FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Immunity in Iraq

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Baghdad

The Iraqi armed services are likely to target American security companies,  which are widely hated in Iraq, when they lose their legal immunity under  a new agreement between the US and the Iraq.

The main American concession, during prolonged and rancorous  negotiations over a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would  determine the future military relationship between the US and Iraq, has  been to agree to lift the immunity hitherto enjoyed by the 154,000  contractors of whom 35,000 are private security men.

“The Iraqi forces will follow them with vigor because they are not  popular in Iraq,”said Ahmed Chalabi, the veteran Iraqi politician, in an  interview . “People haven’t forgotten about the  Iraqis who were killed by private security men in Nisour Square.” Security  personnel from Blackwater USA are accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians,  including a mother and child, when they opened fire in Nisour Square in  west Baghdad on 16 September last year.

The ending of the immunity of foreign contractors will have serious  consequences for the 142,000 US troops in Iraq who are highly reliant on  them. Mr Chalabi says it is likely that the Iraqi security forces and judiciary  will go out of their way to pursue and arrest foreign security men who  break Iraqi law which they have hitherto flouted.   He also said that the loss of immunity of American contractors would  make US intelligence operations more difficult because private companies  have been used to maintain links with opponents of the Iranian regime  based in Iraq, notably the Mojahedin-e-Khalq. This enables the US  government to deny that it has contacts with such groups.

Mr Chalabi, who recently returned from Iran where he had talks with  Iranian leaders, said “the Iranians are implacably opposed to the deal. It  consecrates America’s massive presence here and threatens their security.  They say this will be a ‘non-security agreement’ and ‘not a security  Agreement’ and they are happy for everybody to know this.” Iranian  hostility would be serious for Iraq since Iran played a central role in  mediating an end to fighting between the Mehdi Army Shia  militia and the  government in the first half of the year.

In an unexpected but important development the negotiation of a US- Iraqi agreement, to replace the current UN mandate for US forces, which is  due to run out at the end of the year, is leading to a resurgence of Iraqi  nationalism previously masked by Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict.  Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki embarrassed the White House by  saying for the first time on Monday that Iraq wants some kind of time table  for a withdrawal of American forces included in the present agreement.  The National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie followed this up by  saying: “We would not accept any memorandum of understanding with  [the US] side that has no obvious and specific dates for the withdrawal of  foreign troops from Iraq.”

American officials have tried to present these demands as wholly  conditional on the effectiveness of the Iraqi security forces which now  number over half a million men. An Iraqi official supporting a US-Iraq  agreement said: “It will be easier to sell it to Iraqis if it is presented as a  way of getting the Americans to withdraw. We still need them. We could  not cope if, hypothetically, there was an uprising in Basra, an army mutiny  in Anbar or the Kurds unilaterally annexed Kirkuk.”

But important Iraqi leaders have sought to outbid each other over the  last three weeks in criticizing American rights under the SOFA while Iraqi  supporters of the agreement have been largely mute. This suggests that  the position of Republican presidential candidate John McCain that the US  occupation should continue for many years will soon no longer be tenable.  “We should negotiate with the next administration,” said Dr Mahmoud  Othman, the veteran Kurdish politician and MP. “A letter of understanding  will be sufficient for now. If the agreement does not bind the next  administration why sign it? People will think it is being done to help the  Republican party. It has been hurried because this administration wants to  show that it has achieved something. This is obvious.”

Defenders of the SOFA, such as the Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari,  say that the agreement will limit and define American rights in Iraq. The  alternative is to continue with the UN mandate under which US forces can  do what they want. But the negotiations have provoked a nationalist  backlash among Arab Iraqis because it highlights the extent to which  America control their country in future.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail