Will the U.S. Stay in Iraq for Longer Than Agreed?

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By Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, IPS News. December 26, 2008.

Washington and Baghdad signed a security agreement earlier this month allowing the U.S. to maintain a military presence in Iraq for another three years. But while Baghdad officials hailed the pact as the “beginning of the end” of the U.S.-led occupation, Egyptian commentators — like much of the Iraqi opposition — say the agreement simply reflects U.S. strategic interests.

“The pact reflects the balance of power and is therefore entirely in the interest of the U.S.,” Ahmed Thabet, political science professor at Cairo University told IPS. “It provides formal cover for the continuation of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and leaves all decision-making — and the very fate of the country — in American hands.”

After months of wrangling between the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad and Iraqi opposition groups, the agreement was ceremonially signed Dec. 14 by outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The pact lays down a timetable for the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by June of next year and the complete departure of the U.S. military from Iraq as of Jan. 1, 2012.

In addition to a timetable for troop withdrawals, the treaty also puts limited restrictions on U.S. military operations in Iraq and grants Baghdad a degree of legal jurisdiction — under certain conditions — over U.S. troops.

While Iraqi government spokesmen defended the pact as a step towards the eventual departure of all foreign troops from the country, Iraqi opposition groups blasted the deal. Iraqi Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, whose followers staged angry demonstrations against the agreement, called it “a pact of shame and degradation.”

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