Iraq, SOFA and Mideast Godfathers

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arash Parsa

The United States has been pushing for a security agreement with Iraq which would virtually put the war-torn country under Washington's tutelage.

At first, the US sought to grasp the opportunity provided by a news blackout on the issue and hastily sign the pact. However, the White House found itself in an awkward predicament after some independent media outlets began to disclose information about the agreement. The circle of neocon hawks in Washington then was caught in a dilemma: they had to lower their expectations or risk the public uproar and a face-off with influential religious and political figures like Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

The rules of the game had changed and the US had no other option but a tactical approach to get in through the back door. The new approach included altering the wording of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to leave the door open for the interpretation of the agreement's provisions in a manner that would enable Washington to attain its ambitious goals.

For example, according to the new draft agreement, only US forces and not all US citizens would be granted immunity from legal prosecution but the agreement defines "the American forces" as all US military personnel and civilians as well as their property and equipment inside Iraq. Also, the legal immunity would apply to all US forces inside their bases and when on duty. This provision would allow US criminals inside Iraq to evade justice since the US could easily claim that they were on duty when the crime was committed.

Surely, no patriotic Iraqi can accept these humiliating provisions, regardless of being an Arab, Kurd, Shia or Sunni.

Iraqi groups have reacted to the security pact in different ways. For example, certain ultranationalist Kurdish leaders have welcomed SOFA and the US military presence, in line with their traditional policy, just because they believe that it might lay the groundwork for realizing their dream of an “independent Kurdish country”.

However, Iraqi Sunni groups which mainly rely on an Arab nationalist ideology, see the US military presence in their country as a serious infringement on Iraq's sovereignty, hence they are reluctant to get too close to the Americans.

Shia groups have also a clear picture of the situation in their mind; after the Shia clergy adopted an uncompromising stance against the pact, every Shia politician is aware that he or she must pay a heavy price for supporting such a humiliating pact. Of course, that is, if there were any Shia politicians who are ready to sacrifice their country's sovereignty for short-term interests.

However, it is important to know whose side the main players of the region are fighting on amid this dispute.

Although Arab nationalism is supposed to be the ideology, some regional powers have been promoting as part of a scenario which casts them as a sort of a godfather in the Middle East and the Islamic world, when it comes to their sectarian interests (and in fact Washington's interests) in a dramatic U-turn, these godfathers portray SOFA as Iraq's only way out of the spiral of violence.

These regional "key players" seemingly forget that it was the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 that opened Pandora's Box and brought about this catastrophic situation.

In the middle of all this, the Saudi-funded satellite channel al-Arabiya seems to be more Catholic than the Pope in pursuing the policies of Washington in Iraq.

In an article titled "the Security Pact, Iraqi groups and Iran's Policy" by Hassan Hashemian that was published on the Persian section of al-Arabiya's web site, the TV channel tries to prove that Iraq has never enjoyed sovereignty throughout its history. In other words, when Iraq has never experienced sovereignty, one can draw the conclusion that SOFA's infringement of the country's sovereignty is trivial!

It is interesting to know that during the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, Saudi Arabia supported the same Iraq which according to al-Arabiya had not been a sovereign country but started a war on Iran under the pretext that the Islamic Republic represented a threat to Iraq's sovereignty! At that time, Iraq, under the Saddam regime, of course, was a brotherly and friendly sovereign country and remained so until it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

The author of the article also suggests that the speculations that Barack Obama might win the US presidential election and rectify Washington's Iraq policy (which would prove to be in favor of Iran) have prompted Iraqi cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim's party to oppose the security agreement. (Mr. Hashemian, with the force of divine inspiration, concludes that Hakim has changed the name of his party from "The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq" to "The Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council" to distance himself from Iran. But Mr. Hashemian's over reliance on "inspiration" has prevented him from using his logical reasoning to realize that after the fall of "Bro Saddam", there is no point in talking about a revolution.)

