Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:23 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:23 | SYDNEY

Iraq: Basing instinct


Rodger Shanahan


11 June 2008 11:14

Having recently returned from talking to several leading Shi‘a figures in the Gulf and Lebanon, one issue that kept cropping up without prompting was disquiet over the development of a long-term legal basis for the presence of US troops in Iraq. The proposed security agreement is necessary in light of the expiration of the UN mandate at the end of this year. But the talks have been conducted without public scrutiny to date, which has led to significant opposition from within Iraq as well as Iran, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to visit Tehran to seek its support for the agreement.

Lead US negotiators are hopeful of a resolution to the negotiation and ratification of the agreement in the next few months, although doubts remain, not the least on the need to keep Congress appraised of its contents. The timeframe cited by the Administration may indeed be optimistic, but some resolution is needed, and more information about the agreement will need to be released to placate the concerns of lawmakers in the US and Iraq, as well as regional countries.

Both nature and Arab political activists abhor a vacuum, so in the absence of any information as to exactly what the agreement would contain, all sorts of conspiracy theories abound. The two most oft-cited concerns were that the US would gain permanent bases as a consequence of its 2003 invasion (as opposed to those bases in the Gulf states which had been established through peaceful consultation and resulted in mutual security benefit), and that the US could use these bases to launch attacks (presumably against Iran) without consultation with the Iraqi Government. People in this part of the world don’t need any reasons to assume nefarious activity on the part of the US, but the widespread, unsolicited opposition from both pro- and anti- Iranian Shi’a to the security agreement was informative, to say the least.