U.S. troops expected to remain in Iraq for years
Did anyone who is informed not think this was the Bu$h regime's plan all along? Can you say PNAC?
It would be nice to see the corporate media do a "story" on the massive, permanent US military bases that are being bulit in "mess"opatamia. Folks, Bu$hCo has us in deep Shiite in Iraq, and it's only getting worse.
WASHINGTON - American officials say U.S. forces will be needed in Iraq long after a sovereign government is restored this summer, but they have yet to work out the terms of a continued presence.
The U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, has also urged Italy and other countries to keep their troops in the country at least until December 2005, an Italian newspaper reported on Friday.
"It is necessary that coalition troops, including Italians, remain in Iraq at least until December 2005," Bremer told the Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview.
"To leave now would be a grave matter -- a sign of giving in to terrorism," he said. "The coalition must remain united in order to stabilize Iraq."
Over 30 countries have troops in Iraq as part of the 150,000-strong U.S.-led occupation force. Britain is the second largest contributor with 11,000 troops, while Italy has sent around 3,000. South Korea last week agreed to send 3,000 troops.
Senior Pentagon officials said Thursday they were confident that the Iraqis, once given political control, would agree U.S. troops should stay. But some outside the government question whether that would hold true once an elected Iraqi government took over.
Role in doubt?
Anthony Cordesman, a close observer of the Iraq situation as a strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that if political control was turned over on July 1 to an Iraqi body that is not elected, it likely would align itself with U.S. objectives and therefore welcome a continued U.S. military presence. But once elections were held, the U.S. role would be in doubt, he said.
If the new Iraqi government decided it wanted American forces to leave, "We would certainly be obligated to leave, under international law," Cordesman said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's chief spokesman, Larry Di Rita, told reporters at the Pentagon that there is a "fairly confident belief" that most Iraqis accept the U.S. view that American troops will be needed over the long haul to ensure a stable transition to democracy.
The basis for a continued U.S. military presence under the authority of a transitional Iraqi government is "being developed," Di Rita said without elaborating.
The legal basis for U.S. troops operating in any foreign country is normally spelled out in a legal arrangement called a status of forces agreement, which defines legal protections for U.S. troops accused of crimes in that country. Without it, U.S. troops in Iraq would be subject to local Iraqi law, once the U.S. occupation authority is ended and a government is restored.
"That would be untenable," Cordesman said.
At this point it is unclear whether American authorities can work out such a complex legal agreement by June 30, when some form of transitional Iraqi government is due to take control.
Cordesman said U.S. officials at one time had hoped to have such an agreement worked out by this month, but that proved impossible because "there is no clear government to work with."
The U.S. plan is to gradually move responsibility for security into the hands of the Iraqis, thereby reducing the U.S. military's role. But senior officials say that process will take many months, if not years.
Annan said elections are important but cannot be rushed, despite demands by the country's influential Shiite Muslim clergy.
Annan and his special adviser, Lakhdar Brahimi, spoke to reporters after a 90-minute meeting with representatives of 45 nations and the European Union where Brahimi gave a briefing on his week-long visit to Iraq.
"We shared with them our sense — and the emerging consensus or understanding — that elections cannot be held before the end of June, that the June 30 date for the handover of sovereignty must be respected, and that we need to find a mechanism to create a caretaker government and then prepare the elections ... sometime later in the future," Annan said.
Annan is expected to detail his ideas for a transitional government at a later date.
The White House asked the United Nations to come up with proposals for Iraq's political future after Shiite leaders rejected the original U.S. plan, which envisioned choosing members of a new legislature at regional caucuses. The lawmakers would then select a government to take power by July 1.
Shiite leader signals flexibility
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, a powerful Shiite spiritual leader, has led the push for direct elections, arguing that a government based on caucuses would be "illegitimate."
However, Al-Sistani reportedly said he would accept only a short delay in elections and argued that any non-elected administration must have strictly limited powers.
Asked in an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel how long a delay he would accept, al-Sistani replied that "it must not take long." He did not elaborate.
Der Spiegel said al-Sistani replied to written questions, but did not specify when he did so. The comments were published Friday.
On Thursday, Ahmad al-Barak, a Shiite council member and coordinator of the Iraqi Bar Association, said after meeting with al-Sistani in Najaf that the Shiites were hoping for an early election but would be willing to wait a few more months if Annan recommends against a vote before June 30.
"I think that elections can be held after five months from now and in that case we have no problem," al-Barak told reporters. "Power could be transferred to the Iraqi people through the Governing Council or any other body which will take the responsibility to make the right preparations for the elections."
Bremer on Thursday also signaled a willingness by Washington to compromise on the formula for establishing a new Iraqi government, while reiterating that the date for the U.S.-led coalition to hand over power remains firm.
"Changes are possible but the date holds," Bremer told reporters in Baghdad. He added that there were "dozens" of methods for selecting a new government, including a redesigned "caucus" system or partial elections.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday that the Bush administration was prepared to drop the caucus plan and hand over power to an expanded Governing Council until elections can be held.
Shiites have said any expansion of the Governing Council must respect the current alignment of power. The Shiites, believed to make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people, hold 13 of the 25 council seats.
In Baghdad, a Sunni council member, Samir Shaker Mahmoud, said Thursday that he also believed that expanding and extending the Governing Council was possible.
"But of course all members of the council believe that elections, credible elections, must be conducted as soon as possible," he said.
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