Spencer Ackerman, writing in Iraq’d, points out that according to the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), Americans are now the proud owners of the New Iraqi Army. Nathan Brown of George Washington University identified this situation first in his assessment of the TAL.
Ackerman highlights the reasoning behind Brown’s conclusion, and the impetus behind the inclusion of this ominous article in the TAL becomes clear:
What’s more, this provision was surely not put in the TAL because we covet Iraq’s military. As Brown notes, this is surely in the TAL as a way to make an end-run around the Governing Council’s refusal last month to negotiate an early basing arrangement for U.S. troops ahead of a sovereign government. Council members, you’ll recall, rightly worried that they didn’t possess the legitimacy necessary to conclude a deal with the U.S. on how our troops can operate in their country. Now, by linking the Iraqi forces to the “multinational” (read: U.S.) coalition forces, we’ve glommed on to their own army–and added an automatic wellspring of legitimacy: U.N. Security Council Resolution 1511, which authorizes a “multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq.” Note that subsection (C) authorizes the Transitional Government to negotiate what’s known as a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with us, determining what the rules of engagement are for our troops, and what legal protections they’ll enjoy–but our command of the Iraqi armed forces will last until that temporary government gives way to a permanent one, which will occur by December 31, 2005, if all goes according to plan. So while the Transitional Government negotiates a SOFA with us, we’ll be in control of its military. Now that’s what I call leverage!
The importance of the basing rights issue to the US shouldn’t be underestimated. Jim Lobe writes:
……statements made by Jay Garner this week in an interview with The National Journal suggest that the administration had its own reasons for the war. Asked how long U.S. troops might remain in Iraq, Garner replied, ”I hope they’re there a long time,” and then compared U.S. goals in Iraq to U.S. military bases in the Philippines between 1898 and 1992.
”One of the most important things we can do right now is start getting basing rights with (the Iraqi authorities),” he said. ”And I think we’ll have basing rights in the north and basing rights in the south … we’d want to keep at least a brigade.”
Garner added, ”Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they were a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great presence in the Pacific. That’s what Iraq is for the next few decades: our coaling station that gives us great presence in the Middle East.”
While U.S. military strategists have hinted for some time that a major goal of war was to establish several bases in Iraq, particularly given the ongoing military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia, Garner is the first to state it so baldly. Until now, U.S. military chiefs have suggested they need to retain a military presence just to ensure stability for several years, after which they expect to draw down their forces.
If indeed Garner’s understanding represents the thinking of his former bosses, then the ongoing struggle within the administration over ceding control to the United Nations becomes more comprehensible. Ceding too much control, particularly before reaching an agreement establishing military bases will make permanent U.S. bases much less likely.
Considering the Saudi bases that proved to be so popular with Osama bin Laden that he attacked the US with passenger-laden airplanes to get rid of them because they were defiling the Holy Places of Islam, it is fair to wonder how the Shi`a will take the presence of American troops in ancient Mesopotamia, the location of their most holy shrines and shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.
UPDATE: An alert reader points out “Don’t forget Baghdad, the site of the caliphate and the cultural center of the Islamic world from the 700s to the 1200s . One of Osama Bin Laden’s espoused goals is to reestablish the caliphate. What better focus to organize Islamists around than the occupation of the caliphate by the infidel? It is the Crusades all over again! Pulling out of Saudi, home of the holy cities, is fine. Moving next door and occupying the heart of Arabia and site of the caliphate itself doesn’t look too smart. More of a time-bomb than a ‘coaling station.'”
I’d been thinking mainly of the Shi`a reaction to the presence of Infidel troops in Iraq. As this reader points out, these troops will also offend OBL, a wahhabi Sunni.