U.S. Military Hoped for Virtually Unlimited Freedom of Action in Iraq

Dandelion Salad

06/20/08 “ICH
www.nsarchive.org

Posted – June 13, 2008
For more information contact:
Joyce Battle – (202) 994-7145

Drafting of U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement Began Nearly Five Years Ago

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 252

Washington D.C., 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 the 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.”

Looks Like San Remo All Over Again – The U.S. Status of Force Agreement for Iraq, 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 in – and possibly around – Iraq. This new information appears to run counter to Bush administration claims that U.S. intentions have been more limited in scope.

According to recent news accounts, the Bush administration is exerting pressure on Iraq to accede to a military agreement – before a U.N. resolution authorizing the U.S. occupation lapses, and before the end of President Bush’s tenure – on terms highly favorable to the United States.  Information reported by Patrick Cockburn of the Independent indicates that the deal under discussion calls for:

  • Indefinite perpetuation of the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House
  • More than 50 permanent U.S. bases in Iraq
  • U.S. carte blanche to conduct military operations and to arrest Iraqis and anyone else in Iraq without consulting the Iraqi government
  • Immunity from Iraqi law for U.S. forces and private contractors
  • Control of Iraq’s airspace below 29,000 feet
  • Unlimited freedom to pursue the “war on terror” through operations in Iraq. (Note 1)

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