"The United States and Iraq are opening negotiations in Baghdad on a blueprint for a long-term relationship, plus a narrower deal to define the legal basis for a U.S. troop presence, a Pentagon official said yesterday.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the talks are scheduled to start today.
Leading the U.S. negotiating team will be Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. He will be assisted by senior officials from the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council.
Mr. Morrell said the United States expects a lengthy negotiation, with a goal of completing a deal by December, when the U.N. Security Council resolution that now governs the United States and coalition presence in Iraq will expire.
The process of negotiating a long-term deal with the Iraqi government has triggered criticism from some in Congress, in part because the administration’s position is that the deal will not require congressional approval and in part out of concern that it might commit to a specific U.S. troop level." WASHTIMES
This raises several significant points:
1- A Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is undoubtedly needed to establish the legal position of US military personnel in Iraq. The expiration of UN authorization would leave US soldiers in the awkward situation of being vulnerable to prosecution under local law no matter what other agreements might have been made between the two governments. If the Iraq government wants to keep US soldiers in its country for some additional time then the US needs to know what the specific arrangements are for adjudication of complaints against American troops.
2- A treaty of alliance or mutual defense agreement (MDA) that binds the US to Iraq "permanently" will represent the fulfillment of the Jacobin neocon dream. This dream has always involved building a new political system in the Middle East that will negate and disrupt old relationships while constructing a new alliance system with the US at the center of the "picture." This is CENTO and the Baghdad Pact re-dux. Haven’t these people read ANY history that they think significant? Why do they think that the ending will be different this time?
3- The administration believes that such a treaty or MDA can be put in place legally WITHOUT senate approval? If there is not a major battle over that point then the days of the republic are limited in all but name. pl
Leaving aside all question of the merits of this treaty or SOFA or whatever, a more basic question arises:
Who exactly is going to pay for all this?
Allow me to present some current facts:
Given facts such as these, a long-term military presence in Iraq, legal or otherwise, desirable or otherwise, would seem to be conspicuous consumption indeed.
This will be interesting! Washington is negotiating with a deadline. That favors the Iraqi government, which has no deadline. I expect them to run out the clock and extract the best deal possible or just wait for the incoming administration.
That seems to be what is happening with the oil law. Bush wanted PSAs, which would have given control of the oil fields to Big Oil. However, the Iraqis are successfully running out the clock, offering Big Oil technical service contracts, two-year deals to bring equipment, training and further studies.
With Bush leaving soon, and oil becoming more valuable by the day, why rush into fixed, long-term commitments? Particulary when they’ll be able to get a better deal with a new administration, which will be even more desperate for oil.
From Article 2, Section 2 of the US Constitution:
He (the President), shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.
re the role of Congress in the making of Treaties, etc. and the end of the Republic.
Bush’s unitary executive theory has been eroding the role of Congress as a constitutionally required factor in the governing of the country for some time.
In our lifetime congressional war-making powers have been under attack by the Executive Branch as has the Senate’s role in the making of treaties. Both parties have not been diligent in requiring that their constitutional prerogatives be honored by the Executive.
To my knowledge, until recently, Congress has done nothing about this.
For that reason, the recent decision by Congress to pursue relief in federal court after the Attorney General as required by law refused to refer the case of Miers and Bolton who had been held in contempt of Congress to a grand jury because they failed to honor congressional supenoas will be an interesting case to follow.
The AG’s decision to refuse to refer seems to be based on a kind of Executive Privilege of the sort you imply in your post.
Other than the spate of congressional oversight hearings that came with the advent of the Democratically controlled 110th Congress, as far as I know, this is the first time in a while that Congress has sought a judicial ruling on the validity of its constitutional powers.
I’m distressed by this as I believe that these kinds of issues are better resolved without judicial intervention with Marbury vs. Madison being a notorious exception. And, ample precedent supporting Congress’ position exists without going to court.
This whole issue, however, emphasizes again how easy it will always be for evil to triumph when those few good men do nothing.
If only Bush had the wisdom and ability of Caesar Augustus… Actually, that would be horrible for different reasons. Poor Bush, he was bred for empire, he has the legions and the boldness. But he lacks the consuls, the mercenaries and the stragery thing. For lack of a nail…
This SOF issue is one more extension of the ‘unitary’ presidency theory, and the power grab which decided that the AUMF permitted all things to one man. Until Congress and the courts say differently – and make it stick – it is apparently the case. Even when he could get Congressional approval, Bush has shown the desire to act unilaterally.
Perhaps they can cut a series of side deals that adds up to the equivalent of an SOF agreement. A great number of the Iraqi legislators are likely to favor this as well, they might not fare to well if the country collapses back into banditry. Or maybe they feel that they have ethnically cleansed and solidified their power bases sufficiently to survive without US bodyguards. Maybe the surge did accomplish something.
