SOFA: A Bad Seat for Iraq
By Nita Palmer
On November 27, 2008, the Iraqi Cabinet voted to approve the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for US troops in Iraq. Given that the United Nations Security Council Resolution, which allowed US troops to be in Iraq, expired on December 31, 2008, the SOFA is basically an agreement to make the occupation of the country by US troops legal under Iraqi law.
“Status of Forces” in Iraq: 2003-Today
After more than six years, US forces have brought nothing but death, destruction, and suffering to Iraqis. Since the March 20, 2003 invasion, Iraqis have watched their country go from being one of the most advanced in the Middle East, with public health care, highly advanced universities, and utilities like electricity and water available for the majority of the population, to a country full of bombed-out shells of hospitals, with hundreds of thousands of children unable to go to school because their schools have been destroyed or because they must work to feed their families. Electricity is available for only 3-6 hours per day, and clean water accessible to only 30% of the population. Since 2003, the world has watched in horror as thousand-pound depleted uranium bombs destroyed, in seconds, this cradle of human civilization.
What is the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)?
In the midst of this ongoing destruction comes the new Status of Forces Agreement. The US government and US media have hailed this as an agreement which will bring an end to the occupation of Iraq.
In reality, this could not be farther from the truth.
Under the SOFA, the US would withdraw part of its force from Iraq by June 2011. However, the current US government plan for “withdrawal” from Iraq involves leaving 30-50,000 occupation forces troops in the country. The US government claims that these will not be “combat” troops. However, according to a December 3rd, 2008 article in the New York Times, Pentagon military strategists themselves have stated that this could involve “at least in part… relabeling some units, so that those currently counted as combat troops could be “re-missioned,” their efforts redefined as training and support for the Iraqis” – in other words, keeping the same brutal occupation force in Iraq under a different disguise. In addition to these tens of thousands of troops, tens of thousands more “security forces”, employed by private corporations like Dyncorp would remain in Iraq, supporting the US occupation. These “security forces” have been responsible for the deaths of countless Iraqis since the occupation began.
In addition, the US will remain in control of many other aspects of Iraq. Provisions in the SOFA for the US military handing over Iraqi detainees to Iraqi forces (currently US forces can arrest and imprison Iraqis), for example, are no gesture towards giving sovereignty to Iraqis. They are simply provisions for the US to be gradually setting up an Iraqi military and police force which does their bidding. Already the Iraqi government, which was set up by and works hand-in-hand with the occupation forces, is representing the interests of the US, not the Iraqi people. The SOFA is another step towards solidifying Iraq as a client state for the US.
More questions about this agreement still are in the minds of many people. The Saudi news agency Okaz has alleged that the SOFA contains a number of secret provisions which reveal more about the true intentions of this agreement – such as provisions which would allow the US to attack any country which ‘represents a security threat to Iraq’ from Iraqi soil, as well as provisions which would require the Iraqi government to ask the US government for approval before signing any regional or international agreements with third countries.
Furthermore, under the SOFA agreement, the US will “still have judicial jurisdiction over military personnel and civilians (contracted by the US Defence Department) as far as incidents that take place inside the agreed facilities and areas and in the case of missions outside the agreed facilities and areas” (emphasis added) In other words, US soldiers can still kill, maim, and torture with impunity and without trial even by occupation-backed Iraqi courts - if they are on missions when they carry out these crimes.
A Strategy for a Permanent Occupation
The Status of Forces Agreement is another step in a plan that the US has been working on since the day they invaded Iraq: a plan to set up a permanent US presence and permanent US military bases in the country. Already, the largest US embassy in the world has been constructed in Baghdad. According to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, “the embassy’s 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York”.
“The presence of a massive US embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country,” the International Crisis Group reports.
Why does the US want to have a permanent presence in Iraq? Because the occupation of Iraq is in fact not just about having another puppet state which will allow them to plunder oil and other important resources. The occupation of Iraq is part of a larger US strategy to control the important resources and trade markets of the whole Middle East. Having Iraq as a permanent military base means having a base from which they can invade and occupy other countries. The top country on this list for attack is Iran – one of Iraq’s neighbours, and an independent country which has stood as a main obstacle to US dominance in the Middle East since the Iranian people kicked US imperialism out of their country in the Iranian revolution of 1979.
This US strategy for control of Middle Eastern trade markets and resources has not just come out of the blue, however. The occupation of Iraq is part of a new era of war and occupation that was launched with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and has since expanded to Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti, with threats of attack on Sudan and Iran as well. For imperialist countries like the US, Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany and France, this new era of war and occupation is their solution to their major problem: the deepening crisis of the economy and the imperialist system as a whole. For these countries, their solution to this crisis is plundering third-world countries for more cheap resources, cheap labour, and trade markets in order to stave off total crisis. The US is leading this era of war and occupation as they scramble to maintain their position as the world’s top-dog imperialist.
Self-determination for All Oppressed and Occupied Lands
The Status of Forces Agreement and the so-called “troop withdrawal” is no call for sovereignty for Iraqis. It will only be a further step by imperialists to expand their plunder and destruction throughout the Middle East and the world. It will only deepen the misery and suffering of millions of Iraqi people. It will only add to the more than 1.2 Million Iraqis who have been killed so far in this war. The only solution to truly bring peace and justice to ordinary Iraqi people was expressed on November 14, 2008 in the words of Moqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the resistance in Iraq: “I repeat my demand that the occupier leave the land of our beloved Iraq unconditionally, without retaining bases or signing agreements,” he said. This is the demand on the tongues of 27 Million Iraqis and this is the demand that peace and justice loving people in Canada, the US, and around the world must follow. We must unite around the world to demand:
US/UK Out of Iraq!
Self-determination for Iraq!
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