|Picture Credit: change.org
As US troops were invading Iraq in March 2003, former President George Bush announced that "our forces will be coming home as soon as their work is done." But long afterwards, large numbers of US troops remain in Iraq and the president has not set a timetable or criteria for withdrawal, saying only that the troops will leave once they "complete the mission."
In the early months of the occupation, a majority of the US public felt that occupation forces should stay in Iraq to promote democracy and build a new society. But such opinion has steadily eroded. Only a small minority in the US and abroad now think that the occupation has had (or will have) positive results. Pressure for withdrawal has grown for several reasons -- failure to crush the Iraqi resistance, steady withdrawal of coalition members including a large reduction in UK forces, the US army's inability to meet its recruiting levels because US citizens do not want to serve in Iraq, erosion of the US officer corps as young officers leave the military, high cost of the occupation including its severe impact on the US federal deficit, and finally increasing public opposition as the failure and high cost of the policy becomes apparent.
For these reasons, several high-ranking US military officers have spoken about withdrawal and Congressional opposition to the war has grown. A secret memo surfaced in July 2005, suggesting that Washington may draw down its forces significantly in early 2006. But in February 2007, the US military initiated its "surge" strategy, adding 28,500 troops to the more than 100,000 US forces already in the country. This troop buildup, together with the Pentagon's construction of bases across Iraq, suggest plans to keep a military contingent there into the future, perhaps permanently, for geo-strategic reasons.
This section explores the many aspects of a US military pull-out from Iraq, and arguments for ending the occupation.
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U.S. Planning to Slash Embassy Staff by Half (February 7, 2012)
The US State Department is considering halving the staff at its embassy in Iraq, the largest embassy in the world, with almost 16,000 personnel. As the New York Times
points out, the huge expansion of diplomatic resources in Iraq “may have been ill-advised”. As US troops pull out of Iraq, the embassy’s capabilities have been reduced in the face of security concerns, as well as a certain lack of sympathy from the local population and government toward the vast diplomatic staff and the larger still cohort of heavily armed private security contractors who remain in Baghdad. (NY Times)
Iraqi authorities have detained US security contractors with expired documents. Despite the US military’s withdrawal last December, close to 5,000 security contractors still work for the American Embassy in Baghdad. American officials say that security contractors are necessary for “development” in postwar Iraq. But Iraq has been weary of security contractors since the 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, when Blackwater personnel killed 17 Iraqi civilians. For Iraqi’s, contractors remain a powerful symbol of US Influence. Iraqi authorities have been working to ensure that contractors comply with Iraqi procedures rather than US rules. The act aims to strengthen Iraqi sovereignty. (NY Times)
Even though an official ceremony has marked an end to the war in Iraq, the truth is far more complicated, and it does not necessarily mean that the war is over. The US is leaving behind the world’s largest embassy, a large mission from the State Department and thousands of armed private military contractors. This article questions the task of the State Department in Iraq, as well as the US efforts to weaken the ties between the Iraq and its neighbor Iran. (Salon)
After nearly nine years, the US military official declared an end to the controversial occupation of Iraq. The invasion started with allegations of possession of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism affiliation. It was reframed as bringing democracy to the country. However, the situation is still unstable and violence continues to plague the country. Even though a ceremony officially marked an end to the war, the US still has two military bases and roughly 4,000 troops in the country. (Al Jazeera)
After nearly nine year of war, the US withdrawal from Iraq is likely to be one of the largest movements of military equipment in history. Almost 3 million pieces of equipment must be removed by the end of the year, from helicopters and airplanes to weapons and lights. At the peak of the war, US had more than 170,000 troops, and over 500 military bases. Today, about 18,000 troops remain but soldiers are streaming out of Iraq every day and by Christmas they should all be gone. (Reuters)
By the end of the year, all 30,000 troops left in Iraq must pullout of the country. The nearly nine years long war has come at a high human cost. Cautious estimates of Iraqis killed since 2003 exceed 100,000, and nearly 4,500 US soldiers lost their lives. While there has been some marginal progress in democratic participation and freedom of speech, the country’s infrastructure is in tatters, and Iraqis still live every day in fear of violence. (BBC)
This Guardian opinion piece examines the false notion that the US will leave Iraq in December 2011. While the US military is scheduled to pull out of Iraq in December 2011, it will continue to maintain its influence by keeping US diplomatic stations, US military trainers, NATO forces, and increased drones and targeted assassinations. In anticipation of the military-withdrawal, the US has hired additional private military security companies allowing the US to continue its military presence. The US also is said to operate the principal Iraqi Intelligence service. (Guardian)
On Friday October 21, President Obama stated that he promised to withdraw all US troops from Iraq by the end of the year. This would be the closing of an eight-year long war of great human and financial cost. However, the announced complete withdrawal will not happen. Troops will remain in Iraq, not under the Department of Defense, but as trainers and private military contractors employed by the State Department. In addition, the US will maintain the world’s largest embassy. (Truthout)
This week is the beginning of what is supposed to be the final 100 days of the US occupation of Iraq. This deadline was agreed upon by the very government that the US helped to install, but calls to violate this agreement are growing in Washington. To keep a significant number of troops after the deadline should come only at the request of the Iraqi government and, to this day, no such request has been made. (Common Dreams)
