What’s the Big Deal?
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
The Bush-Maliki agreement for a potentially long-term US troop presence in Iraq has come under harsh criticism, and justifiably so. Where was the need of the deal, signed Monday, when Washington has nothing to negotiate with Baghdad, the obvious small guy in this pact.
The US should have realized that it will have to be in Iraq for the long haul as the Iraq invasion was not a picnic and certainly not a Nicaragua-style vacation. Skeptics also believe that the US meant to stay in Iraq for years in order to fry a much bigger fish than Saddam Hussein and his so-called weapons of mass destruction.
There's far too much under Iraq to pass up, the growing threat of Iran and the urgent need to protect Israel from Syria. Turkey's refusal to let the US use its territory as a springboard into Iraq was a clear sign that the US needed to look for other alternatives.
The Americans will stay in Iraq not just because they have to, but because they can. Dhafir Al-Ani, a Sunni lawmaker associated with the National Concord Front, the main Sunni political faction in the Iraqi parliament, summed it up best when he said that the agreement was signed between non-equal parties. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki knows full well that he isn't in much of a position to negotiate, because he doesn't have a reliable security apparatus to keep the country away from militancy.
This is a very binding agreement. The Americans can leave if they want to, but won't. The Iraqis want the Americans to leave, but they can't let them leave. The only thing left to haggle over, then, is where in Iraq the US base(s) will be established?
Those calling for the US to set a timetable for the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq should realize that such a demand is simply pointless. They want a timetable in the hope that it will be measured in months rather than decades. But they fail to see the signs that this was never meant to happen.
This is all very counterproductive, even if it means lucrative chunks of business for the likes of Halliburton. The fact is that the Americans will never be welcome in Iraq for any length of time, not when they continue to act as if they own the country. Perhaps in a way, they do, now that they have made their deal with Maliki. Everything else is a matter of appearances, and the vicious cycle of violence - now in what might be a temporary lull - is set to go on for sometime to come.