By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 26, 2007 - President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have laid the groundwork for defining what a long-term relationship between the two countries will look like, White House officials announced today. Both signed the U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for Friendship and Cooperation, the first step toward a normalized, bilateral relationship, said Brett McGurk, director for Iraq in the National Security Council. The document provides a framework for future negotiations between the two countries and loosely defines the issues.
McGurk said long-term progress in the region will take a generational commitment in one form or another, "although the nature of our engagement will transition significantly over time. And as the months of the years go by, far less military, far more economic, diplomatic, political."
The declaration grew from a communiqué that was signed by top Iraqi leaders this summer that sketched out a path for future relations.
Before bilateral negotiations begin, though, the United Nations resolution that gives Multinational Force Iraq legal rights to "to take all necessary measures to preserve peace and security" in Iraq must be renewed for one more year. Once the resolution is in place, negotiations will begin, White House officials said.
McGurk said the declaration is divided into political, economic, and security issues. During the past three weeks, the Iraqi parliament has debated the declaration and "came to a realization that a long-term partnership with the United States is not simply continuation of the status quo," he said.
"It's U.S. support for Iraq diplomatically, politically, economically, and giving the security support that Iraq needs," McGurk said.
The United States has security relationships with more than 100 countries. Long-term missions for the United States as outlined in the declaration would include continuing to train and equip the Iraqi security forces and transitioning to U.S. over-watch of Iraqi forces; a sustained counter terrorism mission in the region; and protection from external aggressors, helping to stabilize the politics in the country.
McGurk called the document "very broad," and said details would be worked out in bilateral negotiations. But, he said, the message that the declaration sends is as important as the words it contains.
"It sends a signal to the region ... that the United States is committed to Iraq for the long term -- that we're not packing up and leaving," McGurk said. "But that nature of our commitment over time will transition, as it should, and that we will have a normalized, bilateral relationship with Iraq."