The leader of the Sadrists, the Iraqi Islamist National Movement, Muqtada al Sadr has called for an end of attacks on US “invader” forces before the US withdrawal in December this year. However, al Sadr has made clear that his movement will not accept any US troops after December. Al Sadr has stated that armed operations will resume if the occupation continues. Oblivious to Sadrist demands, the US has decided to keep about 3,000 US troops, calling them “trainers” and up to 7,000 "private military contractors". The larger the number that the US leaves behind will, the more it will feed the perception of US “occupation.” (Al Jazeera)
The US has promised to withdraw troops and contractor personnel from Iraq by the end of the year, as required by a 2008 security agreement between Washington and Baghdad. However, the number of State Department-hired private security personnel and personnel from the Deparment of Defense (DoD) that will remain is unclear. The DoD is facing the complicated task of withdrawing troops, contractors, equipments and other assets from the bases, while at the same preventing attacks and looting of US government assets. According to a Government Accountability Office report, the DoD and State Department are not equiped to deal with this situation and a third of the army equipment could be lost. (Truthout)
Almost a decade after initiating the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is struggling to maintain stability in both nations, jeopardizing its timeline for withdrawal. While both wars have distinctly different issues at play, there are also significant similarities. This year has seen persisting violence in Afghanistan and the continuing influence of the Taliban in government. Similarly, Iraq has experienced mounting attacks on civilians and soldiers, highlighting the fragility of the nation. Despite Obama’s election promises to withdrawal and in light of Washington’s rapidly declining influence over these countries, it appears that the US is now less than willing to leave. (Open Democracy)
Recent discussions on Iraq have centered mainly on the timeline for the withdrawal of troops. This ignores the heavy costs borne by the Iraqi people resulting from the war. The costs are not only financial but also human and environmental. The war has displaced 4.7 million people, unemployment levels range from 15 to 30 percent, electricity and water resources are scarce, violence and danger are commonplace. As the troops withdraw and attention turns to other areas of international conflict, the ongoing costs of the war in Iraq must not be forgotten. (Foreign Policy in Focus)
The US State department is looking to deploy more than 5,100 private military security personnel in Iraq from January 2012. The private personnel will supposedly act as an armed “security” force for 12,000 US State department staff members. This article describes them as “a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade.” The US State department is not disclosing details, however, and is obstructing requests for information made by the independent government watchdog (the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR)). The US State department has hired private security for its diplomats in war zones for more than a decade. Poor control of them caused one of the biggest debacles of the Iraq war. (Wired)
Iraqi officials are considering whether to ask US troops (currently numbering 46,000) to stay in Iraq following the official withdrawal date. Remaining troops would apparently be involved in training and border issues. However, the US has asked for immunity from prosecution suggesting that troops may also be involved in more sensitive areas of work. Some Iraqi parliamentarians are resistant to the idea of any US troops remaining within the country, saying that the focus should now be on education and development. (Washington Post)
The US government has made many suggestions that Iraq will “need” a US troop presence past October 2011, when the US military is scheduled to withdraw. Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has publicly suggested that Iran’s tumultuous relationship with other countries in the region is another reason to keep US forces in Iraq. Gates said last month that a continued US military presence in Iraq would be "reassuring" to Gulf States. (Aljazeera)
The nominee to be the next US defense secretary, Leon Panetta, said that Iraq will ask the US to keep troops in the country beyond an end-of-2011 pullout deadline. It seems likely that the US has offered Iraq some inducements to maintain its troop presence. However, it will be difficult to justify retaining troops in Iraq both in the US and Iraq. (BBC)
The US State Department has requested a budget of $6.3billion for Iraq in 2012, its first year after US troops withdraw. This is almost triple its current budget and almost half of it ($3 billion) is to be spent on private military security companies. The US State Department plans to hire a 5,100-strong force in Iraq. It currently employs around only 1,800 diplomatic security personnel around the world. Further, the military is handing over nearly 4,000 pieces of military hardware to the State Department, equipment valued at approximately $209 million. This raises questions as to what the real nature of the US’ continuing presence and the presence of private military security companies in Iraq will be. (The Wall Street Journal
In October 2011, full responsibility for the US’ presence in Iraq will be transferred from the US military to the Department of State. The US embassy in Iraq is the largest embassy in the world but the Department of State has requested that its budget for 2012 almost triple in size (to $6.3billion) and expects to double its presence to 17,000 personnel. This number includes mercenaries and support roles, with only a few hundred traditional diplomats. Thus, Iraq will continue to be run by a heavily militarized US State Department -- unless Congress refuses to pay for it. This is unlikely to be received well in a changing and increasingly politicized Middle East. (Tom Dispatch)
A new report by the US Department of State suggests its diplomatic mission in Iraq – already the largest in the world – will not be viable without considerable support and resources from the Department of Defense. This has raised questions as to what the real nature of the US’ continuing presence in Iraq will be, particularly as the US State Department plans to eventually deploy 17,000 political, economic and security personnel (mercenaries) throughout Iraq. (Washington Post)
The UK will end its military operation in Iraq with only 44 UK military personnel remaining there. UK defense secretary Liam Fox commended the Royal Navy personnel for their role in training the Iraqi navy. The Iraqi navy will play a key role in protecting Iraq's territorial waters and the oil infrastructure. However, David Miliband, who was foreign secretary between June 2007 and May 2010, criticized the military operation in Iraq for failing to develop a proper strategy for peace – a goal yet to be achieved. (Merco Press
The US is due to withdraw its 50,000 remaining troops from Iraq at the end of 2011. However, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has stated that Iraq will face "significant difficulties" in security, logistics and maintenance if the complete withdrawal goes ahead as planned. This article from Radio Free Europe reflects Gates' argument that the Iraqi army is not "ready" to act alone, while admitting that sovereign Iraq may just decide otherwise. (Radio Free Europe)
