Friends Committee on National Legislation – 2006-06-23 22:59:20
Iraq: Senate Bars Permanent Bases, Again
(June 23, 2006) — We are in the middle of a long legislative struggle to persuade Congress to change the course of US policy in Iraq. But the Senate decision Thursday night, June 22, to reinstate the ban on permanent US military bases and the news from Iraq that the new government is developing a strategy for reconciliation that includes a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops provide us reason for hope. Here’s what’s happening:
Your phone calls, emails, and lobbying are working. For the second time in less than two months, the Senate passed legislation that bars the US from establishing permanent military bases in Iraq. This new success for the FCNL STEP proposal [See below] came during the day-long Senate debate Thursday on US policy in Iraq.
Late Thursday evening, the Senate incorporated Sen. Joseph Biden’s provision into the military authorization bill banning permanent US bases. The Biden provision was placed in the bill manager’s package shortly after the Senate voted to reject two other amendments that would have initiated the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Meanwhile, in Iraq the new government has concluded that establishing a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces will be an important component of any effort to establish peace and begin the process of national reconciliation. The Iraqi government, according to reports by the Times of London [See below], will propose this weekend a 28-point plan for national reconciliation that includes:
(1) a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq;
(2) a halt to all US offensive military operations;
(3) an end to human rights violations, including those by US and Iraqi troops; and
(4) an amnesty.
The Iraqi government believes it can draw violent, anti-government insurgent forces into negotiations that could lead to national reconciliation by bringing opposing parties off the battle ground and into the political arena. But, here in Washington, the Bush administration refuses to even discuss timelines for withdrawal, seeking a total military victory over all opponents.
We need to change the conversation here in Washington from how does the US win to how does the US leave Iraq.
Our experience of the last few months demonstrates just how hard this work is, and how many more emails, phone calls, and lobby visits are needed. As the Senate votes on Thursday demonstrate, the majority in Congress still refuses to support a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But we believe congressional support for withdrawal is growing.
The House and the Senate voted earlier this year to attach language to an emergency supplemental spending bill banning new spending to build permanent US military bases in Iraq. And although the Pentagon successfully lobbied behind closed doors to have that ban on permanent bases removed from the supplemental bill, the Senate this week added Sen. Biden’s amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill (S. 2766).
The Biden amendment declares: “No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act maybe obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:
(1) to establish a permanent United States military installation or base in Iraq;
(2) To exercise United States control over the oil resources of Iraq.”
The House of Representatives has inserted similar language into two other bills currently making their way through the House. For continuing updates on Iraq legislation visit our website.
Now for the hard part. The Biden provision is in the Defense Authorization Bill approved by the Senate. House and the Senate negotiators must now meet to reconcile differences between their two versions of the military authorization bill. We at FCNL know this reconciliation, or conference committee process, will be crucial because of our previous experience with the emergency supplemental funding legislation earlier this month, when the Pentagon worked behind closed doors to have the no base language removed.
FCNL will be working in the next month to lobby Congress to ensure that the conference committee retains the ban on permanent US military bases in the Defense Authorization Bill this time. In addition, FCNL will urge Congress to take the next step by enacting legislation that states:
• It is the US policy to remove all US military troops and bases from Iraq;
• Requires an immediate timetable for the complete withdrawal of all US military troops and bases from Iraq no later than December 2007; and
• Provides resources for reconstruction by the people of Iraq through appropriate multinational, Iraqi national, and other Iraqi agencies.
• Please check back on our web page (http://www.fcnl.org/iraq) for regular updates.
• Contact Congress and the Administration at:
Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795
email@example.com * http://www.fcnl.org
(202)547-6000. Toll-free: (800)630-1330
Urge Congress to Endorse the STEP Resolution
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Congressional Iraq STEP Resolution:
A Sensible Transition to an Enduring Peace
(April 9, 2005) —
Whereas President George W. Bush stated on April 13, 2004 that “as a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither does America” and that the US will remain in Iraq “as long as necessary and not one day more”;
Whereas Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld assured the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 17, 2005, that “we have no intention, at the present time, of putting permanent bases in Iraq”;
Whereas Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush’s nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq, stated on June 7, 2005, that “I know from President Bush, I know from our other senior officials, that there is no US plan for permanent military bases in Iraq”;
Whereas the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2005 that 60% of the people in the United States think that the Bush administration should set a public or private timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq;
Whereas former Secretary of State James Baker, former Pentagon official Anthony Cordesman, the International Crisis Group, and other respected leaders and analysts have said that it is critical that the US government declare now its intention to fully withdraw from Iraq;
Whereas the perception that the US intends to permanently occupy Iraq aids insurgent groups in recruiting supporters and fuels violent activity;
Whereas many insurgent groups have expressed a willingness to engage in political dialogue if the US clearly states its intention to withdraw from Iraq;
Whereas we can best honor the lives and memories of all who have died in Iraq by expediting the end of the war, bringing US troops home as quickly as possible, and supporting the Iraqi people in rebuilding their country;
Whereas a clear statement of intent to fully withdraw US troops and bases does not imply the setting of a particular deadline, time frame, or exit strategy;
Whereas such a statement would send a strong signal to the people of Iraq and the international community that the United States does not have imperial intentions in Iraq and affirms that the Iraqi people will regain through their elected representatives the full exercise of national sovereignty, including control over security and public safety;
Therefore, be it resolved that it is the sense of the Congress that the United States supports the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, the people of Iraq, and the leaders of Iraq’s government;
Be it also resolved that the people of the United States support the Iraqi people’s desire to rebuild Iraq as a fully sovereign, stable, and peaceful democratic country;
To this end, be it resolved that it is the policy of the United States to withdraw all US military troops and bases from Iraq.
