July 07, 2008

Today's Iraki news!! (you go idiot Dick Cheney and eveyrone else)

Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demands US withdrawal timetable

James Hider, Times

July 7, 2008

Iraq said for the first time today that it wanted to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from its territory.

US President George Bush has long resisted any set schedule for pulling his 145,000 soldiers out of Iraq, arguing that it would play into the hands of insurgents. But an emboldened Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister who last week boasted he had crushed terrorism in Iraq, suggested it was time to start setting timelines.

"The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal," said Mr al-Maliki during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. He rejected efforts by Mr Bush to hurry through an agreement on vital issues such as the immunity of US troops in Iraq and use of the country’s airspace.

Mr Bush had hoped to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by the end of July to establish the basis for a long-term presence of US troops in the country.

But the Iraqi parliament has bridled at pushing through such a binding deal with the outgoing and deeply unpopular Bush administration, saying that the negotiations have been secretive and could undermine Iraq’s sovereignty.

"I don’t know anything about this agreement and neither does parliament," said Ezzedine Dawla, a Sunni MP. "There’s no way we’re going to pass something we don’t know anything about."

Mr al-Maliki’s announcement showed a growing self-confidence here that Iraqi leaders can stand up to their powerful ally in Washington. His oil minister last week pledged that major western oil companies would not be allowed to set conditions for massive future deals in Iraq’s main natural resource.

The tough stance also comes ahead of Iraqi provincial elections later this year, and may mark the start of the premier’s campaign to be re-elected. His popularity was bolstered by military operations to take back the southern oil city of Basra and the town of al-Amarah from Iranian-backed Shia militias.

The premier’s comments may also hint at future cooperation with Barak Obama, the Democratic candidate who has promised to pull US troops out of Iraq within 16 months of coming to office, although Mr Obama has since appeared to waver on that commitment. (no kidding!)

"The negotiations are continuing with the American side," Mr al-Maliki said, reflecting the desire of many MPs to wait until a new administration is in the White House, and Iraq’s provincial elections are over, before making any deal. The agreement would govern such key issues as immunity for US troops from prosecution, the use of Iraqi air space and which side takes operational control for military missions against insurgents.

Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish MP, said the issue of immunity for US forces had become a particularly sensitive subject for Iraqis.

"We have suffered so much from immunity. Immunity equals committing crimes, that’s what we have seen these five years. …In the name of immunity they have killed people, committed crimes, they have their own prisons, they captured Iraqis. We can’t continue like this," he said.

Haidar al-Abadi, a close aide to the prime minister, said the Americans had wanted almost complete control of Iraqi airspace, since Iraq still has no air force itself. Mr al-Abadi said the government had rejected the demand. "Air space will be decided by Iraqi government and if the US side wants to use that air space, they need a permission of the Iraqi government," he said.

While Iraqi forces have made great strides in the past year, they have still not been fully tested in battle. In the fight for Basra in April, they needed help from US air power and British artillery, and the outcome was ultimately decided by backdoor talks with the Mahdi Army militia arbitrated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Mr al-Maliki’s claim to have defeated terrorism was further tested today when a female suicide bomber killed nine people in Baqouba, a town still under threat from Al Qaeda-linked militants, while 16 Iraqis were killed on Sunday in a spate of attacks.

But a senior US military official asserted that, contrary to recent claims by American field commanders that Iraq’s security gains were "fragile," stability here has not suffered from a pull-out of most of the extra 'surge’ brigades drafted in last year to pull Iraq back from bloody sectarian war.

"I believe the momentum we have is not reversible," Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff, told USA Today. Mr Keane, who is close to General David Petraeus, the supreme commander in Iraq, predicted "significant reductions in 2009 whoever becomes president."

:: Article nr. 45507 sent on 07-jul-2008 22:40 ECT


Link: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article4288108.ece

Advice the Next U.S. President Could Find Very Useful

Published: July 07, 2008

In about six months the next president of the United States, either the Democratic Party's Barack Obama or the Republican John McCain, will have to come to grips with the war in Iraq. For the moment both men are off mark: McCain says U.S. forces should stay for as long as it takes – an unrealistic stance given the way events are going in Iraq; while Obama advocates a quick withdrawal – an unrealistic position as well.

Iraq does not live in a cocoon, isolated from the rest of the region. The mayhem the country is currently undergoing affects its neighbors. It is therefore logical to involve those neighbors in any attempt at finding a lasting solution. That means – as much as the U.S. George W. Bush administration rejects the notion – engaging Syria and Iran in talks.

The Task Force for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq has come out with a study entitled, "Quickly, Carefully, and Generously: The Necessary Steps for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq," in which it offers several proposals toward that end, while remaining aware of the challenge of such an endeavor.

The Task Force asks: "What concrete policy steps can the U.S. government take, immediately and during the withdrawal, to encourage peace and stability in Iraq?"

Its authors start off by recognizing that Iraq is a traumatized and politically fragmented country – they could have added "religiously fragmented as well" – and that the United States and the international community bear a responsibility to contribute to the alleviation of suffering and the advancement of stability and peace in Iraq.

Among the steps called for is to:

-- Signal that all of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran, will henceforth be treated as partners in promoting stability. The two countries should be engaged in non-coercive give-and-take diplomacy addressing bilateral issues.

-- Inform the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki that the United States will soon announce a timetable for withdrawal and will shift toward a stance that emphasizes neutrality and noninterference in Iraqi politics.

-- Engage with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey seeking their support for peace and economic recovery efforts in Iraq.

-- Cease pressure on Iraq to open up its oil sector and other parts of any of its economy.

-- Support the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in better addressing the

plight of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons.

The report states: In sum, the United States can and should quickly carry out a full military withdrawal from Iraq, carefully pursue diplomatic remedies for the Iraqi crisis, and generously give to help rebuild in Iraq in the long run. The responsibilities are not America's alone, but America must lead.

Overall, the report is extremely detailed and has many merits. But similar to both presidential candidates, it falls short in addressing the timetable for pulling out U.S. forces from Iraq when it asks for "a full military withdrawal," and demands it should be carried out "quickly."

As much as we would like to see Iraq returned to its rightful owners with the least delay possible, reality calls for a slow and gradual withdrawal.

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