U.S. Military Hoped for Virtually Unlimited Freedom of Action in Iraq
Drafting of U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement Began Nearly Five Years Ago
For more information contact:
Joyce Battle - 202/994-7145
Washington, DC, June 13, 2008 - Recently declassified documents show that the U.S. military has long sought an agreement with Baghdad that gives American forces virtually unfettered freedom of action, casting into doubt the Bush administration's current claims that their demands are more limited in scope. News reports have indicated that the Bush administration is exerting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to accept a U.S.-Iraq security plan by the end of July 2008. According to these accounts, the plan would give the U.S. more than 50 military bases in Iraq, provide complete freedom of action to conduct military operations, allow complete freedom to arrest and detain Iraqis, and grant U.S. forces and contractors total immunity from Iraqi law. Growing awareness of the implications of the pact have fueled opposition by the Iraqi public--to the extent that Prime Minister al-Maliki announced today that discussions had deadlocked.
Documents obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the U.S. started drafting the agreement in November 2003. While information available in the heavily redacted copies that were provided does not specifically address such hot-button, present-day issues as the number and location of bases, or control of airspace, these preliminary planning documents show that from the outset U.S. aspirations for conducting military operations based in Iraq were essentially without limit.
The Bush administration had initially hoped to see the security pact accepted by an interim Iraqi Governing Council that it itself had appointed. The documents outline a number of "red lines" that the Defense Department and U.S. Central Command considered crucial during the early planning, including unlimited authority to conduct military operations; the "absolute" prerogative to detain, interrogate and intern Iraqis; the right to establish its own rules of engagement; complete freedom of movement entering, departing, and within Iraq; full immunity for U.S. forces and contractors; immunity from international tribunals; and exemption from inspections, taxes, and duties.
"When it developed its initial plans for a security pact, the U.S. wanted virtually unlimited freedom of action for its forces--including private contractors," said Archive analyst Joyce Battle. "In addition to freedom to wage military operations as it saw fit--and to arrest, detain, and interrogate Iraqis at will--U.S. demands even extended to priority use of public utilities. This was after the invasion had led to the collapse of Iraq's already fragile infrastructure and Iraqi civilians--old and young, healthy, sick, and disabled--were getting by with a few hours of electricity a day--if they were lucky."
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