Peace Deal Offers Iraq Insurgents an Amnesty
Ned Parker and Tom Baldwin / The Times
BAGHDAD (June 23, 2006) — The Iraqi Government will announce a sweeping peace plan as early as Sunday in a last-ditch effort to end the Sunni insurgency that has taken the country to the brink of civil war.
The 28-point package for national reconciliation will offer Iraqi resistance groups inclusion in the political process and an amnesty for their prisoners if they renounce violence and lay down their arms, The Times can reveal.
The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.
It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The deal, which has been seen by The Times, aims to divide Iraqi insurgents from foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda. It builds on months of secret talks involving Jalal al-Talabani, the Iraqi President, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador, and seven Sunni insurgent groups.
Mr al-Talabani told The Times that after a “summit” in Baghdad about a month ago the groups made clear their willingness to commence talks with the Iraqi Government, although he was awaiting a formal response.
But one big potential obstacle is whether the US would be willing to grant an amnesty to insurgents who have killed US soldiers but who are not members of extreme groups such as al-Qaeda. The Bush Administration is thought to be split on the issue.
“This is very hard for us, particularly at a time when American servicemen are facing prosecution for alleged war crimes — and others are being captured and tortured,” a senior US official said.
With 2,500 US soldiers having died in Iraq, to grant an amnesty would be a “huge political football” before the November mid-term elections in the US, he said. But he added: “This is what we did after the Second World War, after the Civil War, after the War of Independence. It may be unpalatable and unsavoury but it is how wars end.”
The Government intends to form a committee to distinguish between groups that can be considered legitimate resistance and those that are beyond the pale. “For those that defended their country against foreign troops, we need to open a new page . . . They did not mean to destabilise Iraq. They were defending Iraqi soil,” said Adnan Ali, a senior member of the Dawa party of Nouri alMaliki, the Prime Minister.
Reading directly from the draft package, Mahmoud al-Mashaadani, the Parliament’s Sunni Speaker, told The Times: “There will be a general amnesty to release all the prisoners who were not involved in the shedding of innocent Iraqis’ blood.” Neither the Iraqi Government nor the US Embassy would name the insurgent groups involved in the discussions.
But Mr Talabani said that after the last meeting the groups went away to agree their position. He had since received “a message from a common friend that they are ready to discuss finalising an agreement with the United States and the Iraqi Government”.
Mr Khalilzad recently told The Times that reconciliation required “a comprehensive strategy that has political elements, that has security elements, and that has reintegration elements in it: decommissioning, demobilisation, and reintegration of these forces.”
The draft marks the first time the Iraqi Government has endorsed a fixed timeline for the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, a key demand of the Sunni insurgency.
“We must agree on a timed schedule to pull out the troops from Iraq, while at the same time building up the Iraqi forces that will guarantee Iraqi security and this must be supported by a United Nations Security Council decision,” the document reads.
One insurgent group involved in the discussions told The Times that the timetable for withdrawing foreign troops was key. “We are not against the formation of the new Iraqi goverment, but with certain conditions, which are to put a timetable for the pullout of US Troops,” Abu Fatma, from the Islamic National Front for Liberation of Iraq, said.
Adopting a carrot-and-stick approach, Mr Khalilzad and Mr Talabani have also used the threat of Iranian influence in Iraq to persuade the rebels to come on board.
“I have said to the Sunnis, they complain to me about Iran, but some of the things they are doing in terms of their fight and the insurgency is serving Iranian interests,” Mr Khalilzad said.
• A schedule for coalition forces to withdraw
• General amnesty for prisoners “who have not shed innocent Iraqis’ blood”
• A halt to “anti-terrorist operations” by coalition forces in insurgent areas
• A review of the process of de-Baathification and of financial compensation to sacked civil servants from the Saddam regime