Senior Iraqi Backs Obama Withdrawal Plan & Iraqi Party Suspends Ties With US Over Raid

November 12th, 2008 - by admin

Peter Graff and Mariam Karouny / Reuters & Waleed Ibrahim / Reuter – 2008-11-12 22:20:43

Senior Iraqi Backs Obama Withdrawal Plan
Peter Graff and Mariam Karouny / Reuters

(November 8, 2008) — A senior Iraqi official on Thursday explicitly backed US President-elect Barack Obama’s plans to withdraw combat troops from the country by mid-2010, Baghdad’s clearest endorsement yet of Obama’s exit strategy.

The outgoing administration of President George W. Bush presented Iraq with a “final text” of a pact accepting Baghdad’s demand that troops leave in three years, but Baghdad said it wanted more talks on questions that were still unresolved.

Asked to comment on Obama’s pledge to pull combat troops out within 16 months of taking office, National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told Al-Arabiya television: “We think 16 months is good.”

Iraqi officials were reluctant to publicly endorse Obama’s plan while the campaign was under way. Obama’s opponent John McCain — and the Bush administration — opposed setting a timeline, although the administration relented in recent months.

“Obama’s presence at the head of the US administration will give new blood, new thoughts and new plans. We want to be in a fundamental alliance with the United States,” Rubaie said.

The Bush administration has agreed to a 2011 withdrawal date in a draft security pact which would replace a UN mandate that expires at the end of this year.

The pact was held up last month when Baghdad asked for last-minute changes, and Washington delivered its reply on Thursday, declaring the negotiations over.

“We’ve gotten back to them with a final text. Through this step we have completed the process on the US side,” US embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh said. “Iraq will now need to take it forward through their own process.”

Her remarks appeared to close the door on any further talks on the pact, the subject of nearly a year of grueling negotiations. But Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said more discussions were needed.

“They had some remarks on some of the amendments, which now requires meetings with the Americans to reach a common understanding,” he said, adding: “The mood is positive.”

Among issues needing further discussion was the question of when US troops would be under Iraqi jurisdiction, Dabbagh said. The initial draft would let Iraqi courts try US troops for crimes committed off duty, language Baghdad called vague.

Rubaie said Baghdad had proposed 110 changes, and Washington agreed to most of them, including language that would firm up the 2011 withdrawal deadline. “Yes, they agreed on this amendment. The foreign military presence in Iraq will end in 2011,” he said.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the latest text “respects both Iraqi sovereignty as well as provides for the necessary protections for our forces to operate.” The pact needs approval from the Iraqi parliament, leaving little time for further negotiations before year-end.

Iraq has said it will seek an extension of the existing UN mandate if a final agreement cannot be reached in time, but both sides say they would much prefer a bilateral deal now.

The US military announced that one of its 15 combat brigades in Iraq will go home this month instead of early next year, accelerating by six weeks a reduction to 14 brigades that Bush already announced in September.

Iraq has become far less violent over the past year, with the number of US troops and Iraq civilians killed in attacks last month falling to their lowest levels of the war.

Iraqi officials say they are confident Obama will not jeopardize Iraq’s security by ordering a hasty withdrawal.

Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim and Mohammed Abbas in Baghdad, and Andrew Gray, David Morgan and Susan Cornwell in Washington.
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Iraqi Party Suspends Ties With US Over Raid
Waleed Ibrahim / Reuters

(October 25, 2008) — Iraq’s biggest Sunni Arab political party suspended all dealings with US civilian and military personnel on Saturday after US and Iraqi forces carried out a raid in which a man was killed.

The incident could increase tension in a part of Iraq that was once the heartland of the insurgency against US forces but has become among the quietest parts of the country over the past two years.

US forces said one man had been arrested and one had been killed in a joint US-Iraqi raid against a suspected militant on Friday in the town of Falluja.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, headed by Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, said the targets of the raid were senior party officials. Five people had been detained and one killed “in his bed”, it said in a statement.

A Reuters reporter in Falluja said several hundred supporters of the Islamic Party demonstrated against the raid on Saturday.

Falluja, in Anbar province west of the capital, was the scene of the war’s two heaviest battles between US forces and Sunni insurgents in 2004, but has become quiet after tribes began cooperating with American troops in late 2006.

The Islamic Party said it would suspend all communication with US personnel until it got “a convincing explanation of what happened, accompanied by an official apology stressing that those who committed these attacks are turned over to justice”.

Hashemi, Iraq’s most senior Sunni Arab official, sent a letter to the dead man’s tribe condemning the raid.

“I was shocked by the painful incident,” he wrote. “I share with you the sadness over the loss of the brother martyr Sajid Yasseen Hameed al-Alwani, and I will put all my effort into releasing the innocent brother detainees.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.