For some time now, there has been a claim floating around the blogs, the newspapers, and even the press room in the White House that the Bush administration was planning on establishing "permanent military bases" in Iraq. Some said 4. Some said 6. Some said 14. Regardless of the number, the Bush talking heads, whether it was Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellen, Tony Snow, or now Dana Perino have always tap-danced around the question of whether or not we are planning to stay indefinitely.
Even the president waffles on the subject. He says "we'll stay as long as necessary". What the hell does that mean? Well, now we may have a clue that we are indeed planning on a long-term stay. A story reported in the Independent, one of the United Kingdom's leading news-papers has revealed that the Bush administration is working on a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), with the Iraqi government and planning on getting agreement with the Iraqis prior to the expiration of United Nations Mandate that authorizes US presence which ends in July of this year.
What does this agreement do? Well, according to the article, it plans on 50 military bases being established in the Iraqi country and a force strength of between 60 and 130 thousand troops present in the country indefinitely. That's not all. The agreement calls for immunity for US troops and contractors (read: Blackwater, etc) from Iraqi Law. It calls for the free entry and exit of US troops and other personnel from Iraqi territory without having to disclose to the Iraqi government what the US is doing. It also calls for total control of airspace to 29,000 feet to allow for continued combat actions in the "war on terror". It also allows for US troops to arrest any Iraqi at any time without consultation with the Iraqi government.
The Shiite leadership is against such a deal, the Sunnis and Kurds seem to be interested in it as they believe they need US support indefinitely. The Maliki government is caught between needing US support for their legitimacy, and the growing distrust and unrest by the rest of the Shia's especially those aligned with the Muslim cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr.
The US has some leverage on this deal, as it currently holds about $50bn of Iraqi funds in the US Federal reserve bank and will likely use the release of those funds as a carrot to sign the deal. Additionally, a UN sanction dating back to the first Gulf War still defines Iraq as a threat to international security under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. The US price for getting this sanction removed: Sign the agreement.
I don't know about you, but this smacks of extortion. It seems to me if the Bush Administration really believed in self-determination and sovereignty of the Iraqi people, he'd agree to this agreement being part of a referendum voted on by the Iraqis themselves. He doesn't. This agreement, if signed by the Iraqis is one of the most blatant acts of imperialism conducted by the United States since the occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American war.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Boys and Girls, now that the noise level of the presidential primary season has passed, perhaps we can pay attention to what the current occupant of the White House is doing in our name. I'm not in favor of this agreement. Tell me what you think.