Iraqi Shiites might assert that the United States is required to confront Sunni Arab governments that are accused of arming and abetting Sunni insurgents entering Iraq.
If the elected Iraqi government were to be forced out by violence, this language might be interpreted to require the United States to intervene to restore the elected government or to oust a government – even a stable government – that came to power through undemocratic means.
This language also might grant the Iraqi government the right and responsibility to define who is attempting to impede, suspend, or violate Iraq’s constitution, and could therefore require the United States to act against activists in Iraq whose activities or political ideology might not necessarily conflict with U.S. interests. This could mean that the United States is compelled to curtail activities in Iraq that are core U.S. values, such as promoting human rights, improving government transparency, and building democratic institutions.