In his first interview since the elections last spring, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the Iraqi government wants the US of the country out by the end of 2011. Maliki, who struggled throughout 2010 to form a government, is working to keep all of the coalition parties appeased. The strong stance against the US presence is part of the internal political process. The question remains, however, if there will be another agreement like the Status of Forces Agreement that will extend the American stay into 2012. (The Wall Street Journal)
This month, United States President Barack Obama will end combat operations in Iraq, but it is still not clear who "won" the war, if anyone. There is no security in the country-hundreds are still killed every month. There is little by way of functioning, sustainable infrastructure. Oil production is less than what is was under Saddam Hussein. The US is leaving in its wake a country that is just as, if not more, divided and divisive today as it was the day of the invasion. Perhaps the Obama Administration has gained a political victory, but this author asserts that the Iraqi people have lost on nearly every front. (Spiegel International)
Seven years and five months after the beginning of the war, the remaining US combat forces left Iraq. A force of around 56 000 remain for training purposes, but will depart by the end of the year. With this past July as the bloodiest month since May 2008, the head of the Iraqi army, General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, has warned that the US is pulling out too soon. But many Iraqis believe that peace in their country will be closer when the last occupiers depart. (The Independent)
Speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Atlanta, Obama reaffirmed his commitment to an on-schedule withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. As doubts increase about the US involvement in Afghanistan, especially among Obama's domestic support base, the administration is drawing attention to progress in Iraq. The positive rhetoric is eerily reminiscent of former President Bush's slogan of "mission accomplished" in Iraq and sounds rather empty when contrasted with reports of failed reconstruction efforts and political paralysis in Iraq. (Christian Science Monitor)
According to the Status of Forces Agreement, US forces are supposed to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011; meanwhile the US State Department has approached Congress with a proposal to substantially increase the number of private security contractors in the country. These contractors are employed to provide "diplomatic security" to US bases and the Vatican-sized US Embassy in Iraq and they provide a convenient cover for maintaining significant US presence in a post-withdrawal Iraq. As Scahill puts it, "what is unfolding is the face of President Obama's scaled-down, rebranded mini-occupation of Iraq." (The Nation)
A top US military commander in Iraq has said that UN peacekeeping forces may be required to protect oil-rich disputed territories in the north of the country after US troop withdrawal in 2011 - if ethnic tensions do not ease by then. The current UN mission in Iraq does not include peacekeeping and a new resolution would have to be passed to mandate this. While a UN peacekeeping force present in a policing and observatory role might facilitate a full US troop withdrawal from Iraq, there is also the danger that such a force could, in effect, continue the occupation of the country under a different guise. (Associated Press)
US officials have decided to scale back a project for developing a citywide sewage treatment system in Fallujah, Iraq which began in 2004, and has so far delivered no results and caused four Iraqi worker deaths. The Fallujah case is just the tip of the iceberg; abandoned and sub-par reconstruction work is the norm and not the exception. As US troops withdraw, the projects already underway in Iraq are being rushed to ensure completion, quality of work notwithstanding, while construction flaws are becoming apparent in already completed structures. Local Iraqi officials who bring up quality and safety standards are threatened with funding cuts from the projects in their province. (New York Times)
As US troops begin to withdraw from Iraq this year, hazardous waste material from dismantled bases is being dumped locally rather than being sent back to the US for safe disposal. Waste includes engine oil and aviation fuel, discarded batteries, canisters of corrosive liquids and compressed gas cylinders. Some materials are lying unattended in open grounds within easy reach of children and near irrigated fields where they could contaminate the soil and crops. Some waste processing has been outsourced to local scrap dealers who complain of rashes, blisters and other side-effects from exposure to unlabeled or mislabeled materials. (The Times)
In an interview with The Real News, Amjad Ali, the international representative for the Iraq Freedom Congress, speaks about the new kind of economic occupation which will ensue in Iraq in the wake of the withdrawal of US combat forces. Earlier this year, the IMF approved a $3.6 billion loan to Iraq which comes with a stringent set of conditions, including a massive privatization campaign and a significant decrease in public spending. According to Ali, almost 80% of Iraq's production is in the public sector; public companies put up for sale will be snatched up by Iraq's elite, creating greater economic inequalities and aggravating the unemployment problem in Iraq. As public spending begins to be cut, the dwindling social safety measures in Iraq, such as a food stamps program initiated in the 1990s, have already begun to take a hard hit. (Real News Network)
As the first self-imposed deadline for withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq approaches in August 2010, political analyst Raed Jarrar calls for efforts to ensure that it is actually honored. While the agreement on withdrawal was reached after much pressure from the public in Iraq and the United States, there is considerable fear that the hard work may go to waste in the absence of strict guarantee. In such a climate, says Jarrar, it is crucial to revitalize citizen advocacy efforts and push for greater congressional oversight, to guarantee that the respective deadlines are met in full by the Obama administration. (Alternet)
A group of Iraq veterans who have become peace advocates link climate change and US foreign policy. While serving in Iraq, they were unable to ascertain a reason for their deployment other than the protection of oil resources. These veterans now lobby Congress to reduce the nation's dependence on oil in order to conserve the environment. Even for those who do not believe climate change is occurring due to human-led degradation, or do not feel it is dangerous, the war in Iraq should demonstrate clearly that oil dependence poses a threat to US - not to mention Iraqi - security. (Poltics Daily)
