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IraqSide:Media
Daily Column
Iraq Papers Wed: US-Iraq Negotiations "Halted"
Iraqi Officials Reject the Terms of the "Long Term" Treaty
By AMER MOHSEN 06/03/2008 6:26 PM ET
Az-Zaman
Az-Zaman
After the release of the draft of the “Long-Term Security Treaty” between the United States and Iraq, organizing US military presence in the country in future years, pro-government Iraqi parties uniformly dissociated themselves from the text, claiming opposition to any treaty “that transgresses Iraqi sovereignty.” The massive popular opposition to the treaty – even before the release of the draft – no doubt played a major role in the “bold” postures of the governing crew, who have been freely attacking the prospective treaty and showing uncharacteristic defiance towards the US administration.

Az-Zaman quoted several government officials who reiterated their rejection of the treaty, including MP ‘Ali al-Dabbagh (close adviser to PM al-Maliki) who affirmed that “the Council of Ministers rejects any articles that undermine national sovereignty.” According to al-Mada, the Council of Ministers released a statement after its last meeting announcing that “no common vision” has been established between the Iraqi and US sides regarding the terms of the treaty. Pro-government MP Hasan al-Saneed was quoted in the paper as saying that negotiations have been halted “because the two sides need to consult with their political leadership.”

Similarly, Kull al-‘Iraq headlined with news on the “halting of negotiations over the Iraqi-American treaty,” quoting pro-government MP Haydar al-‘Abadi who affirmed that the “national principles” of the government include “the full sovereignty of Iraq ... and the realization of the interests of the Iraqi people away from international and regional hegemonies.”

Conspiratorial-minded observers may view these defiant statements as a cynical dance aiming at the ratification of the treaty after a symbolic “battle;” which would prevent the painting of the current Iraqi government as a willing puppet of the US occupation. London-based al-Hayat discussed the details of the prospective treaty, clarifying the points of contention between the Iraqi and the American sides. According to the paper, the treaty draft grants the US several permanent bases, complete control over the Iraqi airspace (up to an altitude of 29,000 feet,) unfettered right of passage on Iraqi soil and Iraqi territorial waters, in addition to the right of arresting any Iraqi considered to be a threat to US forces; and finally, the right to launch “anti-terrorism” campaigns without the prior approval of the Iraqi government.

According to al-Hayat, the Iraqi side prefers a “Turkish-style” arrangement, whereby US bases would be temporary and renewed on a yearly basis, with the US forces allowed to leave these bases only after the approval of the Iraqi government. The Iraqis also want to restrict the US Air Force to specific airways that are mutually agreed upon, and that the US Army finances its operations in Iraq solely through the Iraqi Central Bank.

An unnamed Iraqi official who spoke to the paper added that the current draft does not include a US commitment to “the protection of the democratic regime in Iraq from internal and external threats,” and allows the US forces to define the concept of “terrorism” freely, which would, in effect, grant the US a free hand in using its military in the country.

In other news, the Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper published an analysis piece on the newly-announced “Ja’fari Current” founded by the ex-Prime Minister Ibraheem al-Ja’fari, who has dissented from the Da’wa Party and aims at forming an independent political movement before the next elections. The author, Zaid al-Zubaidi, noted that, despite weeks of preparations and anticipation, the “new political thing” promised by Ja’fari turned out to be disappointing with a colorless inaugural statement and a “political current” made-up of Ja’fari himself. Even the “Ansar al-Da’wa” organization - which was expected to join Ja’fari’s Current - balked in the last moment; launching criticisms at the ex-PM and his “authoritarianism ... and narcissism, which led him to print his image on headscarves that were distributed in great quantities for free.”

Ansar al-Da’wa’s leader, Mazin Makiya, also criticized the devotion of “Ja’fari’s satellite channel,” Biladi, to covering the comings and goings of Ja’fari, “in a manner that exceeds that of the previous regime’s media.”

Ja’fari’s “Current” also lacked any Sadrist, Fadhila or Liberal personalities “as previously promised;” with the inaugural press conference presenting “unknown individuals ... advanced as representatives of ‘the different strata of Iraqi society,’” the report said. An unnamed leader of the Da’wa Party spoke to the paper, affirming sarcastically: “(Al-Ja’fari) only watches his own satellite channel (Biladi) and believes all the flattery it heaps upon him.” The author reminded readers that three satellite channels claim to speak on behalf of the Da’wa Party: al-Ja’fari’s Biladi; Afaq, “which belongs to the Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki;” and al-Masar, run by the Da’wa Party- the Iraqi wing.

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