US 'plans permanent bases in Iraq'

British newspaper gives leaked details of Washington's proposed "security alliance".

    Al-Sadr's supporters have demanded the government hold a referendum on the issue [AFP]

    "Iraqi sovereignty would be very much diluted if this pact goes ahead as Washington wants," Patrick Cockburn, author of The Independent report, told Al Jazeera.
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    "It would be very difficult to call Iraq a fully independent country if it agreed to these terms."
    The Independent report says that under the proposed "strategic alliance", the US, which currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, would be allowed to have more than 50 permanent bases in the country.
    Soldiers stationed there would be granted full immunity from Iraqi law and a free hand to conduct arrests and military operations without the consent of Baghdad, or even an obligation to consult the Iraqi government, according to the report.
    It also said the US wanted control of Iraqi airspace below about 9,700m.
    The US has said in the past that it does not want permanent bases in Iraq, but The Independent quoted an unnamed Iraqi source as calling Washington's position "a tactical subterfuge".
    On Thursday, Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Iraq, reiterated the US position, rejecting claims that the US wants permanent bases in Iraq.
    Iraqi protests
    Last week, tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad and other cities to protest against the deal and supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia leader, have demanded that the government hold a public referendum on the issue.
    In the US, the plan has been criticised by Democrats who see in the proposed pact an attempt by George Bush, the US president, to dictate US foreign policy even after he is out of office.
    A majority of the Iraqi parliament has already written to the US Congress rejecting the long-term security deal unless it is linked to a requirement that US forces leave.
    On Wednesday, William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat in the House of Representatives who opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, released excerpts from the letter, which gave conditions for the security pact.
    "The majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq," the letter said.
    The signatures represented just over half the membership of Iraq's parliament, Delahunt said.
    'No threats on Iraq'
    Two Iraqi legislators testified to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, of which Dealhunt is chairman, saying that US troops should leave Iraq before talks on a long term security pact could be completed.

    The proposed 'security alliance' would create a
    permanent US military presence in Iraq [AFP]

    "I would like to inform you, there are no threats on Iraq. We are capable of solving our own problems," Nadeem Al-Jaberi, a co-founder of the al-Fadhila Shia political party, told the panel.
    He said he favoured a quick pullout of US forces.
    Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, a Sunni political leader and founder of the National Dialogue Council, said bilateral talks on a long-term security deal should be shelved until after US forces leave Iraq.
    "We prefer to delay until there is a new administration in the United States," he said, referring to the US elections which are due to take place in November.
    But official sources have said the US still hopes to reach a new security agreement with the the government of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, by July.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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