When US forces descended on Baghdad five years ago, they
seemed unstoppable. Military arrogance had reached an all time high, and it
seemed only a matter of time before the same frenzied scenario took place in
Teheran, Damascus, and elsewhere.
As it turned out, festivities began dwindling almost as soon
as they were pronounced. One could argue that the day Saddam's statue was
toppled was the very same day that the US army faced its real battle in Iraq,
one that continues to hinder long-term strategic planning, if not the
once-touted US Middle East project altogether.
Five years of continuous and unrelenting blood baths may
have toned down Bush's expectations. The lonely crusader who once vowed to
fight tyranny at any cost is now trying to secure a treaty that would
indefinitely secure US interests in Iraq. His administration may essentially be
hoping to achieve what it regards as the best possible outcome of a worst
Co-opting the UN has helped secure temporary legitimacy to
the occupation. The international body, once rendered irrelevant, became a
major hub for American diplomacy seeking to legitimise its occupation in a country
that refuses to concede. Even willing Iraqi leaders, perfectly rehearsed
elections and mass suppressions, have failed to bring the desired stability and
Of course, White House, State Department and US military
spokespeople ventured into endless predictable talk about democracy, freedom,
liberty and security in order to woo an increasingly agitated American public.
But US action on the ground spoke of another reality: an imperial quest, with
monopoly on violence and disregard of international law, the national
sovereignty of Iraq and near total disregard of the human rights of its
Now the Bush administration is ready to crown its Iraq
travesty with a long-term strategy that would turn Iraq's occupation into a
lasting one. The US is 'negotiating' a treaty with the Iraqi government, one
that would replace the UN mandate and legalise the US occupation of Iraq
Basically, time is running out for Bush. If no treaty is
reached by the end of the year, his administration could find itself pleading
to the Security Council for another extension of the mandate. This would be an
embarrassing and dangerous scenario for US diplomacy because it would allow
Russia and China to re-emerge as important players wielding fearsome veto powers.
By signing a long-term treaty, the Bush administration would
preempt any action by a future Democratic president of Iraq.
When the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the
US-led multinational forces in Iraq in November 2005, the US celebrated the
decision as a sign of international commitment to Iraq's political transition.
John Bolton, US ambassador to the UN at the time, had
repeatedly lambasted the UN and now saw "the unanimous adoption of this
resolution [as] a vivid demonstration of broad international support for a
federal, democratic, pluralistic and unified Iraq." After this the
Pentagon said the "US planned to cut the numbers of troops next
year." Since then, the opposite has happened. Iraqi troops failed their first
serious test -- in failing to crack down on the Al Mahdi army -- and US forces
grew in numbers.
In order for the US to sign a long-term strategic treaty
with the Iraqi government, it needs a level of stability. The US military
should be able to macro-manage Iraq as troops relegate to their permanent bases
-- 50, according to a report by Patrick Cockburn in the UK Independent -- while
their Iraqi allies give an illusion of sovereignty in dealing with day-to-day
life in Iraq. The US' dilemma is that this coveted stability is nowhere in
Since late 2007, officials in the US, the UN and Iraq have
asserted that they have no intention of seeking another UN mandate. The US-Iraq
treaty is thus the only option that will legalise the American occupation. The
idea of the treaty is to give the impression that the relationship between the
two is not that of the occupied and the occupier, but two sovereigns with
mutual interests and equitable rights.
Iraqis are, unsurprisingly, furious about US expectations
from the treaty. According to Cockburn, "Iraqi officials fear that the
accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military
operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise
Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in
Iraqi cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh was quoted by Iraqi
TV as saying that the government will not compromise on Iraq's sovereignty and
is committed to "safeguarding Iraq's full sovereignty in line with international
Although it is difficult to believe in Prime Minister Al
Maliki's commitment to 'full sovereignty,' one cannot underestimate the
pressure he faces in the parliament -- fractious alliances, nationalists from
various backgrounds, unstable Shia front, sceptical Sunni leadership. Aljazeera
reported on how two of these legislators testified to the House Foreign Affairs
subcommittee that "US troops should leave Iraq before talks on a long-term
security pact could be completed."
Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, the founder of the National Dialogue
Council wants talks delayed "until there is a new administration in the
United States," the exact scenario that the Bush administration is hoping
to avoid. The US wants an agreement by July, one that would be hard to reverse
even by a Democratic president.
To avoid embarrassment, "it's entirely possible that
the Bush administration, sometime this summer, will force the hapless regime of
Prime Minister Maliki to submit to a US diktat on a US-Iraq accord." [Robert
Dreyfuss, The Nation] "If Maliki signs the accord, and ignores the
opposition from parliament, he would instantly lose whatever remaining
credibility he has left as an Iraqi leader," which would lead to more
violence in Iraq on the eve of US elections. "Not a pleasant
scenario," asserts Dreyfuss.
One can argue that no pleasant scenarios are possible in
Iraq at any time under a US military presence. Iraq's past treasures were
squandered immediately after its 'liberation' by US forces, and its present is daunted
by bloodshed and uncertainty. The Bush administration now wants to ensure that
the country's future is also compromised by violence, humiliation and war.Ramzy
Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has
been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People�s
Press, London). Read more about him on his website: ramzybaroud.net.