US General David Petraeus confirmed that the number of US troops stationed in Iraq will be reduced from the present number of 97,000 to 50,000 by the end of August to meet President Obama's withdrawal target, with all forces withdrawn by the end of 2011. However, the US may leave a stronger than expected force in "fragile" northern Iraq and troops who remain in Iraq after September 1 in an "advise and assist" capacity will still have the authorization to conduct military operations. (Reuters
Congress has approved legislation confirming US withdrawal from Iraq by December 31, 2011 - the same date originally agreed upon in the US-Iraq agreement of November 2008. According to this legislation, the Pentagon is to provide Congress with quarterly updates concerning the progress of withdrawal. It remains to be seen whether Congress is prepared to enforce a withdrawal and how large residual force with bases the Pentagon will leave in the country. (AFSC)
The Iraqi government has announced a plan to hold a referendum on US withdrawal, which could result in the US military leaving a year ahead of schedule. This decision coincides with General Odierno's declaration that he intends to deploy more troops in northern Iraq, where there has been increased violence and casualties. (Washington Post)
The security pact agreed by the Iraqi government and the United States last year allowed US troops to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011. But the Iraqi parliament, in ratifying the pact, stipulated a public referendum on the agreement before June 30, 2009. The deadline has passed without a vote or even a clear date set. Pressure from Washington and complicity by the government of Nuri al-Maliki has indefinitely delayed the referendum, which was likely to lead to public rejection of the occupation and an early US troop withdrawal.(Truthout)
As the US forces pull out of Iraq, the country faces many difficulties as it attempts to rebuild. The current political class in Iraq, which emerged following the occupation in 2003, is the most corrupt and incompetent the country has ever seen. Zaid Al-Ali argues the need to fill the legal and regulatory vacuum, created by the occupation, with "clean and efficient Iraqi institutions built from the bottom up." ( Open Democracy )
The Pentagon has declared it is prepared to stay in Iraq and extend its combat and stability operations with 50,000 US military personnel for a decade. The Pentagon's statement strongly contradicts Obama's 2008 campaign promise of a complete withdrawal in June 2009. Furthermore, an extension of the occupation violates the legally binding agreement between the US and Iraqi government, which calls for the withdrawal of all combat troops by 2012. (Telegraph)
Britain, the US' closest ally in the Iraqi occupation, will withdraw most of its 4,000 troops by May 2009. However a 400-man force will stay in the country for "training" purposes. The US will take over the former UK post in Southern Iraq on April 31, 2009. American Lt Col Johnson told the BBC: "The bottom line, the aim of the transition itself, is to make sure it's seamless and that there's generally no perception that the US army is here and they are going to do things different than the British did when they were here," indicating that the US will take over the UK combat mandate in the Southern provinces. (BBC)
Despite President Obama's statements that all US forces would withdraw from Iraq, the US will probably leave a "transition force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops in the country until mid-2010. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stated that these forces "will be characterized differently." But the new Brigades Enhanced for Stability Operations (BESO) will be nothing more than combat forces, with the exception that there will be a few "Advisory and Assistance" units added. (Inter Press Service)
Due to opposing forces in the Pentagon, US President Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq by 2011 appears unlikely. US military commanders are making plans to keep a significant number of troops in the country after the 2011 deadline. A senior military commander stated that the SOFA agreement could be extended indefinitely depending on undetermined "conditions on the ground." This idea is reconfirmed by the construction of the US embassy in Baghdad, which stands as the largest embassy in history. (Alternet)
US General Michael Oates, commander for the eight southern provinces of Iraq, challenges fellow army officials Petraeus and Odierno. Both Commanders believe President Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan is too rapid and suggest a 23-month withdrawal instead. General Oates favors a more rapid withdrawal from Iraq and claims "we need to get out of the country and let the Iraqis take responsibility for their areas." Furthermore, General Oates disputes US intelligence reports showing that Shi'a militias operating in the south of Iraq, were trained in Iran. (Inter Press Service)
The Iraqi opposition views the SOFA agreement as catering to US interests. Even though the pact sets the goal of a phased withdrawal of US Forces by 2011, it also provides a legal setting for a continued occupation by foreign forces. Mazloum, a retired Egyptian army general, states that "The terms of the agreement are ambiguous and contain a number of possible legal loopholes." (AlterNet)
The spokesman for the al-Maliki government, Ali al-Dabbagh, says Iraq will need a US troop presence in the country for up to 10 years despite the Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) calling for the full withdrawal of US forces by 2011. This announcement suggests the al-Maliki government privately holds the ambition to keep US forces in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline and this questions the entire legitimacy of the SOFA. (Reuters)
Iraq's Parliament has passed the Status of Forces Agreement by a simple majority of 149 votes to 275. Raed Jarrar notes that if the Parliament followed constitutional protocol the agreement would have needed a two thirds majority to pass (183 votes), meaning the treaty would not have been ratified. Despite the Parliament violating constitutional rules, a referendum scheduled for July 2009 should ultimately decide the future of the treaty. (Truthout)
The Status of Forces Agreement calls for the definite withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq by 2011 regardless of the security conditions on the ground. However US Admiral Michael Mullen states the US military could alter the 2011 deadline if necessary. (Truthout)
This agreement calls for the withdrawal of US troops by 2011 as well as prohibiting the US from using Iraq to conduct raids on other countries. Iraq's Cabinet has approved the accord but ratification from the country's Parliament remains uncertain. Many of Iraq's parliamentarians fear the US will manipulate the agreement to prolong the occupation.
Iraq's Cabinet has approved the Status of Forces Agreement which sets the timetable for a complete withdrawal of US troops by 2011. The security pact also prohibits the US from using Iraq to conduct raids on other countries. However, Iraq's Parliament could still overrule the agreement as a two thirds majority is required to ratify the pact. (McClatchy)
Commander of US forces in Iraq, Ray Odierno, has threatened Iraqi officials that they would lose US$6.3 billion in aid for construction unless the Iraqi parliament approves the Status of Forces agreement. If the Iraqi parliament vetoes the agreement and if Washington and al-Maliki are unable to extend the UN mandate, the US military presence would become an illegal occupation under international law. (McClatchy)
A majority of Iraq's Parliament and Cabinet opposes the Status of Forces agreement, which would allow a continued US presence in Iraq. Gareth Porter argues that this opposition has created friction between Washington and Iraq's Prime Minster al-Maliki, as the US invaded Iraq to secure a long term US presence in the country. (Inter Press Service)
Raed Jarrar argues that the Iraqi Parliament knows very little about the proposed security agreement with the US since Washington and the al-Maliki government held negotiations behind closed doors. Jarrar contends that al-Maliki chose not to oppose the US. However, the Parliament could essentially defeat the agreement, forcing the US and al-Maliki to seek another UN mandate. (Democracy Now)
A draft agreement between Washington and the al-Maliki government will permit US combat troops to stay in Iraq until end of 2011 while also allowing Iraq to bring US troops to trail for major crimes committed outside US military bases and outside combat operations. Iraq's parliament may oppose the draft agreement, forcing al-Maliki and the US to explore other options, such as the extension of the UN multinational force mandate set to expire in December 2008. (Mercury News)
Many of the US soldiers, who are unwilling to be deployed in Iraq because of their opposition to the war, are discouraged by their chain of command in applying for conscientious objector status. This pressure from commanding officers forces an increasing number of US troops to desert the military instead of serving in Iraq. (AlterNet)
This AlterNet article discusses the leaked US-Iraqi bilateral agreement and questions the validity of the Bush administration's plan to withdraw 8,000 troops in February 2009. Raed Jarrar confirms that despite opposition by the Iraqi Parliament and the majority of the Iraqi population, the US hopes to have a long term US military presence in Iraq with unprecedented rights and immunities including permanent bases.
Despite ongoing pressure from the Bush administration, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has toughened his stance on a fixed date for the withdrawal of US troops. Mr. Maliki claimed the bilateral security agreement, between Iraq and the US, could not conclude unless it respects the sovereignty of Iraq and guarantees that "no foreign soldiers remain in Iraqi soil after a defined time ceiling." US officials hope to secure immunity for US soldiers under the agreement, as well as maintain military bases within the country for the unforeseeable future. (New York Times)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has refused to endorse a bi-lateral agreement that would legitimize a long-term US military presence in Iraq. The Prime Minister has consolidated his powers within the government as well as in relation to armed groups. For example, Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr refused to launch a concerted resistance against US and Iraqi forces in 2007 in order to strengthen al-Maliki's case against the occupation. Under these new power relations, al-Maliki has become less dependent on the US government and has been able to influence the Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement by demanding a timetable for US military withdrawal. (Inter Press Service)
The US-led invasion of Iraq has destroyed local infrastructure, killed many Iraqis and displaced a large number. In this statement, Iraqi politician Saleh al-Mutlaq rejects a long-term security agreement between the US and Iraq. He states that a US-Iraq agreement can only be agreed when the US respects Iraq's sovereignty and regards itself as a friend of the Iraqi people and not as a friend of a sectarian government. (Asharq al-Awsat)
Shifting from his previous position, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouiri al-Maliki demands a timetable for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. US-backed Maliki is under a lot of pressure from the Iraqi people as well as the powerful Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). The Prime Minister also seeks support of Sunni-led neighboring countries such as the United Arab Emirates. His statement challenges US efforts to maintain a permanent presence in Iraq under a broad-based bilateral agreement between the two countries. (Agence Global)
Neither US officials, nor Iraq's foreign minister, believe that the two countries will reach a full security agreement this year. The negotiations are deadlocked over issues like Iraqi control over US military operations and the right of US soldiers to detain Iraqi suspects. But the two countries have agreed to lift immunity for security companies, like Blackwater USA, subjecting them to prosecution under Iraqi law. The security companies have a history of using excessive force when protecting foreign clients, which became a political issue in 2007, as Blackwater shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Bagdad.(New York Times)
US Congress Members James P. McGovern, John F. Tierney, and William D. Delahunt warn that a long-term security agreement between Iraq and the US will lead to endless war and a permanent presence of US forces in the Middle East. Instead, the congress members propose that UN forces should take over in January 2009 and that the US normalize relations with neighboring Syria and seek rapprochement with Iran.(Boston Globe)
Hundreds of followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr protest against the plan of a long term security pact between Iraq and the US, which will provide a legal framework for the presence of US forces after the UN mandate expires. The protesters say that the bi-lateral agreement will humiliate Iraqis, erase their sovereignty and give the occupier the upper hand. The deal has also drawn criticism from other powerful Shiite leaders as well as Sunni politicians.(Associated Press)
The US continues to withhold US$50billion of Iraq's money, in an attempt to pressure the Iraqi government into accepting a US-Iraqi security agreement. Many Iraqis see the bilateral treaty as a way to prolong the US occupation indefinitely and fear the government will approve the contract in return for marginal concessions. Iraq's financial reserves remain in the US Federal Reserve Bank as a consequence of the international sanctions against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s.(Independent)
This letter shows that a majority of Iraqi parliamentarians would reject a Security Agreement with the US that fails to provide a specific timetable for a full military withdrawal. Further, the parliamentarians point out that any arrangement, not ratified by the Iraqi legislative power, is unconstitutional and illegal. Thirty-one members of the Iraqi parliament have signed the letter stating, that they will endorse an agreement ending the US intervention in Iraq's internal affairs.
General David Petraeus, the leading US commander in Iraq and Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador to Iraq, testified before the House Armed Services Committee and two Senate committees that "a major departure from our current engagement [in Iraq] would bring failure." Despite an admission that the US "has not turned any corners or seen any lights at the end of the tunnel," both men maintained that troop withdrawals should halt. (International Herald Tribune)
The Bush administration emphasizes the power of Al-Qaeda and the possibility of it taking over Iraq as a justification for continuing the occupation. Less powerful than groups like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda is a "non-territorial global entity which has never tried to implement an Islamic state, even in Afghanistan, where it found sanctuary in 1990s." The ethnicities of Al-Qaeda members are diverse and fragmented; therefore, Al-Qaeda does not have the local support needed to gain power in Iraq or Afghanistan. (International Herald Tribune)
The US Senate authorized US$189 billion for the Iraq war, without any mention of a timetable for troop withdrawal, despite this being a key Democratic demand. The bill covers the budget year ending in September 2008. In total, it authorizes US$696 billion for military spending, including US$189 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. (BBC)
The House of Representatives passed a bill that provides US$50 billion to fund the war in Iraq and attaches a timetable for the withdrawal of troops by the end of 2008. The bill prevents the White House from using funds to construct permanent bases in Iraq or assert US control over Iraq's oil. However, commentators say President Bush will veto the bill. Congressional Democrats claim that the bill responds to the concerns of US citizens about the length and the costs of the war. (Washington Post)
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the US is engaged in a "pointless" battle in Iraq and should set a date for withdrawal. In a question and answer session, Putin told the Russian public that while the US can remove a "tyrannical regime ... it's absolutely pointless to fight with a people." He said the US remains in Iraq with the motivation to control Iraq's oil reserves. (BBC)
US military officials say that the capture and interrogation of suspected leaders of al-Qaeda In Iraq (AQI) has led to a 60 to 70 percent drop in AQI's capabilities. The military report demonstrates the Bush administration's argument that US troops must remain in the region to defeat "the most lethal US adversary in Iraq." The threat of AQI joins a long list of justifications for the war and for the continued US presence in the country. (Washington Post)
The US government argues against withdrawal from Iraq on the basis that US forces must stay and defeat "al-Qaeda in Iraq" (AQI). Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland suggest that a timetable for withdrawal is the only way to eliminate AQI. With the US presence, many political groups, such as the Anbar Salvation Front, who attempt to defeat al-Qaeda are seen by Iraqis as collaborating with the occupiers. Public opinion research shows that while all of Iraq's ethnic groups oppose AQI, half of all Iraqis support the group's attacks on coalition troops. This suggests that as long as the US stays in the country, AQI will remain there too. (AlterNet)
The Bush administration claims that its surge strategy which introduced 30,000 more troops into Iraq in early 2007 succeeded overall in its aim to secure Baghdad to allow for reconciliation. Yet the humanitarian crisis is worsening, with 2.5 million Iraqi refugees, 2 million internally displaced, limited electricity and other basic services plus economic depression and unemployment, commentators suggest the surge strategy has actually failed. In this Nation article, the author argues that only with complete US withdrawal can international mediation and peacekeeping through the UN take place.
A bill calling for longer leave times for troops serving in Iraq is rejected by Republicans in the US Senate. Commentators suggest the vote signals the Bush administration's monopoly on Iraqi policy. The Democrats hoped that the bill would receive more bipartisan support as it focuses on troops and their families. Political commentators indicate that no meaningful change of votes or substantial bills shifting Iraq policy will be possible by the end of 2007. (Washington Post)
In this Counterpunch article, Patrick Cockburn argues that General Petraeus' report to Congress "manipulates figures and facts to produce a picture of Iraq that is not merely distorted but substantively false." Commentators question the methodology used by the US military to measure the situation in Iraq. Cockburn suggests the true indicator of violence in Iraq is the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes which has risen from 50,000 to 60,000 per month. Iraqis do not have access to medical treatment;the food rationing system is breaking down and unemployment is at 68 percent.
According to political commentators, the testimony given by General David Petraeus to US Congress is "an anticlimactic outcome of what had been building as a potential turning point in the debate over the war." In this Washington Postarticle, the authors note comments from Democrat representative Robert Wexler who compared General Petraeus' testimony to General William Westmoreland's speech during the Vietnam War. The Democrat asks General Petraeus "how many more names will be added to the wall before we admit it is time to leave?" Meanwhile, neither the General nor Ambassador Ryan Crocker spoke of Iraqi's performance on the 18 benchmarks outlined by Congress. This is despite a September 15, 2007 deadline for President George Bush to report to Congress on the success of these benchmarks.
Testifying before US Congress, General David Petraeus recommends that based on "substantial progress" in the security situation in Iraq, troop numbers can be reduced to pre-surge levels by summer 2008. The General says the decline in 'security incidents' in Iraq is attributable to Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. The General refuses to set a timeline for further troop reductions past 2008, as "projecting too far in the future ... can be misleading and even hazardous." He warns of the implications of rapid withdrawal of US forces and says a solution to Iraq's problems requires a long-term effort.
This TomDispatch article examines the "carefully defined and cherry picked" numbers presented by the US government and General David Petraeus to sell progress in Iraq. The author says marketing tools have been used by the US since before the war. To illustrate the manipulation of numbers, the author presents a comprehensive list of his own alternative numbers - 17 nations withdrawn from the coalition of the willing, US$3 billion cost of the war per week, and 50,000 Iraqis fleeing their homes each month.
According to a BBC World Service poll
, the majority of US and international public opinion indicates US forces should leave Iraq within a year. Of the 22 countries surveyed in the poll, 19 of those countries want the US out of Iraq, but few think this will happen. The survey also finds 49 percent believe the US plans to keep permanent military bases in Iraq. Doug Miller, the director of GlobeScan who coordinated the poll, says the majority of global public opinion "is opposed to the Bush administration's current policy of letting security conditions in Iraq dictate the timing of US troop withdrawal." (World Public Opinion
An independent commission created by US Congress advises that the Iraqi police and military cannot take a leading role in securing Iraq in the foreseeable future. The commission recommends disbanding the Shiite-dominated Iraqi national police citing the 26,000 member force as "incapable" of protecting Iraqi neighborhoods. The report says that while the Iraqi forces improved slightly, they still suffered from "limited operational effectiveness." Political commentators predict that US President George Bush will use the report to argue that US forces need to stay in Iraq. On the other hand, commentators believe the Democrats will use the findings to argue for resources to be shifted to train Iraqi police and army units so that US troops can withdraw. (New York Times)
In this policy paper, the authors suggest that a solution to ending the war in Iraq lies in the lessons learnt from Bosnia, Kosovo, Congo, Somalia, Mozambique and Northern Ireland. They argue that these conflicts demonstrate that "force alone will not translate into sustainable peace." Only a negotiated settlement between the warring parties, a diplomatic initiative and the leadership of the UN will provide security in the country. See full policy paper.
According to this poll commissioned by the BBC, ABC and NHK to assess the effects of the US military's surge strategy, 70 percent of Iraqis believe the strategy has made Iraq's security situation worse. The poll finds 47 percent of Iraqis want US-led forces to leave Iraq immediately and 34 percent want the troops to leave when the security situation improves. The results of the survey indicate the surge has hampered conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development and has not improved security. The findings come as US Commander General David Petraeus prepares to deliver his own assessment of the 'surge' strategy to Congress.
The US publicly blames the displacement of Iraqis on 'sectarian' violence. But this New York Times article describes how the US surge strategy has caused the number of internally displaced Iraqis to double to 1.1 million since its February 2007 implementation. This is despite the Bush administration's claim that the troop build-up improves security.
In this New York Times opinion piece, seven US soldiers warn against assessing security in Iraq from an "America-centered perspective." The soldiers are disturbed that the Bush administration portrays the conflict in Iraq as "manageable." They attribute the lack of basic social and economic conditions in Iraq to the US failure to follow through with its promises. Further, they view Washington's pressure for political gains on the Iraqi government as futile. The article stresses that the reality of conditions in Iraq is far removed from the "manageable" situation being sold by the Bush administration.
