Iraqis Condemn Status of Forces Agreement

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The following is from Fight Back! News:

By Kosta Harlan

Vast numbers of Iraqis responded angrily to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the United States government and their local allies in the Green Zone. The SOFA will provide a legal basis to continue the U.S. occupation of Iraq when the United Nations Security Council mandate for the occupation expires on Dec. 31, 2008. Hundreds of thousands protested before the agreement was signed and protests are set to continue as the SOFA legislation heads to the puppet parliament for final approval. The Iraqi resistance has also intensified its attacks on the U.S. occupation in response to the agreement.

“We were not surprised that the inhabitants of the occupied Green Zone signed off on the so-called security agreement with U.S. occupation forces,” said the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI), a popular religious association that supports the Iraqi resistance, in a statement on Nov. 17. “They [the Green Zone puppet government] are part of the occupation, and they want a commitment by the occupation forces to maintain their presence in order to acquire political and factional interests at the expense of greater Iraq and its oppressed people.”

Although the text of the SOFA states that the United States must withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country as a whole by the end of 2011, it remains extremely unlikely that this will happen. Without the muscle provided by the U.S. military, the Green Zone government would certainly fall to the patriotic armed, social and political Iraqi forces. The U.S. military is very clear on this point. “Three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time,” said Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in playing down the significance of withdrawal dates. “And, if we get to a point where this SOFA is agreed to, and have a relationship with the government of Iraq tied to it, that we will continue to have discussions with them over time, as conditions continue to evolve.”

The U.S. and the occupation government’s Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, are declaring the SOFA as a victory for Iraqi sovereignty. It is true that the agreement would require Joint Committees to be established between the Green Zone government and the U.S. military to address issues of security. But the text of the agreement is meaningless when one considers how unequal the partners to it are.In reality the agreement further erodes Iraqi sovereignty and ensures the continued domination of Iraq by the U.S. and their local Iraqi allies, based in the Green Zone of Baghdad. It ensures the United States will remain for at least another three years and potentially much longer.

Popular movement demands “U.S. Out Now”

An estimated 150,000 Iraqis took to the streets Oct. 18 to rally against the draft agreement. Resentment and anger at the occupation and its local allies runs high among Iraqis. Sameer al-Rashid, a civil servant, told the Iraqi newspaper Azzaman, “How do you expect me to accept signing a security agreement with someone who has occupied my country? What security the U.S. can bring to us after all the calamities we have passed through?” Another Iraqi, Abdullah Karim, said, “It [the agreement] will not succeed. It is going to fail because it is another form of occupation or mandate. There is no occupier who looks after the interests of those occupied. Occupiers always look for their own interests and put them above everything else.” (Azzaman, Oct. 31)

After the approval of Iraq’s Council of Ministers, the SOFA now faces a test in the country’s Green Zone parliament. With provincial elections looming in January 2009, each political faction is seeking to appear more patriotic and anti-occupation than the next. Moqtada al-Sadr, whose followers have at times fought against the U.S. military and at times cooperated with it, has warned against the puppet parliament approving the security pact. A spokesperson for Sadr’s parliamentary bloc, Ahmed al-Masoudi, said, “If the agreement is signed, not only the Sadr movement will use arms but so will all the Iraqi resistance groups, both Shiite and Sunni.” (Washington Post, Nov. 15)

With a vote in the puppet parliament set for Nov. 24, the eyes of the world will be on Iraq. The people of Iraq have spoken decisively against the agreement and demanded the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. The true test of Iraqi sovereignty does not lie in passing the SOFA, but in its rejection. The anti-war movement in the U.S. must also intensify its work in demanding the immediate end to the unjust occupation of Iraq.

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