Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi has been quoted by the state television’s website as expressing his approval of the decision the Iraqi cabinet made Sunday to approve the currently proposed US-Iraqi security agreements.
Raed Jarrar sends us to a translation of the latest text here. (I’ve re-uploaded that hard-to-access text here.)
Regarding the reaction from Tehran, AP tells us that Shahroudi said,
- “The Iraqi government has done very well regarding this… We hope the outcome of (the deal) will be in favor of Islam and Iraqi sovereignty.”
There has been some speculation that Iran’s clerical authorities have adopted this apparently cooperative posture as a gesture of goodwill to the US’s president-elect Barack Obama. Perhaps. But I suspect the stronger force driving this position has been an assessment by the Supreme Leader that having US forces tied down as sitting ducks in very-close-by Iraq through the end of 2011 is seen as a handy guarantor– at least for the next three years– that no-one in Washington will decide to attack Iran in this period.
I have thought for a while– along with Hossein Agha and others– that there’s a significant, possibly dominant, trend in Iran that is opposed to the calls so many of the rest of us around the world have made for a speedy and complete US withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. (Most recently, see this October 28 post I wrote on JWN.)
The speed with which the main factions in the (heavily Tehran influenced) Iraqi government fell into line with the now-proposed SOFA was additional evidence of that. And now we have the quote from Shahroudi, as well.
Of course, the Iraqi government is a slightly different (and probably more easily influenceable) entity than the Iraqi parliament, which is probably more attuned to the nationalist Iraqi (and therefore both anti-US and anti-Tehran) trends in Iraqi society. And the SOFA agreement does still have to be ratified by the parliament in Iraq– even if Pres. Bush still claims it doesn’t need to be submitted for ratification by the elected Congress in Washington. (Go figure.)
The agreement is currently scheduled to be voted on by the Iraqi parliament on November 24. Let’s see what happens between now and then.
Regarding the reported substance of the agreement, I feel somewhat reassured that it apparently states that all US forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. I guess that was one of the non-trivial concessions PM Maliki won from the Americans on behalf of his nationalist constituency?
Specifically, according to Raed’s text, the agreement states in “Article 24: Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq” the following:
- Recognizing the improvement of the Iraqi security forces and their increased capabilities, and the fact that they are in charge of all security operations, and based on the strong relationship between the two sides, both sides have agreed on the following:
1- All U.S. forces must withdraw from all Iraqi territories no later than December 31st 2011.
2- All U.S. combat forces must withdraw from all cities, towns, and villages as soon as the Iraqi forces take over the full security responsibility in them. The U.S. withdrawal from these areas shall take place no later than June 30th, 2009
3- All withdrawn U.S. combat troops in accordance to paragraph 2 [shall] regroup in installations and areas agreed upon located outside cities, towns, and villages. These installations and areas agreed upon will be specified by the Joint Military Operations Coordination Committee (JMOCC) before the date mentioned in paragraph 2 of this article.
4- The U.S. recognizes Iraq’s sovereign right to request a U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq at any time. The Iraqi government recognizes the United States’ sovereign right to request a U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq at any time.
5- Both sides agree on creating mechanisms and arrangements to reduce the U.S. forces levels within the specified time period, and both sides must agree on where these forces will be located.
As the text of an international agreement, this looks pretty solid to me. (Of course, the US has been known to abrogate or flat-out break numerous treaties in the past. Or, it may have its own, significantly different version of that prefatory text.)
This is not the speedy total withdrawal that so many of us in the antiwar movement have worked for, for so long. But it does have one striking advantage over the position Barack Obama has advocated for some time now: namely, it sets a date certain for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq; and as I read the prefatory sentence in Raed’s version– in both English and Arabic– it does not make this withdrawal “conditional” on anything the Iraqi government does.
Meanwhile, as we’ve seen, Moqtada al-Sadr remains opposed to this agreement. So we’ll have to wait and see what its fate is in the Iraqi parliament.
But our Senate here in the US should surely also be working to win the recognition of the outgoing Bush administration that it, too, has the right of ratification– or non-ratification– of this important international treaty?
Where is our democracy here in the US?