It has been said multiple times in Congressional hearings that the contractors in Iraq (roughly 200,000 of them) are critical the U.S. mission. Those contractors (not to mention U.S. forces and personnel) have depended on the immunity from Iraqi law, and the contractors from a general immunity from U.S. law as well. One might say, that if the contractors lost immunity that they might choose to truncate their contracts and leave Iraq. In fact, if they left Iraq, the U.S. military would be hamstrung in Iraq.
However, the draft law has not been enacted almost a month after it was drafted. In fact, on November 14th, the word was that the Blackwater killings of 17 civilians were unjustified. This would lead one to believe that the law would certainly be enacted. Nope.
My guess was that was because there were other deals in the works, or that the U.S. was applying pressure to keep that law from going forward. Well on Monday (11/26/07) we learned that there is indeed a deal in the works, and that al-Maliki and Bush signed an agreement on principles for a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.
President Bush on Monday signed a deal setting the foundation for a potential long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq, with details to be negotiated over matters that have defined the war debate at home - how many U.S. forces will stay in the country, and for how long.
The agreement between Mr. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirms that the United States and Iraq will hash out an "enduring" relationship in military, economic and political terms.
CBS News' Pete Gow in Baghdad reports the proposals are to offer the U.S. a continued military presence in Iraq, as well as favorable business interests (such as investment opportunities for American companies), in return for guarantees to Iraq's future security.
Lieutenant General Douglas Lute told White House reporters the shape and size of any long-term military presence will be determined in negotiations planned for next year. CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer reports that, according to Lute, today's agreement sets the agenda for those talks, with a completion goal of July 2008, when the U.S. intends to finish withdrawing the five combat brigades sent in 2007 as part of the current troop "surge."
"What U.S. troops are doing, how many troops are required to do that, are bases required, which partners will join them - all these things are on the negotiating table," said Lute, President Bush's adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to CBS, the "declaration of principles" was secretly discussed (and apparently approved) by the Iraqi parliament. Apparently President Bush feels he has no need to discuss the issue with the U.S. Congress.
A statement by Maliki highlights another aspect of the "agreement." Namely that it subverts the UN mandates regarding U.S. presence in Iraq:
The U.S.-Iraq agreement will replace the present U.N. mandate regulating the presence of the U.S.-led forces in Iraq. Al-Maliki said the agreement provides for U.S. support for the "democratic regime in Iraq against domestic and external dangers."
It also would help the Iraqi government thwart any attempt to suspend or repeal a constitution drafted with U.S. help and adopted in a nationwide vote in 2005. That appeared to be a reference to any attempt to remove the government by violence or in a coup.
Al-Maliki said the renewal of the multinational forces' mandate was conditional on the repeal of what he called restrictions on Iraqi sovereignty introduced in 1990 by the U.N. Security Council to punish Iraq for invading neighboring Kuwait.
The new agreement would not signal an end to the U.S. mission here. But it could change the rules under which U.S. soldiers operate and give the Iraqis a greater role in determining their mission.
What this looks like to me, is that the U.S. military - our troops - have just become a mercenary force to keep the existing folks in power, and to operate at the behest of the Iraqi "government." I guess one might expect that from an administration that hires mercenaries to replace U.S. troops. Looks like BushCo is as confused as the Iraqi's regarding the "fine distinction" between mercenaries in the hire of the United States and troops under the orders of the United States.
It also seems likely that the U.S. tax payer will foot the bill for this "presence" while transnational contractors continue to line their pockets with the profits of their relationship to the U.S. military and the choke hold on virtually all activity inside Iraq. That trillion dollar price tag just jumped geometrically.
Other Pertinent Articles
TP Muckraker 11/08/07
Freedom Isn't Free. It charges interest. Kargo X. DailyKos, 11/26/07.
Maliki opens door to permanent U.S. bases. Steve Benen. Crooks & Liars. 11/26/07.
U.S. To Stay In Iraq Forever. Spencer Ackerman. TP Muckraker. 11/26/07.
Iraqis may offer US deal to stay longer. Abdul-Zahra. AP. 11/26/07.
Iraq Agrees To Long-Term U.S. Presence. CBS News. 11/26/07.