Cross posted from Iraq Insider
For the past several months, the United States and Iraq have gone back and forth over negotiations on a proposed security agreement. Among the most contentious issues have been whether there should be a withdrawal date for U.S. forces and whether U.S. soldiers and contractors should be subject to Iraqi law.
It appears as if there was a breakthrough in negotiations this week. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice briefed senior American lawmakers about the draft agreement, which now apparently exists in textual form. This morning, U.S. negotiators in Iraq, along with Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno, will go over the text of the proposed accord with senior Senate and House aides in a video conference at the White House. Congressional attendance has been limited to 12 people from the leadership and the two relevant committees in the House and Senate.
It is impossible to predict what Congress will do about the agreement before we know what is actually in the text. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is scheduled to submit the draft agreement today to Iraq’s political and national security council. If it passes the council and winds its way through other government ministries, it then will go to the Iraqi Parliament, where al Maliki has promised an up-or-down vote.
Even though the agreement mandates that U.S. forces leave Iraq by 2012, there may still be widespread opposition to the agreement among Iraqi parliamentarians because the pact reportedly limits Iraq’s ability to try U.S. contractors or soldiers for major crimes committed off-duty and off-base.
Back in July, I tallied up the number of Iraqi leaders who publicly opposed the agreement. I counted at least 49 Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and Shabaks from most of Iraq’s major political parties: Dawa, United Iraqi Alliance, Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), Fadhila, Sadrist Movement, Badr Organization, Iraqi Accord Front (al-Tawafuq), Iraqi National List, and National Dialogue Front.
Will this opposition continue? Will Iraqis be satisfied with an agreement that keeps Americans in their country until 2012? Or will they consider that continued presence too long to satisfy the demands of the Iraqi people, many of whom want the United States out now?
With Iraqi provincial elections scheduled for early next year, we should not underestimate the universality of political pandering. If Iraqis dislike this agreement and oppose U.S. forces remaining in their country until 2012, Iraqi politicians will feel immense pressure to torpedo the pact in order to save their political skins. If this were to happen, the Bush administration would be furious. How dare the democracy we built vote against the continued presence of U.S. forces! Ingrates!
Ah, democracy, even in flawed form.
If Iraq rejected the agreement, it might actually go a long way toward asserting its sovereignty and independence from the United States. This would earn al Maliki and other Iraqi leaders kudos from the Iraqi street. And it would enrage Bush and Cheney, which is usually a sign that you’re doing something right.