President Obama, listen and listen good; the Iraqis want an end to the American occupation of their country, and so do the American people. Please do not let the Pentagon convince you otherwise. The Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, known as SOFA, stipulates that all forces will leave Iraq by 31-December-2011. In the way such agreements are written, it allows wriggle room for the troops to stay beyond that date. Wikipedia puts the terms of the agreement thus:
"It establishes that U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, subject to possible further negotiations which could delay withdrawal and a referendum scheduled for mid-2009 in Iraq which may require U.S. forces to completely leave by the middle of 2010."
The American and Iraqi governments decided that the wishes of the Iraqi people were of no importance, and no referendum took place to decide whether they wished an earlier withdrawal as required by the agreement. Now it seems the Pentagon is pushing to delay the withdrawal beyond the final date (31-December-2011). They are trying to manipulate and pressurize the Iraqi government to ask America to delay the date of withdrawal; no talk of a referendum. Why?
Every day that the occupation continues is a reminder to Iraqis of the death, misery and humiliation they suffered. They need to be left alone to make the compromises necessary for a peaceful democratic Iraq; they need to relearn to trust each other beyond the narrow confines of sects and ethnic groups.
This is a country where almost the entire civil service was dismissed in the name of purging the organs of government of elements of the Ba'ath party. The Iraqis now look at subsequent governments following the war and wonder how it is possible that in 8 years there is no discernable progress. People are still preoccupied with electricity, water, sewerage and security. Government jobs and membership of Parliament are treated as rewards for the elites of each faction. These jobs are treated as cash cows to plunder the country's resources and enrich themselves without the need to serve the people. The incompetence and corruption of the people running the country is staggering. They have no shame.
Whose interest is the Pentagon aiming to serve by seeking to delay the withdrawal of troops? Could it be that of the oil corporations who have not yet concluded contracts with the government? Oil is Iraq's main source of foreign income; its future exploitation is being negotiated on long term contracts that, many experts believe, represent poor value for the people of Iraq, who are in desperate need of such income to build the shattered infrastructure of a country destroyed by the illegal war.
Aljazeera reports: " Moqtada al Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shia cleric, has threatened to revive his Mehdi Army and relaunch armed resistance against continued US presence in the country. The threat came as tens of thousands of people marched across the capital Baghdad, marking the eighth anniversary of former leader Saddam Hussein's fall on 9th April.---- Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that this time Sadr had not only warned US troops but also the contractors. A spokesperson of al Sadr, said the US had until the end of the year to meet the cleric's demands"
The illegal war ruptured the fabric of Iraqi society; the healing process between communities will be slow, but the ingenuity of its people and their resilience will see them triumph, and collectively they will rebuild their shattered country. The fires of sectarianism and terrorism that were lit by the war will only be quelled when the occupation ends.
Iraq has suffered enough, so spare its people more strife and misery by upholding the agreement and end the occupation by 31-December-2011. Respect the wishes of the majority of Iraqi and American people and withdraw the troops. If you don't trust the polls, hold a referendum.