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Thursday, President Bush announced that the U.S. army will “be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people.” I found this statement surprising, but apparently I was not the only one. After reading the Iraqi press and contacting a number of Iraqi members of parliament representing different Sunni, Shia, and secular groups, it became clear that no one from the Iraqi parliament was informed about Mr. Al-Maliki’s plans to renew the mandate of multi-national forces in Iraq.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the occupation force in Iraq on November 28th. The Council acted in response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a letter he sent to the UN earlier this month. The US and the UK rushed the vote through the Council far in advance of the December 31 expiration of the mandate of the so-called “Multinational Force.” The vote took place just one day after consultations were held, and the matter was not inscribed in the work program of the Council for this month.
According to Parliamentarian Dr. Jabir Habib (An Iraqi Shia close to the al-Sadr group), the Iraqi Assembly was scheduled to vote on this issue next week. “We spent the last months discussing the conditions we wanted to add to the mandate, and the majority of the Parliament decided on three major conditions,” said Dr. Habib. “These conditions included pulling the coalition forces out of the cities and transferring responsibility for security to the Iraqi government, giving Iraqis the right to recruit, train, equip, and command the Iraqi security forces, and requiring that the UN mandate expire and be reviewed every 6 months instead of every 12 months.” None of these conditions were included in the final document the UN unanimously voted on yesterday.
Mr. Hasan al-Shammari, a Shia Parliamentarian representing the al-Fadila party, said on Tuesday, “We had a closed session two days ago, and we were supposed to vote on the mandate in 10 days. I can not believe the mandate was just approved without our knowledge or input.”
Dr. Hajim al-Hassani, a secular Sunni and former speaker of the Parliament, did not even know that the mandate had been renewed. “If this is true, it is breaking the agreements we had with al-Maliki,” he said. Mr. al-Hassani added “We were supposed to have a meeting with the Prime Minister and other top officials in the Parliament during the next couple of weeks to decide what to do with the mandate.” Mr. Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular Parliamentarian, was also shocked. “This is totally unexpected. It is another example of the Prime Minister dismissing the views of the parliament and monopolizing all power”. Finally, Dr. Alaa Makki, a Sunni MP, requested that I send him a copy of the UN resolution and Al-Maliki’s letter since he too was unaware of these unilateral and swift actions at the UN.
According to most of the parliamentarians, it is unconstitutional for the Prime Minister to ask for a renewal of the UN mandate without consulting the Iraqi Parliament. Even this Iraqi government that was elected by the Iraqi people under the occupation is being by-passed by Mr. Al-Maliki. Even this government that is usually described as a “puppet government” is not justifying the illegal presence of the occupation troops anymore. The Bush administration does not seem to have any support outside the small circle of Al-Maliki and a handful of his assistants. The demand of the majority of the Iraqi people and parliamentarians to set a timetable for ending the foreign occupation is being ignored by both Bush and Al-Maliki. The Iraqi prime minister is very clearly just another dictator who is ready to destroy his country and oppress his own people to stay in power.
RAED JARRAR is the Iraq Project Director at Global Exchange and a member of the Steering Committee of United for Peace and Justice.