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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Wed: "A Draft They Can't Refuse"
Did Members of the De-Bathification Committee Plot Political Assassinations?
By AMER MOHSEN 09/02/2008 5:52 PM ET
Kull al-'Iraq
Kull al-'Iraq
As drafts of the US-Iraq Security Treaty are already being leaked in the Arab media, Iraqi papers’ headlines indicated that negotiations between the US and Iraqi sides regarding the Security Arrangement have reached their final moments. Kull al-‘Iraq quoted Maliki adviser ‘Ali al-Dabbagh as saying that the negotiations have been completed as far as the Iraqi government was concerned, and that all the relevant matters have been agreed upon. The Iraqi official added that his government is currently waiting for the US response to a “finalized draft” of the treaty that was recently submitted by Iraq.

Al-Dabbagh characterized his government’s proposal as “a draft that cannot be rejected,” hinting that “important political decisions” are what is left for the agreed-upon treaty to be promulgated. However, when asked about specific details relating to the treaty, al-Dabbagh’s answers revealed persistent differences between the US and Iraqi positions. For example, on the controversial matters of “legal immunity” for US forces and US withdrawal timetables, al-Dabbagh hinted – according to al-Hayat - that the “final draft” reflects the past positions of the Iraqi government, “(demands) that were presented to the US side multiple times,” he said. The problem is that the White House has flatly (and repeatedly) rejected the Iraqi demands for a scheduled (full) withdrawal and limited legal immunity for US troops in Iraq.

Also in Kull al-‘Iraq, Maliki was quoted as saying that legal and legislative measures are being taken in anticipation of the treaty, a hint that a treaty draft is expected to be presented to the Parliament shortly. The paper said that the parliament is being prepared to pass a law that would allow for a vote on the Security Agreement within ten days.

Here, a terminological note is in order: the US Press largely refers to the “Security Treaty” as “SOFA” (Status of Forces Agreement,) an appellation that reflects the White House perception of the agreement and its legal scope (designed to allow its passing without a US Congressional vote.) However, “SOFA” is promoted under a completely different light in the Iraqi political context. On the one hand, the “agreement” is largely seen as a full-fledged treaty that requires parliamentary approval, not a mere executive order or diplomatic agreement. Secondly, Iraqi government officials have repeatedly referred to “SOFA” as a “Strategic Treaty” that will bind Iraq and the US in a beneficial long-term partnership (something along the lines of the “Brotherhood and Friendship Treaties” that the USSR used to mete out to its close allies.) Lastly, while SOFA is unlikely to cause much stir in the US political realm, the “Security Treaty” and its implications will largely determine Iraqi political life in the years to come.

This double language in which the Security Agreement is described - depending on whether the audience is American or Iraqi - makes the upcoming SOFA into one of the most nebulous and controversial diplomatic treaties in recent memory.

In other news, Az-Zaman focused on the recent arrest of a major SIIC official who assumed a key position in the de-Ba'thification committee. The committee was charged with “purging” ex-regime loyalists from the state administration and the political field. However, rumors quickly spread that state officials were leaking “assassination lists” to several anti-Ba'thi factions and that hundreds of Iraqis who assumed significant positions in pre-2003 Iraq were killed because of such practices – in the face of mounting assassinations, many members of the old elite were frightened into leaving the country.

Az-Zaman claimed that ‘Ali al-Lami, the official who was arrested last week, has proven connections to such assassinations, and that “documents were found in his possession” showing that he leaked information on 450 ex-Ba'this “to facilitate their assassination by ‘special groups.’” The individuals whom al-Lami may have helped liquidate included “parliamentarians, journalists and employees of the previous regime.”

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