ML-Iraq 8thLd-Writethru 11-06 Web

U.S. calls security pact final

The United States responded Thursday to Iraqi proposals for changes in the draft security pact that would keep American troops here for three more years, saying it now considers the text final and it is up to Iraq’s government to push the process to approval.

U.S. and Iraqi officials would not release details of Washington’s response, which was contained in a letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

But a senior Iraqi official familiar with the negotiations said Washington accepted some proposals and rejected others, presumably an Iraqi demand for expanded legal authority over American troops and Defense Department contractors.

Iraqi lawmakers have said the demanded changes are essential to winning parliament’s approval before the Dec. 31 deadline, when the U.N. mandate for the U.S.-led coalition expires. Without an agreement or a new mandate, the U.S. would have to suspend all military operations in Iraq.


"We have gotten back to the Iraqis with a final text," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters in Washington. "Through this step, we’ve concluded the process on our side."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. had responded "very positively" to the Iraqis and considered the negotiations closed "on our side."

Al-Maliki plans to seek approval of his coalition Cabinet before forwarding the draft to parliament. The Iraqi leader wants to be sure of solid support before risking his political future by supporting an agreement that many Iraqis consider an affront to national dignity.

Privately, key Iraqi politicians are believed to support the agreement but are worried about a public backlash before regional elections planned for January.

During talks this year, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators worked out an initial agreement calling for all American soldiers to withdraw from Iraq’s cities by next June 30, with the last U.S. troops leaving the country by 2012.

The pact would also give the Iraqi officials an expanded role in approving and overseeing U.S. military operations and require that U.S. soldiers obtain a warrant before searching homes and detaining Iraqis except in active combat.

The deal also said U.S. soldiers and contractors who committed major, premeditated crimes could face trial before an Iraqi court if the offenses were allegedly committed when they were off duty and away from their bases.

But the Iraqis insisted on more. Last month the Cabinet proposed several changes, including closing a loophole that could extend the U.S. stay beyond 2011, adding a clear ban against the U.S. launching attacks on Iraq’s neighbors and expanding Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. troops.


American officials, however, felt the Iraqis crossed a "red line" with the jurisdiction demand. Iraq officials said previously that U.S. diplomats appeared willing to make changes except for expanded legal jurisdiction.

Despite frequent U.S. military assurances about the fairness of Iraqi courts, the U.S. has insisted on the exclusive right to prosecute its own soldiers for virtually all offenses here, including killing Iraqi civilians.

Public opinion here, however, favors an Iraqi role. Although numerous U.S. soldiers have been prosecuted in military courts for offenses committed in Iraq, many Iraqis see the issue as a fundamental right of national sovereignty.

"If the security agreement doesn’t stipulate that U.S. soldiers can be prosecuted under Iraqi law, it will be useless," said Salih Hamid, a Baghdad engineer. "Any U.S. soldier should be punished under Iraqi law if he committed a crime inside Iraqi territories."

President-elect Barack Obama said during the campaign that the agreement should include a U.S. commitment to begin withdrawing troops and that the draft should be approved by Congress, which the Bush administration does not plan to do.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Al-Jazeera International that Iraq intended to finalize the agreement "with the current (U.S.) administration," which remains in office until Jan. 20, three weeks after the U.N. mandate expires.

The U.S. military is anxious to wrap up the negotiations so it can plan operations for next year. Commanders are concerned that the Iraqi army and police are still not ready to fight insurgents on their own, threatening the security gains made since the 2007 U.S. troop surge.

Although attacks are down sharply in Iraq, violence continues.


On Thursday, a series of bomb blasts across Baghdad killed six people and wounded more than 25 others, Iraqi police reported.

More than 30 people have been killed and about 80 wounded in daily bombings in the capital since Monday.

What To Read Next
Get Local