Baghdad - Voices of Iraq
BAGHDAD, Sept.19 (VOI) - An agreement to extend the American military mandate in Iraq beyond this year — near completion only a month ago — has stalled over objections by Iraqi leaders and could be in danger of falling apart, A U.S paper said.
The daily New York Times pointed out “the disagreements threaten a capstone of President Bush’s Iraq policy during his remaining months in office”, adding “Bush has already offered significant concessions to the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki in the negotiations, including his willingness to accept a specific date for withdrawing American forces: the end of 2011”.
“The major remaining point of contention involves immunity, with the United States maintaining that American troops and military contractors should have the same protections they have in other countries where they are based and Iraq insisting that they be subject to the country’s criminal justice system for any crime committed outside of a military operation,”the daily stressed.
The Times referred to a television interview this week,citing Maliki saying “the example of an Iraqi killed by an American soldier in a market, that a case like that should fall to Iraqi courts immediately.”, noting “they reject”.
However, the paper highlighted The White House has expressed confidence that an agreement can be reached before the end of December, when the United Nations mandate authorizing American forces in Iraq expires.
“The administration plans to send its chief negotiators back to Baghdad in the coming days to try to complete an agreement that officials had originally planned to finish in July”, it explained.
The Times quoted Defense Secretary Robert M Gates, traveling in London, saying “the administration was preparing to offer compromise proposals in an effort to overcome Iraq’s objections, which he acknowledged focused on immunity and the authority to arrest and detain Iraqis”.
“The American negotiators will be carrying with them some ideas that perhaps meet both the Iraqi and our concerns on some of the remaining issues,”he added.
In agreeing to specific dates as a goal for troop withdrawals, the Times emphasized “Mr. Bush has had to soften his earlier warnings that deadlines were counterproductive also agreed to withdraw American troops from Iraqi cities by next July and base them in comparatively remote areas, except during operations.”
“Mr. Maliki’s objections reflected a combination of factors. He cited Iraqi nationalism, Mr. Maliki’s own domestic political necessities and a desire to await the outcome of the American presidential election, on the assumption that the next president could offer different terms,”the paper quoted Michael E. O’Hanlon, an analyst with the Brooking Institute in Washington, as saying.
“He knows there has to be a deal in the end — even if it’s with an Obama administration,” Mr. O’Hanlon added, referring to U.S Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president. “But by trying to get what he wants — or being seen trying to get what he wants — he shores up his position at home.”
“Mr. Maliki also, for the first time, raised the possibility of seeking an extension to the United Nations mandate at the Security Council, saying that had become complicated because of American and Russian tensions over the conflict in Georgia” The Times pointed out..
“Even if we ask for an extension, then we will ask for it according to our terms and we will attach conditions and the U.S. side will refuse,”it added.
“U.S. forces would be without legal cover and will have no choice but to pull out from Iraq or stay and be in contravention of international law,” The paper cited al-Maliki saying in an interview on Wednesday with the directors of Iraqi satellite television channels