The smart author of al-Arabiya's article even goes farther and claims that all main players in Iraq's political arena are under Iran's control!!! Maybe Mr. Hashemian means that in the Saddam era, which according to the author himself, the country was ruled by Al Bu Nasir and a few other tribes from Saddam's birthplace, Tikrit, the government was democratic and independent and the fall of Saddam paved the way for "Iran's damned friends" to come to power in a democratic election. (Through these remarks, Mr. Hashemian apparently hints that the Iraqi people are mere puppets of Iran. Doesn't the notion bring to mind the Saddam era's propaganda?)

However, in the next few paragraphs, Al-Arabiya's writer shifts his position and claims that the same Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who acts under Iran's influence, would like to sign the agreement but he is scared of Iran!!! (I am perplexed! Is Maliki Iran's puppet? Or is he willing to fulfill the US's demand and sign SOFA?)

If there had been something like a Nobel Reasoning Prize, Mr. Hashemian would have been a good candidate.

Maliki has certainly concerns, but he is not afraid of Iran. He knows that he might be seen as a traitor by the Iraqi nation if he gave in to the pressure and signed the agreement.

There is, certainly, an Iraqi group, which according to the Al-Arabiya article has adopted "a stable and reasonable stance" toward the agreement since the beginning: the Awakening Councils.

Sheikh Ahmad Abu Risha, one of the leaders of the group, has declared that he supports SOFA to tell the US that he will back any coup against "ungrateful Shias"! (Note: "Ungrateful Shias" constitute the majority of the population of a country, in which an anti-terrorist hero called Sheikh Abu-Risha lives!)

It is noteworthy that the Awakening Councils comprise of ex-militants the US has bribed to fight on the Americans' side. In other words, they are hired ex-terrorists. (For more explanations, see the entry for Mercenary in your dictionary!)

What Mr Hashemian has written may be considered as "a journalistic Freudian slip", which sheds light on the phenomenon of terrorism in Iraq and its sponsors. Those who fund terrorists in Iraq are the same as those who fund other Takfiri militants across the world.

Al-Arabiya also interprets Iran's support for the Iraqi nation's legitimate demand and their refusal to allow their country to become a de facto US colony as the Islamic Republic's concerns about a US military attack. But it fails to explain that if the US intended to launch an attack on Iran and could go on with its plans, wouldn't it have enough bases inside Iraq? What is the connection between the issue of legal immunity for Americans--which is opposed by Tehran-- and an attack on Iran?

Mr. Hashemian also paints an imaginary scenario: If the US and Iraq fail to sign SOFA, Iran will manage to unite Iraqi Shia groups; as a result the Sunnis and Kurds will unite against the Shia groups and a civil war will be in the offing.

Shall we consider these words as a threat by the Saudis that they would unleash terrorists inside Iraq if Baghdad refused to sign SOFA? Or is it simply a psychological tactic to coerce the Iraqis into accepting Washington's humiliating conditions?

But one thing is clear, those words, without a doubt, mean that if a country refuses to go under another country's tutelage, it will have to pay a heavy price. Maybe it is a kind of Saudi-style Arab nationalism, who knows, but Mr. Hashemian has not clarified whether patriotic Sunnis like Parliament Speaker Mahmud al-Mashhadani, who are opposed to the agreement, should be considered as Shias who are following Iran's orders.

It seems certain, that if we take the stance adopted by satellite channels like al-Arabiya into account, we will easily be able to conclude that for the Middle East godfathers, Arab nationalism is only a tool to incite hatred among the region's nations. Am I wrong in saying that behind- the-scene policy-makers of al-Arabiya, the princes of shadows, are ready to sacrifice the sovereignty of another Muslim nation when it comes to their sectarian goals?

They, at best, suffer from "Shiaphobia", which may easily play into the hands of Muslims' common enemies. However, the signs indicate that they suffer from the refractory form of "opportunism and hatred syndrome".


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