FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

US Troops Will Be In Iraq for 10 More Years

by PATRICK COCKBURN

 

Baghdad.

US military forces will not stay in Iraq for anything like as long as some American politicians are demanding, says the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari. He said crucial issues about “Who is in charge in Iraq–we or you?” would be settled in negotiations between Iraq and the United States, starting this month.

The Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, caused anger among Iraqis this month by saying during the New Hampshire primary that US military forces might stay in Iraq “for 100 years”. Mr Zebari, asked by The Independent in Baghdad if the American army would be in Iraq in 10 years, said: “Really, I wouldn’t say so.”

Mr Zebari is much more confident than he was a year ago that “al-Qa’ida has been crushed, its network has been shattered” though it has not been completely eliminated. He says he thinks it dangerous if the Shia-Kurdish government, of which he is one of the most powerful members, does not pay and absorb into its own security forces the 70,000-strong Sunni Awakening movement which is fighting al-Qa’ida.

“That is the danger,” said Mr Zebari. “The Awakening movement is not that well organized and it could be easily manipulated by al-Qa’ida.” He added that it was an illusion that the Sunni political parties and their leaders “represent the Sunni community”.

Mr Zebari originally made his name as the energetic spokesman and foreign representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party during its long years of resistance to Saddam Hussein. He has been the most successful of Iraqi ministers since he was appointed in 2004, cultivating good relations with the US and Iran. Three years ago, insurgents tried to assassinate him using a vehicle packed with a ton of explosives, including a naval torpedo, which was detected near his home before it was detonated.

For all Mr Zebari’s optimism, Iraq remains an extraordinary violent country. Yesterday, a suicide bomber in a police uniform killed Brigadier-General Salih Mohammed Hasan, the chief of police of Mosul, northern Iraq’s largest city. He had been inspecting the ruins of a building in which 20 civilians had been killed and 150 wounded in an explosion the previous day.

The Iraqi leaders are eager to sign by July a bilateral treaty with the US which would in effect determine who rules Iraq. It would settle issues such as Iraqi sovereignty, command and control of Iraqi security forces, and the immunity of foreign troops and private security companies. The Iraqi intelligence service, at present controlled and financed by the CIA, will be brought under Iraqi government control.

Above all, said Mr Zebari, “the duration of the American presence here will be negotiated … so their presence will not be open-ended”. Although sovereignty was theoretically returned to Iraq in June 2004, the US remains very much in charge of security.

Mr Zebari says that he has no doubt that the new agreement would be denounced as a sell-out in Iraq, but it was necessary for Americans and Iraqis to end uncertainty about their future relations.

The Foreign Minister sees US support for the Iraqi government as being essential to prevent foreign invasion. “If we did not have the Americans here we would have seen many interventions by our neighbors, the latest of which was the massing of the Turkish troops [on Iraq’s northern border].”

Syria has also made it more difficult for al-Qa’ida members to cross into Iraq and Iran has restrained the Shia militias and cut back on sending sophisticated Iranian-made roadside bombs into Iraq. “We convinced many countries that you are playing with fire, you have a snake by the tail” in supporting the insurgency in Iraq, says Mr Zebari.

Paradoxically, Iran is a strong supporter of the present government in Baghdad, which is dominated by religious parties from the majority Shia community. But Iran is a rival of the US for influence over the Iraqi government and does not want to see a threatening American army permanently encamped in Iraq and on its borders. Mr Zebari has tried to foster dialogue between Tehran and Washington, though with mixed success. But he is convinced that Iran has played a crucial role in restraining the Mehdi Army, the powerful Shia militia at present observing a ceasefire. Baghdad has invited the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to visit Iraq.

Mr Zebari would not confirm reports that Iran has recently taken a tougher line, postponing talks with US representatives several times in recent weeks. This follows a US National Intelligence Estimate saying that Iran is not developing a nuclear bomb.

The Iranians may also be worried that the Awakening movement is a US-run Sunni militia that will never give its loyalty to a Shia government..

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His forthcoming book ‘Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq’ is published by Scribner in April.

 

 

 

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
Nicolas J S Davies
Escalating U.S. Air Strikes Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, Iraq
Binoy Kampmark
Class, Football, and Blame: the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail