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Ayad Allawi

US-Iraq agreement needs work

By Ayad Allawi
November 26, 2008
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THE US GOVERNMENT has presented two agreements to the government of Iraq over the last 10 months. Less than a month ago, a semi-final draft of the agreements was presented to all Iraqi parliamentary blocs, and only last week the final version of the draft was passed on to them for discussions.

The first agreement, the Strategic Framework for Iraqi-US Relations, is a straightforward understanding (that may require a minor adjustment to the security-related section) covering security, political, economic, cultural, and diplomatic issues. It is a welcome "strategic" exchange between two sovereign nations that share significant common objectives, such as working together to defeat terror and create a more stable global environment.

The other agreement, the Status of Forces Agreement, has positive elements as well as significant shortcomings. One important downside is the insistence that the agreement be approved (or rejected) without delay. It is expected to be voted on today.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council mandate ends in December. The Iraqi parliament adjourns this week for three weeks, and the US administration is in transition.

Iraq is also entering into a decisive year. Provincial elections will be held in January, and national elections will be held next December. Legislation of a hydrocarbon law is already overdue, and so are constitutional reforms that include the implementation of the divisive Article 140 on disputed territories in some Iraqi provinces, such as the province of Kirkuk.

Another matter of grave concern is the management of the official talks leading to the Status of Forces Agreement, a process that should have been, since its inception, non-exclusive and transparent, and engaged wider political and other relevant circles. Instead, the process was kept secret and excluded some significant parliamentary blocks. An open debate and flow of information would have made the agreement clearer to politicians and the public, and, consequently, less divisive.

There is no question that Iraqis are indebted to the United States for removing Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical regime, although grave mistakes have been committed since that time.

The Status of Forces Agreement, however, requires further discussions and important amendments, as a significant number of Iraqi members of parliament have demanded.

These amendments and clarifications relate to such important issues as protection of Iraq's assets against claims. In addition, US forces, as vaguely stated in the agreement, may intervene in internal problems at the request of the government. Moreover, lumping together outlaws and the remnants of the Saddam regime indicates the persistence of revenge at the expense of reconciliation.

Iraqis believe that it is important for the United States to remain in Iraq under the current UN Security Council mandate for an additional period of time. This will give both sovereign countries time to discuss and approve a satisfactory Status of Forces Agreement in both the Iraqi parliament and the US Congress, similar to other agreements the United States has had - and Iraq may have - with other friendly nations.

As far as the Strategic Framework Agreement, we are ready to support its ratification.

Ayad Allawi is the former prime minister of Iraq.

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