Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

US out of Iraq by … "2011"


The United States is moving towards ending its military control of Iraq by agreeing to withdraw combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns by June next year and from the rest of Iraq by 2011, according Iraqi and American negotiators.

The withdrawal of US troops to bases outside the cities, towns and villages would make the Iraqi government, whose security forces number half a million men, the predominant military power in Iraq for the first time since the US-led invasion of 2003.

“By June 2009, if security progress continues, there would be no need for US troops in city centers,” the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, tells me.

Mr Zebari was eager Thursday not to describe the US military pullback as a withdrawal and it might still be rejected by senior Iraqi political leaders. But in reality the US is accepting a timetable for a withdrawal, something that it resolutely refused to do in the past. Mr Maliki originally wanted the removal of US combat troops by the end of 2010, but has compromised on 2011.

The accord is likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of the US presidential election in November since Iraq is the main issue dividing the two candidates. It should benefit the Democratic candidate Barack Obama since the timetable for a withdrawal is not so different from his plan to remove one combat brigade a month over 16 months. It also makes it difficult for the Republican contender John McCain to say that US troops should stay until victory or to denounce Mr Obama as an unpatriotic defeatist. At the same time Mr McCain may benefit from the security agreement defusing the Iraq war as a political issue in the US and making it more difficult for the Democrats to portray him as a dangerous hawk.

The agreement now likely to be signed is “a sea-change from what the Americans originally proposed in March” according to an Iraqi political leader who saw a recent version. He said Mr Maliki would like to see US forces pull back into about 20 bases and they would not have an automatic right to patrol within Iraqi cities and towns. This means that the US will not be able to support its local allies, such as the Sunni 103,000-strong al-Sahwa Awakening Movement which is paid by the US but hostile to the Shia-Kurdish government.

The original US draft for a security agreement to replace the UN mandate which runs out at the end of the year appeared to continue the American occupation. When its terms were leaked in June there was a nationalist backlash against its terms in Iraq. This coincided with the Iraqi army regaining control of Basra, Sadr City and the province of Amara, which had previously been under the control of Shia militias, notably the Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr. The growing confidence of the Iraqi army that it can act without US military back up has made it possible for Mr Maliki to demand more limitations on US authority.

Iraqi negotiators have been eager to end the legal immunity of US forces. Washington has conceded that private security contractors, of whom 35,000 out of 154,000 are armed security personnel, should no longer have immunity on or off US bases. This is an important change because the private contractors outnumber US troops and play a crucial support role. They are also widely detested by Iraqis because of their ill-discipline and involvement in incidents when innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed.

The US has been determined to preserve the legal immunity of its regular armed forces. According to one Iraqi negotiator, US soldiers will have immunity in their bases and when engaged in official missions, but if they engage in premeditated crimes outside their official role and off-base then a US-Iraqi committee will decide how they should be dealt with.

The Iraqi government has gone out of its way to reassure Iran that the US will not be able to use Iraq as base for any attack on Iran. Iran reacted furiously to the first draft of the accord, claiming it would turn Iraq into a US puppet state and, so far as the Iranians were concerned, it would be ‘an insecurity agreement and not a security agreement.’ Standing beside the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a press conference, Mr Zebari said: “There are clear articles [in the agreement that] say that Iraq will not be used as a launching pad for any aggressive acts against neighboring countries.”

PATRICK COCKBURN is the Ihe author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.


Your Ad Here






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

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future