Tensions rise in Washington as the US military is preparing its September 2007 report assessing the "progress" made in Iraq since the troop surge. Senior congressional aides suggest the authors of the report, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, may not present the report in Congress or publicly testify before the relevant US Senate committees. Political commentators consider the report as "a make or break assessment of Bush's war strategy, and one that will come amid rising calls for a drawdown of US forces in Iraq." (Washington Post)
After Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to Washington, British military chiefs say that their troops will withdraw from Southern Iraq. The anticipated departure signals a consensus in the British military that the war is a "lost cause." (Sunday Telegraph)
As the debate rages over a US withdrawal from Iraq, some speculate that the US will compensate for any drawdown of troops on the ground by asserting permanent control of Iraqi skies. Such a strategy will likely provoke a "struggle for dominance [of Iraq's air space] which will determine the balance of power in the Middle East for decades to come." (Agence Global)
The US is increasingly using Sunni militia to fight al Qaeda in Anbar Province. The shift in US military strategy signals a drastic reversal of US policy, which less than a year ago refused "those with ties to the insurgency to gain access to local security organs." (Inter Press Service)
The Bush administration often boldly predicts that a high level of chaos will "surely" follow even a partial US troop pullout from Iraq. Such predictions ignore the uncertainty of the future, yet several mainstream media outlets have embraced this reasoning against a full-scale withdrawal. This TomDispatch article dismisses this "future bloodbath of the imagination" as part of a propaganda campaign to maintain a long-term US presence in Iraq.
Some resistance leaders in Iraq plan to establish a public profile for the powerful yet largely underground movement. Although sectarian tensions have deepened during the course of the war, various Sunni and Shia insurgent groups share the common objective of ending the US occupation of Iraq. In addition to calling for a complete withdrawal of US forces, the resistance intends to create a political platform "to become an influential voice in a future Iraq." (Guardian)
This Baltimore Sun article highlights the logistical challenges and the corresponding costs of extricating US military personnel and equipment from Iraq. In light of all the supplies that the US has accumulated over the past four years, experts predict that a withdrawal could be a Herculean task, especially as the road south to Kuwait is increasingly cut by insurgents.
Having previously argued against a timetable for a US troop withdrawal from Iraq, the New York Times now calls for an end to the war. This editorial raises important issues about the technical aspects of an exit strategy, urging that it "be based on reality and backed by adequate resources," unlike the 2003 invasion. Contrary to Bush administration propaganda, a growing number of critics recognize that "staying the course" in Iraq will only generate further violence and bloodshed, and could potentially destabilize the region.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, mainstream media outlets reported very little on the multi-billion dollar construction of US military bases and the massive embassy in Baghdad, essentially ignoring evidence of a permanent US presence in the country. But recently, the media have begun to portray this long-term plan - the "Korea model" - as "breaking news." Describing US military interventions in other countries as "the American way of Empire," this TomDispatch article, however, argues that the Bush administration has long held such imperial ambitions.
The Bush administration is proposing a "Korean model" in Iraq -- a US presence on Iraqi soil for years to come. Both President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have made reference to Vietnam, claiming that US failure stemmed from a hasty withdrawal from the country. A variety of critics, including Donald L. Kerrick, a retired military general and Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council of Foreign Relations, argue that Iraq and Korea are two very different countries. (New York Times)
US President George W. Bush announced that after the end of the troop surge in the summer of 2007, US policy will shift and follow the Baker-Hamilton plan. The Bush administration initially rejected the plan in December 2007, but will now utilize it in hopes of gaining broader support. The strategy focuses on training the Iraqi army, decreasing US troops, sending US Special Forces operations to fight al-Qaeda, and opening diplomatic relations with Iran. (Washington Post)
The majority of the Iraqi Parliament signed a petition demanding a US timetable for withdrawal. The document will be presented to the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament who, according to the country's law, must then put it to a vote. Such a move shows that politics are shifting in Iraq as Sunnis and Shias are putting aside their differences and uniting to stand against the occupation. This emerging group opposes the oil law and Maliki's government, while supporting an independent, sovereign and united Iraq. Although the US labels the nationalists as "extremist," they have the support of most Iraqis, who oppose the occupation and see the nationalists as the best hope for reconciliation in Iraq. (AlterNet)
The bill passed by Democrats in the US Congress mandating a withdrawal from Iraq does not establish a full-scale troop pull out. The document includes various exceptions, allowing US soldiers to remain in the country to protect US-owned facilities and citizens, train Iraqi Security Forces and launch special projects against al-Qaeda. An Institute for Policy Studies analysis said that the "protection forces" and advisors could add up to 40,000 to 60,000 US troops. Further, the bill does not deal with the permanent bases and the private mercenaries, suggesting that the US intends to maintain its presence in Iraq for a long time.(TomDispatch)
This Washington Post opinion piece claims that the withdrawal of US troops would generate more sectarian violence and create a humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of the Rwandan genocide. The author uses the discourse of "humanitarian intervention" to justify the US presence in Iraq. However, critics argue that the occupation has indeed exacerbated, if not generated, violence in the country.
Six members of the Iraqi Cabinet, loyal to the nationalist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, left the government to protest Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's support of the US occupation. According to the Sadrist politicians, "Maliki is ignoring the will of the people over the issue of a timed American withdrawal." Many Shias also see the US as manipulating Iraqi politics in order to prevent them from gaining real power. The departure of al-Sadr representatives could destabilize Maliki's government, which depends on the Shia majority in the Parliament. Further, this episode reflects the increasing discontent with the US occupation among Iraqis. (Independent)