But the example of the Turkish army chasing the PKK around Kurdistan, with less resistance than the Israeli’s meet sending a patrol through the West Bank, shows that the Iraqi’s are nowhere near able to secure their own borders. No, Talibani had to go to Ankara and ask nicely, and the US cleared its throat. I’m sure the Iranian’s would like to join in the sport as well.
Some days, that shiny new embassy must feel awfully small and cramped.
My understanding is that SOFA’s generally do not require Senate approval.
WRT a larger agreement with the Iraqi government, without senate approval ISTM that will only last until next January. I don’t see much danger in Bush attempting to make a treaty-like agreement with Iraq because such an agreement is not binding. Whoever the next President is has no obligation to adhere to it. I think the current Iraqi government is smart enough to realize this an plan accordingly. It’s hard to imagine that any far-reaching agreement Bush made would endure for long no matter what he might wish.
Tying several of the last posts together, I think one needs to supply just a tiny piece to the jigsaw to make it whole.
What has happened is that the United States is in the hands of a foreign power with its own peculiar agenda.
Oil? Only Bush and Cheney could be so abysmally stupid as to believe that invading Iraq would improve our access to oil.
Congress had to be emasculated to permit a foreign power to control the US via a satrapy.
I feel ya, brother, though I think that there is a confluence of interests of multiple power centers, and the astonishingly pernicious actions that have been undertaken on the watch of the “Unitary Executive” these last few years are not fully accounted for by any single party’s influence and actions. As to this specific circumstance, we are dealing with the treaty-making powers elucidated in the Constitution; unfortunately, the supine posture adopted by the Congress towards usurpations of the Legislative Branch’s powers and prerogatives has given the Maximum Leader no reason to believe that he can’t bull his way through this situation, too. When Speaker Pelosi pulled the impeachment option off of the table, I knew we were for it. The only check on the completely predictable power grab by Bush and his authoritarian minions would have been to rattle the saber – loudly. Bush’s henchmen might feel themselves to be exempt from congressional oversight and obviated from the necessity to appear under subpoenas for the usual committee investigations. But even they would not be so sanguine as to tell the House to get bent if a serious effort were underway to formulate Articles of Impeachment.
Unfortunately, our elected representatives have proven themselves time and again to be unequal to the task of preserving the essential balance of powers required for the healthy functioning of the constitutional republic. Absent vigilance in the defense of our rights, we will be reduced to the status of the citizens of the early Roman Empire. Oh, the forms may still be there, but the President is clearly primus inter pares, and there will be no one there to advocate for the rights of the People and of individual citizens. With the advent of these times, our prospects will be limited to hopes for the rule of a “Good Emperor”. Sad, and more than sad.
Col Lang wrote: “If there is not a major battle over that point then the days of the republic are limited in all but name.”
Who would lead the battle Col?
I don’t see anyone.
SOFAs aren’t treaties?
No, most SOFA’s are not treaties. IIRC, the only one that is and was subject to Senate approval was the original NATO SOFA because it was part of the creation of NATO.
That said, SOFA’s are not divorced from treaties – in fact, many bilateral treaties specifically require both parties negotiate of a SOFA between them as a separate agreement. SOFA’s historically cover a lot of minutiae beyond the basic legal status of U.S. military personnel and include defining the status of dependent spouses and minors under local law, income and other taxes on goods sold on military bases (like at the Bx), the use of dollars to pay for things on base, etc. The advantage of a SOFA is that such minutiae is easier to amend than a treaty requiring formal ratification.
The concern that’s been raised with Iraq and the Bush administration is that it may try to add things into the SOFA above and beyond what a traditional SOFA contains. In that case, such a SOFA would really be a treaty in a SOFA’s clothing – a disguise that is likely to fool no one, least of all the Iraqi’s.
So I’m not sure why the administration seems to believe it might be able to get away with such a scheme. As I said before, even if the administration does try to make such an agreement, it is becomes worthless once a new President takes office or a new government forms in Iraq because such agreements are, by definition, not “enduring” ones.
“Haven’t these people read ANY history that they think significant? Why do they think that the ending will be different this time?”
I guess they think that if the need arise they will crush any Qasim that might appear. After all who’s going to stop them?
Frankly I would not expect anything but more of the same (read: more war) until the american coffers are completely empty. And that is not something I am looking forward to.
I hope that things will turn out better but I am not optimist.
It would be wise for all of us to write our senators and demand the Senate immediately pass a resolution stating that any agreement committing the US of A to the defense of Iraq (or any country for that matter) beyond the end of the Bush administration will require ratification by 2/3 of the Senate as per the Constitutional provision regarding treaties.